USA Physique
The Coaching Authority

Chet Nichols // Author

Author based archive
23 May


Anabolism, the process of building and repairing tissues in the body, plays a crucial role in promoting muscle growth, strength development, and overall physical performance. While factors such as nutrition, exercise, and hormones significantly influence anabolism, emerging research suggests that body fat percentage can also have a notable impact on this process. In this article, we delve into the relationship between body fat and anabolism, exploring whether a specific body fat percentage exists that is optimal for anabolic processes, and whether this differs between men and women.

The Link Between Body Fat and Anabolism

Body fat, particularly visceral adipose tissue (fat stored around the organs), has been found to exert several effects on anabolism. Firstly, high levels of body fat are associated with increased secretion of pro-inflammatory molecules, such as cytokines and adipokines, which can interfere with anabolic signaling pathways in muscle cells.1 Additionally, elevated levels of body fat can disrupt hormonal balance, particularly by increasing levels of circulating estrogen and reducing levels of testosterone, leading to a less favorable anabolic environment.

Excess body fat can impair insulin sensitivity, which plays a crucial role in muscle protein synthesis. Insulin resistance, commonly associated with higher body fat levels, hinders the uptake of glucose and amino acids into muscle cells, limiting the availability of essential nutrients for muscle growth and repair. This can negatively impact anabolism and result in reduced muscle mass and strength.

Having body fat levels that are too low can have a detrimental impact on anabolism and muscle growth. When body fat drops to extremely low levels, it disrupts hormonal balance, including reduced testosterone in men and disrupted estrogen production in women, which can hinder muscle anabolism. Additionally, low body fat can limit energy availability for muscle growth and repair, as it serves as an important energy reserve. This can compromise anabolic processes and impede muscle development. Moreover, insufficient body fat levels can restrict the uptake of essential nutrients, such as glucose and amino acids, into muscle cells, limiting the necessary resources for muscle growth and repair. Lastly, extremely low body fat can have negative implications for overall health, including compromised immune function, decreased bone density, and hormonal irregularities, indirectly affecting anabolic processes and hindering muscle growth.

Maintaining a healthy body fat percentage is important for optimizing anabolic processes. A moderate amount of body fat can provide the necessary energy reserves to support muscle growth and recovery. Additionally, maintaining a healthy body composition promotes hormonal balance, with optimal levels of testosterone and estrogen, creating an environment conducive to muscle anabolism.

The link between body fat and anabolism is complex. It is essential to adopt a balanced approach to body fat management, incorporating regular physical activity, and a nutrient-rich diet to achieve an optimal body fat percentage that promotes anabolism and overall health.

Optimal Body Fat Percentage for Anabolism

The optimal body fat percentage for anabolism varies between men and women. For men, research suggests that a moderately low body fat percentage is beneficial for promoting anabolic processes and muscle growth. Studies have shown that men with body fat percentages in the range of 6-12% tend to experience higher testosterone levels, which is a crucial hormone for muscle development. However, excessively low body fat levels, below 6%, may have detrimental effects on anabolism and overall health.2

In the case of women, the optimal body fat percentage for anabolism is slightly higher compared to men. Research indicates that women typically require higher body fat percentages, ranging from 16-25%, to support optimal hormonal balance and facilitate muscle growth.3 Though some data shows up to 30% is acceptable, but not highly supported. Adequate body fat levels in women contribute to the production of estrogen, which plays a vital role in maintaining bone density and promoting muscle anabolism. Similar to men, excessively low body fat percentages in women can disrupt hormonal equilibrium and hinder anabolic processes.

It’s important to strike a balance in body fat levels to optimize anabolism. While aiming for low body fat levels may be desirable for aesthetic or performance reasons, it’s crucial to prioritize overall health and ensure that body fat remains within a healthy range for sustained muscle growth and performance.


