Body Water and Peak Week Disasters

Water is distributed among two main compartments – intracelluclar and extracellular. The intracellular compartment is the largest, representing 2/3 of total body water. The extracellular compartment (1/3 total body water) is made of plasma fluid and interstitial fluid. Plasma and interstitial fluid have a similar electrolyte composition – sodium and chloride.

In bodybuilding and fitness competitions, when trying to achieve a hard but ripped and dry looking physique, the goal should be to preserve intracellular fluid (which is keeping muscles volumized and full), while reducing extracellular fluid (outside the cells).

When you think of it this way, it’s easy to see why many athletes and some coaches go too far with their peak week strategy. They play with far too many variables and end up losing precious intracellular fluid – the thing that was making them look hard and tight in the first place. Lose too much intracellular water and your muscles deflate – making you appear softer and less ripped than you are. Keep muscles full and adequately hydrated and they will push against the skin hard, minimizing the look of any subcutaneous water. Some of the most common mistakes I’ve seen are:

  1. Cutting water too soon – a 100 pound bikini girl does NOT have to cut her water a full 24 hours prior to a show! Just stop this.
  2. Overdoing the carb load – you should know what type and amount of carbs are needed to fill you out before even going into the final week. Shouldn’t be a guessing game at that point.
  3. Trying to peak when you’re not lean enough. Peak week strategies can work if a client is shredded enough for them to do their trick. If your conditioning isn’t where it should be, doing things like carb loading, cutting water and manipulating electrolytes will just make you look softer.
  4. Eating foods you haven’t eaten for the entire prep the night before and day of your show. Why? If you haven’t had the food for months, don’t assume it will magically transform your physique if you reintroduce it. Chances are you’ve lost some of the ezymatic capacity to break that food down if it’s been avoided for months.
  5. The “all of the things” approach. Some coaches mistakenly will try to manipulate each and every variable – cut water, cut sodium, massive carb load and overdo diuretics. I can promise you this approach will almost always land you in the third callouts….or an ambulance.

Bottom line without getting into too many details because in reality all peak weeks should be customized for the client – less can be more when it comes to peak week strategies for a show or photo shoot. Keeping muscles properly hydrated means applying the RIGHT combination of carb loading, electrolyte manipulation and minor adjustments in water intake in days leading up to the event.

Coach's Corner