Nowadays, bodybuilding is more popular than ever before, with more and more men and women looking to get into bodybuilding at a relatively young age. In the past, it seems as if the majority of people who worked out in the gym to try and bulk up, were doing so purely for vanity reasons, and in truth there is absolutely nothing wrong with that at all. However, as time has progressed, it seems as if more and more people are getting into competitive bodybuilding and are looking to enter various competitions, with the ultimate goal of placing first and beating all of the other competitors. Some simply choose to enter to see how far they can take their physiques, whilst others have their eyes set on the ultimate prize of one day gaining their own pro card. When it comes to prepping for a contest however, it is what you do during the final 7 days of your contest prep, that can make or break you on the day of the contest. The final week leading up to a bodybuilding contest is known as PEAK week, and to help you stand the best possible chance of winning your competition, here are a few killer tips to help you nail your PEAK week prep.
Listen to your own body
Nobody knows your own body better than you do, so it doesn’t matter what other people tell you to do, if you know for a fact that your body is not going to respond well to something, don’t do it, as the last thing you will want will be to ruin your physique before you even have chance to step on stage. Just because one method works for one person, that doesn’t mean it is going to work for somebody else, so if your body is not responding favourably to a certain stimuli, remove it.
Do NOT lower sodium too much
A lot of “bro science” experts out there will tell you that in order to look as dry and as shredded as you possibly can when you step on stage, you should cut back on sodium intakes and go dangerously low. The theory is that because sodium causes intracellular and extracellular water retention, when you remove sodium, you hold water in your cells (intracellular) but you remove it from the outside of your cells (extracellular) which therefore gives your muscles a more defined look, because they aren’t covered with a layer of water. However, when you drop sodium levels too low, your body actually panics because it needs sodium for a number of physiological processes, and so it secretes a hormone known as aldosterone, which actually causes the body to reabsorb water and sodium, so you don’t secrete it via your urine. This means that by cutting back on sodium, you may actually end up retaining more than before, and more water in the process, which will make you look flat and watery when you step on stage. Try to keep sodium levels fairly constant for the duration of your peak week, so if you usually consume 2500mg per day, aim for 2000 – 2500mg per day in the run up to your contest.
Do NOT increase potassium
Potassium is another important mineral that we require in order to function correctly, and many so-called prep experts will convince you to drop sodium levels low, and to double potassium levels to compensate for this. The body is not stupid however, and it will quickly recognise that something is wrong, so when you do double potassium intakes, to say, 6000mg per day, again, your body secretes more aldosterone, so you retain even more water and sodium still! Again, keep potassium intakes fairly consistent and don’t increase them too dramatically.
Be careful with your carb load
A lot of bodybuilders will perform an extreme carb load before they are due to step on stage, as they believe that they need to saturate their muscles with glycogen to give them more fuel and a more fuller look. However, if you go from consuming 180g of carbs per day, to 800 plus grams per day, this will come as quite a shock to your body and it certainly won’t respond by drying you out and making you look leaner, fuller, and more shredded than ever. In fact, the exact opposite is likely to occur. Instead, aim to consume no more than 560g per day when you carb load, and make sure you begin the process early on in the week. By carb loading on days 1 – 3, you can monitor your progress and can see whether or not you respond favourably or not. If you don’t, you can make changes, and if you do, well, you know what works for you. Carb loading during peak week really is a matter of trial and error. On the morning of your show, perform a moderate carb load, aiming to take in around 40g – 80g of carbs every three hours, depending on how hard or how easy you find it to gain size. If you are an endomorph and gain size easily, keep carbs low, whereas an ecto should aim for 80g every three hours.
Keep fats and protein intakes pretty much the same
We need fat and protein to function and build muscle, so in truth, you really needn’t mess around with these macros at all, so they should remain pretty consistent for the entire duration of your peak week prep.
Give yourself enough time
When prepping for a contest, you ideally should begin prep as long as 12 weeks out, depending on what kind of shape you are in. If however, you begin too late and you simply are not able to lose enough fat, or get ripped enough, suddenly trying to cram as much cardio and dieting in as possible for the last few days will simply not yield the results you may have been hoping for. Trying to do everything at the last minute is never advisable, especially when prepping for a bodybuilding competition.