The impact of body fat on anabolism is multifaceted, with both excess and insufficient levels of body fat negatively influencing the anabolic processes crucial for muscle growth and performance. While the optimal body fat percentage for anabolism varies between men and women, lower levels of body fat generally tend to be more beneficial for men, while slightly higher levels are favorable for women. Striving for a healthy balance in body fat levels can optimize anabolic responses, thereby promoting muscle growth, strength, and overall athletic performance.


  1. Boden G. Obesity and Free Fatty Acids. Endocrinology and Metabolism Clinics of North America. 2008;37(3):635-646. doi:10.1016/j.ecl.2008.06.007
  2. Forbes GB. (2000). Body fat content influences the body composition response to nutrition and exercise. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 904, 359-365. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2000.tb06476.x
  3. Drinkwater BL. (1998). Women and exercise: Physiology and sports medicine. Sports Medicine, 25(6), 339-352. doi: 10.2165/00007256-199825060-00001
03 Apr

Not getting the results you want? Claim Your FREE Copy of The 5 Biggest Myths in Health and Fitness today! 

Muscle hypertrophy is a process of muscle growth that occurs when the body is subjected to repeated bouts of resistance training. It is a complex process that involves a variety of physiological mechanisms, such as protein synthesis, muscle fiber recruitment, muscle damage, hormone regulation, metabolic stress, and muscle tension. By understanding the science behind muscle hypertrophy you can optimize your workouts to achieve your muscle-building goals.

Mechanisms of Muscle Hypertrophy

One of the most important mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy is protein synthesis, which is the process of building new muscle tissue. This occurs when muscle cells take up amino acids from the bloodstream and use them to create new muscle proteins. The optimal amount of protein for muscle growth depends on various factors such as age, sex, body weight, training status, and type of exercise. Generally, it is recommended to consume 1.6 to 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day for muscle growth.1 It’s worth noting that these are general guidelines and individual protein needs may vary based on individual factors.

Resistance training is a type of exercise that places stress on the muscles, causing them to adapt and grow in response to the stress. One important mechanism of muscle hypertrophy that occurs during resistance training is muscle fiber recruitment. This refers to the activation of different types of muscle fibers during resistance training. This can be achieved by using heavier weights or performing more repetitions. By recruiting a greater number of muscle fibers, you can maximize muscle hypertrophy and strength gains. A study in 2007 found that frequency, intensity, volume, and mode of strength training all play a role in whole muscle cross-sectional area in humans.2

Another important mechanism of muscle hypertrophy is muscle damage, which triggers the body’s repair process and stimulates protein synthesis. However, excessive muscle damage can impede recovery and hinder muscle hypertrophy, so it’s important to find the right balance between challenging workouts and adequate recovery. Critical processes in exercise-induced muscular growth include muscle damage, protein synthesis, and neural adaptations.3

Hormone regulation is a crucial aspect of muscle hypertrophy, and there are several hormones involved in this process. Testosterone, insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), and growth hormone (GH) are some of the most important hormones that regulate muscle hypertrophy. A study in 2002 investigated the effects of resistance exercise on hormones related to muscle hypertrophy. The study found that resistance exercise resulted in significant concentrations of testosterone, IGF-1, and GH levels in the body.4 This increase in hormonal activity is crucial for muscle hypertrophy, as these hormones play a key role in promoting muscle hypertrophy and recovery.

Metabolic stress is also an important factor that contributes to muscle hypertrophy. Metabolic stress occurs when the muscles are subjected to prolonged periods of tension or when they are deprived of oxygen. This can cause the buildup of metabolites such as lactate, which can stimulate the production of growth factors and promote muscle hypertrophy. Additionally, metabolic stress can lead to an increase in the production of reactive oxygen species, which can trigger the activation of signaling pathways that promote muscle hypertrophy. A study in 2014 investigated the effects of different training methods on muscle growth, including metabolic stress-inducing methods such as high-repetition sets and occlusion training, otherwise known as Blood Flow Restrictive (BFR) training. The study found that these methods were effective at promoting muscle growth, with metabolic stress being one of the key factors involved in the process.5

