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

Be aware: This piece was the MASS Analysis Evaluation 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 will terrify a variety 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 normal method to peaking goals to lower subcutaneous water retention and improve intramuscular fluid retention (or muscle “fullness”). Virtually, this typically features a depletion section, throughout which the competitor consumes a low calorie, low carbohydrate food plan, adopted by a carbohydrate loading section in an try and tremendous compensate glycogen storage. Sometimes, the subsequent 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 pointers are borrowed from the improved bodybuilding world. Whereas water restriction is likely to be applicable for rivals utilizing performance-enhancing medicine that affect water retention, it doesn’t look like useful – and could possibly be detrimental – for drug-free bodybuilders. There’s an affiliation between extracellular water and skinfold thicknesses, however dehydration can improve 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 improve muscle dimension. The competitor’s response to carbohydrate “refeeds” all through prep can inform the best 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 exhibits, 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 usually ~4-8g carbohydrate per kg body weight, or 25%-30% greater than a typical refeed day. A typical taper on the next day is likely to be ~25% decrease, or about the same amount of carbohydrates as a typical refeed day. 

People on very low calorie diets sometimes eat a variety 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 throughout the carbohydrate loading section (<20g day). Sodium might be useful on competitors day for some people to acutely enhance 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 useful for everybody. 

Bodybuilders competing in consecutive weekly exhibits ought to be conservative in regards to the post-show meal. Given that almost all 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 eat an honest sized – albeit cheap – celebratory meal. He recommends specializing in the expertise and the social engagement, versus consuming all the pieces on the menu. Keep in mind, you might be about to enter one other peak week!

Whereas the peaking course of is mostly considerably reproducible from present to indicate, it’s vital to keep in mind that you’re coping with a dynamic system, a variety of assumptions, and a altering atmosphere. It’s vital 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 precious to lean on a coach or a fellow competitor to information you thru peak week, assess your physique below constant lighting circumstances with and with out the spray tan, and assist you make choices that can put together you to convey your greatest look to the stage.

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This piece was the quilt story for the November 2023 problem of MASS Analysis Evaluation. Should you’d wish to learn the total, 78-page November problem (and dive into the MASS archives), you’ll be able to subscribe to MASS right here.

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