Stop Messing Up Your Peak Week

Stop Messing Up Your Peak Week

It's the day you've been training for, how do you know you're ready?

Akash Vaghela Akash Vaghela · 22 Jun 2017

Mindset Advanced
20 Mins

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Peak week is something spoken about extensively in the world of bodybuilding and physique sport.

It essentially refers to the final week before the big day, and is commonly thought of as a time to ‘rescue’ a look and make significant improvements to a lagging physique. Or, to provide the finishing touches to an already great physique to try add an extra 1-5%.

If you’re in the first camp, you’re wasting your time.

The rule number one of ‘peak week’ (which could be the week leading up to a photoshoot, beach holiday, a wedding, a birthday, a physique-based competition, etc) is to be in shape.

Now it’s important to define what ‘in shape’ means as this will also dictate how you approach the final week prior to the big day. Below you will find examples of different people chasing a certain look where some are going for the ‘extremely shredded’ look, the ‘beach body’ look or the ‘lifestyle’ look. 

Even though they are different, they still follow the same fundamental rule which is:
“You absolutely must be in condition, or nothing else will matter or work”
Believing you can ‘rescue’ a physique in a week is selling yourself a false possibility. So you’re better off accepting you just needed more time, provided you put the hard yards in beforehand. Oh! And if you think it’s water, it’s not, that’s just body fat!

If you’re in the latter camp, and you’re looking for that extra 1-5%, then there are a few things you can do to bring your absolute best on the big day.

The key however is to keep it very simple. It doesn’t need to be complicated at all. All you really need for a successful ‘peak’ is letting the body recover and filling out a little. There’s no magic tricks or secret formula!

What You Should Avoid 

Before we show you what you should be paying attention to during a peak week, there are a few ‘must nots’ that will be beneficial to understand.

1. Cutting out sodium

It’s very rare that it’s worth manipulating sodium. But popular belief has led us to place sodium in a bad light, and associate it with water retention.

When we manipulate sodium, water and other electrolytes, the goal is to get as much fluid into our muscles while simultaneously removing as much fluid from the subcutaneous layer (the space between the deepest part of our skin and muscle). This is to increase muscularity and definition for a short period of time through temporary shifts in hormones such as aldosterone and vasopressin. 

What’s often forgotten though is that the body loves homeostasis (balance), meaning these hormones will do all they can to keep the ratio of water and electrolytes the same in an effort to compensate, which leads to very underwhelming results.

This is proven in the literature too, where one study showed that over a 6 day period of sodium restriction, aldosterone levels tripled. Aldosterone plays a key role in maintaining fluid balance by assisting in the re-absorption/retention of both water and sodium. 

Not only does it make little sense from a water manipulation standpoint (which is the whole point of doing so), it’s also illogical for three other reasons:
  • Sodium is required for certain glucose transporters to work well, and help nutrients into the cell.
  • Sodium is a vital part of muscle contraction.
  • Sodium is critical for blood volume, and achieving a great pump.

2. Prescription-Based & Over-The-Counter Diuretics

It’s shocking, but there are still many people using these and thinking (wrongly) it’s going to take their physique to a whole new level.

These are very difficult to get right, and in 99% of cases, it usually creates some unwanted outcomes such as flattening out, cramping and struggling to get a pump. In some really bad cases, they can be lethal.

This is caused by the flushing out of your mineral balance, in particular sodium. Which can lead to many of the problems discussed in point one.

Also, even over the counter compounds that are not prescription based but have been touted to flush out excess water such as dandelion, have not been shown to have any positive impact due to the same reasons mentioned above. You cannot control where the water comes from meaning in extreme cases, you just end up looking WORSE as all of the water inside your muscles has been excreted.

Instead of using diuretics to get rid of water, spend your time getting rid of extra fat!

3. Completely changing training

One of the overarching themes of a successful peak is to keep as many variables the same as possible.

A big mistake many people make is introducing a whole new training stimulus in the final week of a plan; ranging from super high reps, circuits to even complete layoffs.

Let’s first tackle the issue of changing your style of training. For example, going from focusing on the 6-10 rep range to suddenly jumping up to 15-20 reps a set.

It’s not that it’s wrong to train in a higher rep range. It’s more a question of the soreness and recovery demands that typically arise from starting a new training program, or introducing a new stimulus.

When you’re sore, your body often responds by pooling fluid (inflammation) to the area to aid in recovery while also inhibiting the muscles ability to uptake glucose which is exactly the opposite of what we want during a peak week.

Here is what the authors of this study had to say:

“Muscle damage does not just occur during exercise, but can continue after exercise for many hours. This occurs as a result of a protracted exercise hormonal milieu, an increase in free radicals and acute inflammation. Not only will such tissue damage limit performance due to delayed onset muscle soreness, but it will also compromise the replenishment of muscle glycogen and limit muscle training adaptations.”