Finally, muscle tension is also an important mechanism of muscle hypertrophy. Muscle tension occurs when the muscle fibers are put under tension, which stimulates the body to adapt and grow stronger. This can be achieved through exercises that involve high levels of muscle activation and tension, such as compound exercises and heavy lifting. A study in 2015 explored various training techniques for muscle hypertrophy and examined the impact of tension-inducing methods such as compound exercises and heavy lifting. The study found that these methods were effective at promoting muscle hypertrophy, with muscle tension being one of the key factors involved in the process.6

Optimizing Muscle Hypertrophy

To optimize muscle hypertrophy, you need to apply the principles of progressive overload, consistency in training, and recovery. Progressive overload involves gradually increasing the demands placed on your muscles over time, such as lifting heavier weights or increasing the number of reps. This stimulates muscle hypertrophy and helps prevent plateaus. A study examined the effects of different volume and loading strategies on muscle adaptations found that both bodybuilding- and powerlifting-type training promote similar increases in muscular size, though powerlifting training is superior for enhancing maximal strength.7

To optimize muscle hypertrophy, it is essential to incorporate the mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy into the training program. This can be achieved through various training modalities such as heavy resistance training, high-repetition training, and eccentric training. However, it is important to note that the effectiveness of these modalities depends on the individual’s training experience, muscle fiber type, and training goals.1

In addition to incorporating different training modalities, consistency of training is crucial for optimizing muscle hypertrophy. Muscle hypertrophy is a gradual process that requires consistent and progressive overload.8 In other words, the muscle needs to be subjected to a progressively increasing workload to continue growing. This can be achieved by gradually increasing the resistance, volume, or intensity of the training program over time.

Moreover, consistent training is necessary to maintain the adaptive response of the muscle. If not, muscle mass and strength gains can be lost within weeks of detraining.9 Therefore, consistent training is necessary to maintain the gains achieved through training.

Finally, recovery is essential for promoting muscle hypertrophy, as it allows your muscles to repair and grow stronger. Adequate rest, proper nutrition, and hydration are all important for optimizing recovery and preventing injury.

Effects of Rest and Recovery on Muscle hypertrophy

Rest and recovery are essential for optimal muscle hypertrophy. During exercise, the body experiences stress and micro-tears in muscle fibers, which stimulates the repair and growth process. However, it is during rest and recovery that the body actually repairs and rebuilds muscle tissue. Rest days allow the body to focus its energy and resources on repairing the damaged muscle fibers, which then leads to an increase in muscle size and strength. A study looked at the relationship between weekly resistance training volume and increases in muscle mass found that proper hormone regulation is crucial, as excessive exercise can lead to hormonal imbalances that may negatively impact muscle hypertrophy.10

The amount of time needed before training a specific muscle group again varies depending on several factors, including the individual’s fitness level, training intensity, and recovery capacity. As a general guideline, it is recommended to allow at least 48 hours of rest for each muscle group between workouts. It takes roughly 24-48 hours for the muscle fibers to recover and repair from the stress of resistance training.11 However, it is important to note that the optimal amount of rest may vary depending on the individual, and some people may require more or less rest depending on factors such as their training intensity, nutrition, and overall recovery capacity. The type of training program being followed may also impact the rest needed between workouts.5 For example, if you’re doing heavy lifting or high-intensity training, you may need more rest than if you’re doing lighter, lower-intensity workouts.

In summary, it is essential to allow for proper rest and recovery to optimize hypertrophy. Listening to your body and paying attention to how you feel between workouts is crucial for determining the optimal amount of rest needed before training the same muscle group again.


