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PEAK WEEK, If it Ain't Broke....

With another contest season approaching and many competitors already starting to succumb to their nerves, I thought I would bring this article out early and show you what a sensible, tried and proven Peak Week looks like.

The internet is awash with the latest theories for peaking perfectly on contest day. Some of these tricks and techniques are worth considering while others are an example of human kinds propensity to take things to extremes. The simplest way to look at peak week is – if it ain’t broke don’t fix it!!!

Most of the techniques and guru tricks are designed to pull off some last-minute miracles to salvage a competition preparation that hasn’t gone to plan. There is a chance you will look 10% better or 30% worse, not exactly great odds. If however you are looking good one week out, then why would you start drastically changing things?

There is a trend among amateur bikini competitors to embark on crazy carbohydrate/water Loading, diuretics and sodium manipulation schedules. Most Olympia level professional bikini competitors do little or NONE of these things leading into a show! Some coaches feel they should give their clients ALL the bells and whistles. The reality is however, that if you start messing around with too many variables the body will most likely respond the opposite way to which you want.

Let’s have a look at some more sensible and not so sensible adjustments that competitors do during Peak Week:

Carbohydrate Loading: Most competitors are going to be carbohydrate depleted leading into a contest and will need to replenish muscle glycogen to give the muscles some fullness. The trick is to find a balance between the muscles being empty and looking stringy versus too many carbohydrates being consumed and the body starting to hold water. Larger Male bodybuilders are going to require more carbohydrates than small female bikini competitors.

How do you know how many carbs to take in and when to take them? Practice, get ready early and do some mini loadings as a trial in the weeks leading into the competition.  Throughout your prep, you probably should be doing scheduled calorie refeed days to keep muscle mass and metabolism high. This provides an opportunity to see how your body responds with various carb loads and water and to see when you look your sharpest. Some people look best on the day of loading, some the next day. Personally I look best 2 days after a carb load, so play around with this and make sure you pay attention to exactly what you introduced and what effect it has on your physique.

Saunas: Don’t do them. Bro Science. Very popular at the moment for a reason that lies beyond my comprehension… Sweating doesn’t necessarily mean you are burning fat, you could just be hot. There’s a notion that it reduces cortisol – muscle wasting hormone caused by stress – as it allows you to relax. HOWEVER, under these extreme conditions, it is actually putting your body under more stress, unnecessarily increasing cortisol. So if you want to destress, choose a more enjoyable activity that doesn’t put your body under extra stress. The only benefit of sauna (when it comes to weight management) is that your body burns a small amount of calories trying to cool itself down (producing sweat); the weight lost through sweat is regained once you drink some water and re-hydrate.

Water Loading: The premise behind water loading is that we can flush water from the body (preferably from under the skin) over several days. The abruptly stop, and hopefully there will be a lag period before your body catches on and starts retaining water again. In theory, there are a few hours there where you will look extra “dry” and showcase your definition and separation better. Water loading can produce some positive changes but it can also go the other way, resulting in a flat/watery physique.

Let us look at some sensible approaches to water loading… If you are not lean enough, then you are not lean enough, water loading won’t make a difference. Successful water loading schemes that routinely work are quite mild. More extreme plans, where competitors try to consume between 8-20 litres of water a day leading into the contest, almost always result in flushing water-soluble vitamins and electrolytes out of the body. Instead of appearing harder the physiques are usually end up softer than before loading commenced. Individuals also often experience problems getting a pump as well. If you must water load, then try something mild like a 10-20% increase in water for 2 days before the contest.

Sodium Loading: With this one, I am going to advice against it, particularly for beginners. The same sort of principles applies as with water loading. When you start drastically altering sodium consumption, you are more likely to get a bloated watery appearance than the crisp full muscles you desire. I suppose the key word here is drastic. Milder versions of sodium or water loading have a greater chance of improving the appearance of your physique but your coach really has to have some experience with this before jeopardising your 12-20 weeks of contest preparation.

Personally, I keep sodium the same all the way through comp prep and the final week. Sodium can help with a pump and vascularity so I may add ¼ teaspoon of salt to my food, two hours before stepping on stage. Helps with the pump but there isn’t enough time to hold any water. This is simple and effective way to utilize sodium without having to worry about major water retention.

Final Thoughts: Peak Week has garnered a near magical reputation where amazing transformations are supposed to happen. The reality is that most of the work should already have been done and Peak Week is really just minor fine tuning.

Try to keep relaxed, you look at lot better than you think you do. Enjoy your final week and stand proud on stage knowing you have given your best 

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