22 Jun Stop F**king Up Your Peak Week
‘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.
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 a successful ‘peak’ includes 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 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 or water, the goal is to make temporary shifts in renal hormones such as Aldosterone and Vasopressin. What’s often forgotten though is that the body loves homeostasis (balance), so these hormones will bounce back and overshoot in an effort to compensate.
This has 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. If we think about the menstrual cycle and the water through that, it’s the same hormone in control.
Not only does it make little sense from a water manipulation standpoint (the whole reason for 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 Diuretics
It’s shocking, but there are still many people using these and (wrongly) thinking 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.
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. 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, whereby trainees take complete time off to let their body recover, 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).
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 (to prevent inflammatory / recovery response), and to shift legs to slightly earlier in the week.
What You Should Be Doing
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 applying sodium in the same way you’ve been doing so.
- 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).
- 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 normal habitual amount.
- Keep taking creatine monohydrate.
- 3 days away from the day, depending on your look and muscle mass, increase carbs by 2-3x compared to your ‘high day’.
- 2 days away from the day, either repeat previous amount, or lower carbs a touch.
- 1 day away, use as a ‘refinement’ to either lower carbs to clear any spillage, add more carbs to continue filling out, and/or increase fats to help fill intramuscular triglycerides (if lean enough to warrant).
- 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).
- As you start pumping up, sip on a mix of 25-50g easy digesting carbs (like Highly Branched Cyclic Dextrin) with ½ tsp sea salt.
Note: for some women that are not carrying much muscle tissue, a small increase in carbs 1-2 days before will be sufficient. These same women won’t need the carbs during the pump up either.
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!
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