Muscle hypertrophy is a complex process that involves various mechanisms, such as protein synthesis, muscle fiber recruitment, muscle damage, hormone regulation, metabolic stress, and muscle tension. To optimize muscle hypertrophy, it is crucial to incorporate progressive overload, consistency of training, and recovery into your workout routine. This can be achieved by incorporating different training modalities, increasing the demands placed on the muscles over time, and allowing for adequate rest and recovery. Understanding the science behind muscle hypertrophy can help you achieve your muscle growth goals and maximize your workouts.


  1. Jäger R, Kerksick CM, Campbell BI, et al. (2017). International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: protein and exercise. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 14:20.
  2. Wernbom, M., Augustsson, J., & Thomeé, R. (2007). The influence of frequency, intensity, volume and mode of strength training on whole muscle cross-sectional area in humans. Sports Medicine, 37(3), 225-264.
  3. Phillips, S. M. (2014). A brief review of critical processes in exercise-induced muscular hypertrophy. Sports Medicine, 44 (Suppl 1), S71-S77.
  4. Kraemer, W. J., Ratamess, N. A., & French, D. N. (2002). Resistance training for health and performance. Current sports medicine reports, 5(3), 155-160.
  5. Schoenfeld, B. J., Wilson, J. M., Lowery, R. P., & Krieger, J. W. (2014). Muscular adaptations in low- versus high-load resistance training: A meta-analysis. European Journal of Sport Science, 17(8), 1037-1044.
  6. Schoenfeld, B. J., Contreras, B., Krieger, J., Grgic, J., Delcastillo, K., Belliard, R., & Alto, A. (2015). Resistance training volume enhances muscle hypertrophy but not strength in trained men. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 48(11), 2165-2176.
  7. Schoenfeld, B. J., Ratamess, N. A., Peterson, M. D., Contreras, B., Sonmez, G. T., & Alvar, B. A. (2014). Effects of different volume-equated resistance training loading strategies on muscular adaptations in well-trained men. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 28(10), 2909-2918.
  8. Mitchell, C. J., Churchward-Venne, T. A., West, D. W., Burd, N. A., Breen, L., Baker, S. K., & Phillips, S. M. (2012). Resistance exercise load does not determine training-mediated hypertrophic gains in young men. Journal of Applied Physiology, 113(1), 71-77.
  9. Mujika, I., & Padilla, S. (2000). Detraining: loss of training-induced physiological and performance adaptations. Part I: short term insufficient training stimulus. Sports Medicine, 30(2), 79-87.
  10. Schoenfeld, B. J., Ogborn, D., & Krieger, J. W. (2017). Dose-response relationship between weekly resistance training volume and increases in muscle mass: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of sports sciences, 35(11), 1073-1082.
  11. Schoenfeld, B. J., Grgic, J., Ogborn, D., & Krieger, J. W. (2017). Strength and hypertrophy adaptations between low-vs. high-load resistance training: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 33(12), 3497-3506.
14 Dec

The Metabolic Factor is a simple calculation and rating scale we use to determine if a client is metabolically ready for prep. It’s remarkably simple and everyone can use it. Maintenance Calories divided by weight. If you are in a surplus or deficit, you will need to use your “calculated” maintenance.


I’m a data junkie. For the previous 20 years prior to becoming a coach, I was an eagle-eyed analyst for the DoD, CDC and Department of Veterans Affairs sniffing out hidden trends and finding ways to optimize processes. Little did I know that those very same data digging, and process improvement skills would make all the difference when it came time to take my career in a new direction – becoming a coach! My background has been invaluable ever since.

When analyzing our competitors’ data, it wasn’t long before I started to see some patterns develop. There were distinct correlations developing between a client’s weight and maintenance calories, in numerous ways. I decided to apply this simple calculation already used by many: it wasn’t anything revolutionary but still allowed us further insight into the numbers.

By taking a deep dive into the data and crunching it across hundreds of competitors, I uncovered some fascinating trends! With this knowledge in hand, I pursued new paths that would have otherwise remained unexplored.