If we start a new training plan that also incorporates heavy eccentric contractions, it can definitely impact how your physique looks by the end of the week. We’re usually too fat to see this. But in that final week, it will be noticeable! Provided you’re lean enough, of course. 

In the other case, trainees take complete time off to let their body recover. This is a mistake because you immediately change your energy balance. Your body has gotten used to expending X amount of calories per week on your weights sessions, so you’re going to create a skew in energy balance when you couple this with a carb/calorie load too (which we’ll discuss later). Even though we don’t expend that much energy during typical resistance training sessions, at this stage we want to keep as many variables as consistent as possible. Also, most people we have worked with feel better “mentally” knowing they have continued to train during this final week.

The other issue is related to ‘glut-4 translocation’, or the body’s ability to shuttle glucose into muscle cells after contraction. By continuing to train during carb loading, we’re providing our body a reason to store and hold onto glycogen into the muscle, thus remaining full.

Instead, the best advice is to keep training the same and make two changes. Firstly, you want to stop sets 1-2 reps shy of failure while minimising the eccentric component (to prevent inflammatory / recovery response), and to shift legs slightly earlier in the week.

What You Should Be Doing

 1. Nutrition:

As we have mentioned, you don’t want to be changing up your food sources during this period to keep things as predictable as possible. In saying that, manipulating the amount of carbohydrates throughout the week is one of the very few things that can seriously have an impact on your physique, especially when very lean.

Carbohydrates:

When we consume carbohydrates, our liver gets first priority for storage which can hold ~100g of carbohydrates, followed by our muscles (400-500g) and then body fat if we are in an energy surplus.

For most entering the final week of their grind, they are definitely still in a large energy deficit while also consuming a relatively low amount of carbohydrates. This means for weeks on end, liver and muscle glycogen stores have been running low making them very responsive to carbohydrates which is why a very large amount can be consumed in a short window of time, without any of it being converted to body fat. This is important to note as many can feel hesitant to increase their carbohydrates by a large margin, especially when “eating less” has been the goal for months.

In general, we recommend carbohydrate loading 3-4 days prior to your event as this will give you enough time to either hold the desired look or make any adjustments. If it was a little too much, simply going back to your normal diet will be enough to get you where you want to be by Saturday

Scenario 1:

If you are extremely lean with a good amount of muscle mass, then you could bump carbohydrates up to 6-10g/KG/BW on Tuesday/Wednesday and then see how you look on Thursday to make any adjustments if needed.
Let’s use a 70kg male and 55kg female wanting to maintain their look after loading. It’s important to note that you need to stay flexible and refine accordingly which is why we have provided a range on the days after the loading period.
*Adjust depending on condition.

Scenario 2:

If you are moderate to very lean with not as much muscle mass, then you could bump carbohydrates up to 4-6g/KG/BW on Tuesday/Wednesday and then see how you look on Thursday to make any adjustments if needed.
Let’s use a 60kg male along with a 50kg female wanting to maintain their look after loading.
  *Adjust depending on condition.

Scenario 3:

If you are moderately lean and carry small amounts of muscle mass, then there is no need for any large loading during the final week as you may be able to achieve a little more fat loss and bring a tighter look for the big day.

A small increase towards the end of the week may be implemented to aid in sleep, stress management and overall inflammation.
Let’s use a 60kg male and 50kg female wanting to maintain their look after loading.
Sources:

The general recommendation here would be to select foods that you were eating throughout your Process Phase that you know for sure agree with you. In saying that, if all of your sources have been coming from potatoes, oats, beans, legumes and fruits then you may find yourself in a very “uncomfortable” place which is the last thing we want.

These are all fantastic foods but due to their very high fibre and FODMAP content, they can cause excessive distention, bloating and gas if consumed in high amounts. Remember, this will be the first time in a while where you have consumed a lot of carbohydrates in a relatively short amount of time meaning the sources do matter.

To be on the safer side, the following foods and alternatives can be of great use.
  • White rice
  • Cream Of Rice/ Cream Of Wheat
  • Sweet/White potato (Skin peeled off)
  • Dried fruits
  • Ripe bananas (yellow with brown spots on skin)
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Liquids such as gatorade or powerade.

Protein & Fats:

To keep things simple and practical, protein and fats don’t need to change at all throughout your peak week. Unless however, you are extremely lean, where an increase in fats earlier in the week (prior to the carbohydrate load) can help fill out your muscles a little more while also allowing you to “hold” your look after the carbohydrate loading phase. 

This could mean increasing your regular fat intake by 1.5-2x from Sunday to Tuesday, while selecting more monounsaturated/polyunsaturated sources such as olive oil, nuts, avocado and fatty fish. 

(This is a more advanced technique, and can be done in many ways, including adding more fats to the night before, but for simplicity sake - for most, fats can remain the same too.)

Protein can stay exactly the same throughout but as mentioned, don’t start throwing in sources you are not familiar with. Stick with what works!

