The Last Week

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This week involves the fine tuning of your physique in order to peak at the right time. Timing is crucial and the chances of you getting it perfectly right on the first time you prepare for a show are slim, so the diary is particularly important this week.

Let's assume the show is on the Sunday, with prejudging at 12 noon, and an evening show at 6pm.

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are based around high sodium and carbohydrate depletion, with increasing fluid intake.

High sodium intake is achieved by adding table salt to your food, using tomato ketchup to liven things up, consuming tuna canned in brine (as opposed to water) and spreading yeast extract (e.g. Marmite) on things, like bread and salad. This trick has been shown by many bodybuilders to be very effective, coupled with manipulation of some other minerals and electrolytes.

Alongside sodium manipulation consume five litres of water on Monday, six litres on Tuesday and eight litres on Wednesday. The water may be any sort, tap water is fine.

Some bodybuilders also suggest mega doses of vitamin C in the last week of preparation due to its diuretic effects. It has been known for competitors to consume vitamin C supplements of more than 10 grams a day, which I feel, is excessive.

The science of carbohydrate depletion and loading has been looked extensively as it used in many sports, not only bodybuilding. Athletes use the technique for attaining optimum glycogen levels in muscle for performance, whilst bodybuilders use the technique for maximal glycogen so muscles appear rounder and fuller. For every one gram of glycogen that is stored in muscle, a further three grams of water is drawn into and held within muscle. This is beneficial for cell volumisation, a fuller appearance and more energy. It also helps to minimise water stored around the muscle that would smooth the appearance and reduce muscular definition.

There are a number of regimens of the carbohydrate loading procedure, but the one I advocate is based on a number of studies where muscle glycogen has been measured and shown to be higher (Wootton 1988). It used to be thought that during these three days, near-zero carbohydrate should be ingested, and training should continue as normal. Research has demonstrated that keeping the same carbohydrate intake and using exercise to rid the muscles of glycogen is more beneficial when you come to reload. Remember that you are already on a reasonably low carbohydrate intake. Continue with this and consume complex, high fibre sources in small amounts, as before, at regular intervals throughout these three days.

Carbohydrate depletion is therefore achieved by exercise. You should train your whole body in these three days, using moderately heavy weights, a high number or repetitions and sets to complete or even negative failure (i.e. when you can't even do the movement with assistance). Train so each muscle group is completely exhausted and you yourself are incredibly low on energy. Cardiovascular exercise will also help to deplete. Train legs on Monday, chest and back on Tuesday and arms and shoulders on Wednesday. By Wednesday, you will be physically and mentally exhausted, and your body will be in a ketotic state. Ketosis is a metabolic condition where the body uses ketones (alternative end products of fat metabolism) for energy, as there is too little energy available from glycogen stores and insufficient glucose is synthesised from protein and fat stores. Ketones are necessary for brain and heart muscle to function. You will know you are in a ketotic state as, not only will you be exhausted, but your breath will have a slight smell of acetone (paint stripper) or a little like 'pear drops'.

You will hardly be able to function physically or mentally by Wednesday (and we call bodybuilding a 'healthy' sport!) and most competitors, when they are not training merely practice their routine, or relax and sleep. Avoid unnecessary distractions, just focus upon the coming show.

Protein intake should continue to remain high, and don't forget vegetables - especially useful for filling up on. Continue with olive oil, amino acids and glutamine.

Thursday

This is the first day of carbohydrate loading and sodium depletion. It is important to cut out sodium as much as possible here, i.e. no added salt and eat foods of low sodium content only. Drink seven litres of water on Thursday, but it should be of a low sodium variety; some of the French mineral waters (non-sparkling) are ideal. Some bodybuilders buy purified water with no mineral content, but this can be expensive. Also take some mineral supplements to prevent cramps and dehydration: calcium 1,000mg, magnesium 500mg and potassium 600mg per day. Continue with the vitamin C (if desired), olive oil, amino acids and glutamine.

Carbohydrate loading should begin when you get up on Thursday. Consume either a 200g portion of well-cooked brown rice or a hot medium jacket potatoes (not cold or reheated, as the starch in cold or reheated potatoes is not absorbed as efficiently as freshly cooked ones), two hourly all day. Consume protein with each meal too, not forgetting vegetables. Broccoli or cauliflower are the preferred vegetables pre-contest.

