In my twenty years in the bodybuilding/fitness industry I have competed in about two dozen shows myself and have prepped others for several hundred more. This has given me the irreplaceable chance to experiment with dozens of different ways to organize that crucial final week.
In my twenty years in the bodybuilding/fitness industry I have competed in about two dozen shows myself and have prepped others for several hundred more. This has given me the irreplaceable chance to experiment with dozens of different ways to organize that crucial final week. And make no mistake; the final week is crucial, because if you handle it incorrectly, you can literally destroy all the hard work you put in for the 8-16 weeks beforehand! I cannot tell you how many times I have had competitors come to me and tell me that they looked amazing one week out only to end up onstage either flat, watery, or some terrible combination of the two. To me this is just tragic, and something that can easily be prevented if you take the right approach.
Interestingly, the biggest mistake that competitors make in the final week is trying to do too much! Trust me when I tell you that there should be no need to do anything “magical” in order to reach your peak. When preparing for a show you should be ready to step onstage 7 days out, utilizing the final week only to put the finishing touches on your physique. Fancy and complex sodium/carb/water depleting and loading strategies rarely produce spectacular results, and more often than not, backfire completely! Conservative is the key word in the days leading up to show time. The hard work should already done at this point, leaving only the need to drop some subcutaneous water while filling up glycogen stores just a bit.
While I of course individualize the peaking process for each competitor I work with, it is always built around this basic outline, which is a sure-fire way to hit the stage looking and feeling great, with no worry about flattening out or spilling over.
- Monday: Reduce starchy carb intake to zero, but replace calories with an equal amount of EFA’s. Water and sodium intake should remain normal. Train half of the upper body with high repetitions.
- Tuesday: Repeat same plan as Monday.
- Wednesday: Consume 2 grams carbs per lb of bodyweight spread evenly over 6-8 meals. Water intake should remain normal, but cut sodium in half. No training.
- Thursday: Consume 1 gram of carbs per lb of bodyweight spread evenly over 6-7 meals. Water intake should remain normal, but again cut sodium in half from Wednesday’s amount. No training.
- Friday: Consume ½ gram of carbs per lb of bodyweight spread evenly over 5-6 meals. Water intake should remain normal, and sodium should be cut to zero.
- Saturday: When you awake in the morning you should evaluate your condition and eat accordingly. If everything has gone just right you should only need to eat proteins and fats up until prejudging, while sipping water when needed.
This high-to-low carb intake strategy works best with the body’s chemistry, as we become less efficient at storing glycogen as the days pass from the final workout (carb depletion day). Most competitors eat more carbs as the show approaches, which is the reason why “spilling over” often occurs. In addition, this approach also negates the need to drop water intake drastically, which will allow you to feel both fuller and stronger on show day, as well as achieve an optimum muscle pump!
Justin Edwards: JE
Eric Broser: EB
JE: If you had to pick the biggest most crucial mistake competitors make in their final wk prep, what would that be?
EB: Making too many changes in an effort to do too much!
JE: What’s the biggest disaster you’ve ever seen in a final wk, what happened?
EB: I have seen more than one competitor go from full and hard to flat and soft in just a few days thus going from potential winners to out of the running completely.
JE: If a competitor makes a crucial mistake during that final wk, if they realize it a day or two out, is it too late, can anything be done?
EB: Depends on the mistake really. The most common is spilling over, which CAN be dealt with in time. Also, if one is too flat they can be filled out in a day or two.
JE: You believe that the heavy carb load as the show gets closer is the wrong way to approach final preparations, many would argue otherwise. What is it you see that so many are missing?
EB: Heavy carb loads more often end in disaster than a perfect peak. I believe you should do a moderate carb load, but load heaviest on day one and taper down…not the other way around!
JE: If a competitor wakes up Saturday morning and everything is good, you say he should eat accordingly. What if it’s not, what if he is too flat, what should he do?
EB: If a competitor wakes up too flat he/she can take in some faster acting carbs along with small amounts of protein and fats for several meals. Also, some water should be consumed, as the flat look is often from being overly dehydrated.
JE: Same as the above but the reverse, what if he is to watery, to smooth, he’s spilling over. What should he do or has all hope gone out the window?
EB: Well, that spells trouble for a natural athlete who is not going to use a diuretic. Enhanced bodybuilders have the luxury of powerful and quick acting water loss drugs like Lasix to troubleshoot. When diuretics are not an option the best bet would be to consume little to no fluid and only protein and fats throughout the morning.
JE: Diuretics, you made no mention of these but a lot of competitors live and die by them. What do you think; is there a place for them here?
EB: As a rule I do not like diuretics and do everything in my power to prevent their use through nutritional means.
JE: You advise to stop all training by Tuesday, why is that?
EB: The muscles need to recover to look their best. This gives you three days off from lifting, which should allow them to fill out with glycogen and also for extra cellular edema to reduce that results from fiber damage.
JE: Is there ever a reason for a competitor to do cardio up to the day of the show?
EB: With proper planning this should never be necessary, however, if for some reason you have spilled over or are holding water due to nerves or stress, it CAN be used to shed some subcutaneous water.
JE: OK, the fun question, what’s the one craziest thing you’ve ever heard yourself say about someone’s final prep? Such as the day of the show or some magic formula they took on that last wk that blew your mind when you heard about it. Who knows, maybe the craziest thing you’ve ever heard is something you did, lol!
EB: The craziest thing is something that a natural pro competitor told me after winning the entire show! He said that for 2 whole days before the contest he did not eat or drink ANYTHING!