Peaking for Drug-Free Bodybuilding with Dr. Eric Helms • Stronger by Science

Be aware: This piece was the MASS Analysis Overview cowl story for November 2023. If you’d like extra content material like this, subscribe to MASS.

Dr. Eric Helms’ kicked off his fifth aggressive season in September with three competitions over consecutive weekends. This plan put him within the distinctive place of planning three back-to-back peak weeks, a prospect that may terrify lots of rivals. The aim of a peak week is to optimize the competitor’s look on stage. Peaking regimens sometimes embody making simultaneous changes to train programming, carbohydrate consumption, electrolyte steadiness, and water consumption.

The standard method to peaking goals to lower subcutaneous water retention and enhance intramuscular fluid retention (or muscle “fullness”). Virtually, this usually features a depletion section, throughout which the competitor consumes a low calorie, low carbohydrate weight loss plan, adopted by a carbohydrate loading section in an try to tremendous compensate glycogen storage. Usually, the following section prescribes a reasonable carbohydrate consumption, water restriction, and, in some instances, decreased sodium and elevated potassium. 

In Dr. Helms’ expertise, this apply doesn’t produce constant outcomes, as these variables are sometimes modified haphazardly with none trial and error. Notably, a few of these tips are borrowed from the improved bodybuilding world. Whereas water restriction could be applicable for rivals utilizing performance-enhancing medication that affect water retention, it doesn’t look like helpful – and could possibly be detrimental – for drug-free bodybuilders. There’s an affiliation between extracellular water and skinfold thicknesses, however dehydration can enhance the retention of subcutaneous water. Early analysis steered that every gram of muscle glycogen saved is accompanied by roughly 3–4g of intracellular water, however that is extremely variable. A dehydrated competitor can look “flat,” regardless of having loaded carbohydrates. 

Carbohydrate loading does seem to successfully enhance muscle measurement. The competitor’s response to carbohydrate “refeeds” all through prep can inform the perfect amount of carbohydrates, together with size and timing of the height week loading section. A depletion section might be pointless since, on the finish of prep, most rivals are actively weight-reduction plan on very low energy. If a person is already in a deficit, he/she is arguably already depleted. One easy method to peaking, which he used for his back-to-back reveals, is to have a heavy loading day the Thursday previous to the present adopted by a tapered consumption main into the present. The Thursday heaviest loading day is often ~4-8g carbohydrate per kg body weight, or 25%-30% larger than a typical refeed day. A typical taper on the next day could be ~25% decrease, or about the same amount of carbohydrates as a typical refeed day. 

People on very low calorie diets sometimes devour lots of fiber to advertise satiety, which attracts water into the intestinal tract. Since fiber can’t be saved as glycogen, it ought to be minimized in the course of the carbohydrate loading section (<20g day). Sodium could be useful on competitors day for some people to acutely increase blood strain and enhance vascularity in response to a pump-up. Nevertheless, the response to sodium ought to be examined beforehand, as this isn’t helpful for everybody. 

Bodybuilders competing in consecutive weekly reveals ought to be conservative concerning the post-show meal. Given that the majority people don’t eat a ton within the 1-2 meals main right into a morning or afternoon stage look on present day (sometimes ~700-800 kcals, in Dr. Helms’ case), there may be room to devour a good sized – albeit affordable – celebratory meal. He recommends specializing in the expertise and the social engagement, versus consuming the whole lot on the menu. Keep in mind, you’re about to enter one other peak week!

Whereas the peaking course of is usually considerably reproducible from present to point out, it’s necessary to keep in mind that you’re coping with a dynamic system, lots of assumptions, and a altering atmosphere. It’s important to just accept a degree of uncertainty. Lastly, this course of is psychologically difficult, and it may be tough for even essentially the most seasoned competitor to objectively consider his/her physique. It’s extraordinarily priceless to lean on a coach or a fellow competitor to information you thru peak week, assess your physique beneath constant lighting circumstances with and with out the spray tan, and provide help to make selections that can put together you to carry your finest look to the stage.

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This piece was the quilt story for the November 2023 concern of MASS Analysis Overview. For those who’d prefer to learn the complete, 78-page November concern (and dive into the MASS archives), you’ll be able to subscribe to MASS right here.

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