It is absolutely imperative that you do no significant amounts of exercise from this point on. This includes doing no weight training, nor any cardiovascular work. It's too late for any significant fat loss now; carbohydrate loading is the priority. Exercising at this time will defeat the object of loading, and will stop super-volumisation of the muscles. volumisation is that from depleting and then reloading there is a super-compensation of carbohydrate stores with glycogen and the associated water; if you just load without depleting, glycogen stores would not be as full as they could be.

Friday

Thursday, but with six litres of low sodium water during the day. Mineral supplement dosages should be the same. If you are already feeling loaded with carbohydrates; you may want to cut back to consuming carbohydrates from two hourly to two and a half or three hourly.

Saturday

On Saturday consume carbohydrates as above until about lunchtime, which should be your last carbohydrate loading meal. Again minimal sodium and you should drink one to two litres of low sodium water in the morning. Minerals should be as above on Saturday.

In the afternoon, only sip water when you are thirsty, not allowing yourself to get too dry, but don't drink more than a couple of glasses. Only consume very minimal servings of carbohydrates, but protein should continue to be regular and high, with vegetables.

In the evening, drink two glasses of dry white wine. This is for the diuretic effect of alcohol, which is actually quite potent. Due to your nutritional and hydration state, you'll find that you will feel drunk quite easily. This will, however, help you sleep.

Go to bed early, as you may find yourself waking frequently during the night needing to urinate.

"Exercising at this time will defeat the object of loading..

The reason for super -

Sunday - The Big Day

Breakfast should be a tablespoon of rice with chicken or turkey accompanied by a glass of dry white wine. Two hours later have more rice and chicken or turkey. Again only sip water during the morning.

About two hours before you are due to go on the stage (for prejudging) you may start to consume simple carbohydrates. It doesn't matter if you eat fatty foods at this point. Chocolate is great. Don't overdo it though, or you may bloat your abdomen or make yourself sick. Consume chocolate at regular intervals.

You may wish to use ephedra or eca before going on stage, in which case take an hour or so before. Some people suggest baby food, sweets or mint cake before competing, all of which are fine, but I feel chocolate is sufficient.

Twenty minutes before you are due to go on stage (check with the organisers the exact time for your category), have a tot of spirit, e.g. whiskey, brandy or rum. This has the effect of dilating the veins, helping a more vascular appearance, and also helps to calm the nerves for any potential 'stage-fright'. About 15 minutes before, take 200-400mg of niacin, for its vasodialation and flushing effect too (if you haven't used this before, be careful as it can be uncomfortable and may surprise you). Some competitors also like to take GABA before going on stage.

Remember to warm up and stretch before going on stage. Posing on stage will be the hardest workout of your training career, at a time where you are near dehydration and prone to muscle cramps.

After the pre-judging, if there is one, just consume what you want in the afternoon, sipping fluid, but not overindulging so as to bloat yourself. Repeat the pre-stage tips before the evening show.

After the evening show, treat yourself!

Figure 10: Summary of the main changes, stage by stage of a pre-contest diet.

Pre-diet

First Stages - week 4 Week 4-3

Week 2

Week 1 - Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday Saturday

Sunday

Cut out junk foods and don't overindulge

Low carbohydrate, high protein, low fat

Cut out dairy products, creatine Increase olive oil and glutamine Every 7-10 days higher carbohydrates

Re-evaluate and adjust accordingly Start to increase sodium

Very high sodium starts Vitamin C

Carbohydrate depletion

5 litres water Exercise very intensely

6 litres water 8 litres water Cut out sodium

Calcium, magnesium, potassium Low sodium mineral water - 7 litres Carbohydrate load

6 litres water

Re-assess carbohydrate intake

1.5 litres water in the morning, sip in the afternoon

Minimal carbohydrate

Dry white wine in the evening

Wine in the morning

Small amounts of protein and carbohydrate Chocolate

Spirits, niacin, (ephedra/eca), (GABA) Stretch and warm up

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