On The Day:

Simply adhering to your habitual diet with a few minor caveats is going to allow you to bring your best self to the shoot. 

The only change we would recommend is reducing your vegetable intake substantially in the meals prior to your event to temporarily tighten the waist a little more. The less “bulk” we have in our intestines, the tighter we are going to feel.

Structure the day so you have a decent sized meal 2-2.5 hours before including a good amount of carbs, fats and sodium to help with fullness, pump and energy (e.g. eggs on toast with salt / ketchup, sushi, or even just chicken and rice with olive oil and extra salt / soy sauce).

2. Cardiovascular Work & Steps:

Both of these can be incredibly effective fat loss tools throughout The Process Phase but when pushing high amounts (which is often the case at this stage) it’s not uncommon for people to be holding onto extra water, especially in the lower body, due to all the activity. 

This is also why we advocate training legs very early in the week as we want them to be as recovered as possible prior to the big day. 

The leaner you are, the bigger the impact you will have when you reduce these activities, especially when combined with the carbohydrate loading. This is why the activity reductions are far more aggressive when very lean while much more modest when going for the lifestyle type of photoshoot.

We recommend your cardiovascular work comes from low impact modalities that don’t eccentrically load your muscles such as cycling, swimming, the elliptical, the stepper or the rower. It’s more than likely that you have been using at least one of these throughout your transformation so just stick with what you know.

Let’s use the same scenarios as above to demonstrate how activity should be tapered.

Scenario 1:
Activity Scedule For The Week

Scenario 2:
Activity Schedule For The Week
Scenario 3:
Activity Schedule For The Week

 3. Other Considerations:

Remember, all of the above are just examples of how you could approach your final week. If you find cardiovascular work doesn’t impact you in a negative way and you just feel better when you do it, then you can keep it up all the way up until your shoot (even the morning of). 
Routine can be a very powerful tool when it comes to minimising stress. Knowing you have done your cardio for the day can allow you to head into your shoot in a much more relaxed state which is only going to be a benefit, especially if you’re a little nervous!

Putting It Altogether:


When Shyam went from a chubby city worker to photoshoot lean, we implemented all of the above strategies during his final week to bring out his best condition.
Shyam Kotecha At His Peak Week
Here is how it all unfolded!
Peak Week Schedule

Game Day (Friday):

On the day itself we kept it really simple with some protein and carbs in the first two meals, and a higher fat/carb/sodium combo 2-3 hours before to enhance the pump and vascularity. During the shoot, he sipped on 2 scoops of Raging Full.
Read Shyam's Case Study.
Shyam Kotecha
Summary:
So far we’ve established the following:
  • Be in shape
  • Don’t get fancy with sodium
  • Avoid diuretics
  • Continue training as normal
  • Be in shape
Beyond this, it really is so simple. Here are our general guidelines:
  • Keep water exactly the same as you’ve been drinking during your dieting phase.
  • Keep sodium levels the same.
  • Don’t introduce any new foods or condiments, 
  • Train as normal, but 1-2 reps shy of failure (you may want to move legs to earlier in the week) while minimizing the eccentric portion of each exercise.
  • Drop HIIT at 7-10 days out (if applicable).
  • Taper LISS throughout the week (if applicable).
  • Drop Yohimbine HCL at 7 days out (if applicable).
  • Keep caffeine intake as per normal habitual amount.
  • Keep taking creatine monohydrate.
  • Implement the carbohydrate protocol best suited to your avatar.
  • On the big day, depending on time of when to peak, have a decent sized meal 2-2.5 hours before including a good amount of carbs, fats and sodium to help with fullness, pump and energy (e.g. eggs on toast with salt / ketchup, sushi, or even just chicken and rice with olive oil and extra salt / soy sauce).

Wrapping Up

It’s as simple as that! If you follow these guidelines, you won’t see yourself go wrong in the final week. Of course, these aren’t set in stone, and in most cases, it will require tweaking depending on how the body responds. But as overall guiding principles, this works great.

Remember, the first rule of peak week is to be in shape.

The second rule of peak is to keep it simple.

The third and final rule is to relax, let your body recover and know that if you’re in shape, the hard work is already done. Now it’s time to show it off, enjoy a meal with your loved ones and learn how to consolidate all of your hard work WITHOUT the rebound by checking out our Ultimate Guide To Reverse Dieting.
Ultimate Guide To Reverse Dieting
Akash VaghelaAkash Vaghela

Akash Vaghela has spent 10+ years transforming bodies and lives around the world, and in May 2017, founded RNT Fitness to serve this purpose. His vision is to see a world transformed, where ambitious high performers experience the power of the physical as the vehicle to unlock their real potential. He’s the author of the Amazon best-selling book Transform Your Body Transform Your Life, which explains his unique and proven five-phase methodology, is host of the RNT Fitness Radio podcast, has been featured in the likes of Men’s Health and BBC, whilst regularly speaking across the world on all things transformation.

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