Metabolic Factors of 10 or below can make it incredibly challenging to increase calories without rapid weight gain. These folks have a suppressed metabolism, so they experience low energy and struggle to get stronger in the gym – even after several weeks! Even minor calorie increases like 60 extra per day can cause unwelcome increases on their scale numbers.

If you’re looking to grow and build muscle, the speed of your progress matters. While it’s important that we consume food for growth, going too quickly can cause an increase in body fat accumulation instead of healthy muscle gain. Eating right is key but having a good body composition plays just as big a role when building up our strength! Body composition has just as much impact on anabolism as calorie intake. I encourage you to read that article, it will put more things into perspective.

If body composition gets too skewed towards fat, it can impede the process of building muscle. Trying to push more food can make the situation worse. Though many believe that size and strength go hand in hand, it is only true to a point. There comes a point of diminishing returns. Once you go to far, you are adding much more Fat Mass than Fat Free Mass, and more weeks to your next prep. We talk about this at length in our 5 Phases of Off-Season and 5 Phases of Contest Prep E-book, in particular during the Transition Phase of Off-Season

Remember that the more fat you gain, the longer you’ll have to diet and the deeper you’ll likely have to hammer into a calorie deficit. In 25 years of coaching, that always means less lean body mass retained. I know it’s counterintuitive—we like to think the size and strength we gain at higher body fat levels is worth it—but once you’re moderately above your metabolic setpoint, the law of diminishing returns isn’t in your favor. You gain much more body fat than lean body mass and you lose both on your way back to the stage.” ~Joe Klemczewski, PhD

At a a Metabolic Factor off 10 to 11, clients begin to see tangible results. Small calorie increases lead to enhanced strength and improved overall wellbeing without any increase in body fat. Increases may be still far and few in between…but the pick-up in pace is noticeable. It’s an exciting time when the hard work begins paying off!

Once crossed over into a Metabolic Factor of 12, increase frequency usually picks up a little more. By a Metabolic Factor of 13, it becomes clear that steadily increasing calories over a couple of weeks (sometimes weekly) allows clients to stay fairly lean (if you are in the state already) and energized. Even weekly increases are yielding little to no weight gain, but strength continues to rise!

At a Metabolic Factor of 14, clients may start to notice not only is weight stable with increases in calories, they are getting leaner as we let their progress lead us down more aggressive pathways with increased calorie intake. We start flirting with some positive changes in body composition without changes to workout programming or nutrition. It just starts to happen naturally for many.

As a general rule of thumb, starting prep with a Metabolic Factor of 15 and higher is ideal. Such an environment usually allows clients to achieve body recomp without drastic changes in nutrition or exercise programming before prep even starts. In the past four years, all those who began prepping at a Metabolic Factor 15 or higher (barring a few exceptions) made 1st callouts.

When clients reach a Metabolic Factor of 16, we see a sharp rise in those who win their divisions, overall titles and/or pro cards. Clients who reach a Metabolic Factor of 17, may not even do much cardio during prep. Our Wellness client Amanda Wright just won her IFBB Pro Card without doing any Steady State Cardio. Her metabolic rate was so high when prep started, it was never needed.

Can someone do well starting prep lower than a Metabolic Factor of 15? Sure, but the lower you start, the more difficult prep may be as you would need much more cardio and have to dive deeper into lower calories which means a higher rate of muscle loss.


Everyone follows the same Metabolic Factor rulebook, but athletes have higher expectations. Competitors should target a Metabolic Factor of 15 or greater before commencing Contest Prep in order to reach extreme levels of leanness and diet down harder for longer periods of time. Non-competitors are not obligated to do so; that level of leanness is to extreme and unhealthy so attaining a Metabolic Factor of 13-14 is suitable for them, prior to starting any dieting phase!

Now that you understand the importance of Metabolic Factor, let’s explore how this formula can be put into practice. Remember: when calculating your factor, we are looking at maintenance calories. If you are losing weight or gaining weight, the calories you are consuming IS NOT your Maintenance Calories.

Let me give you an example.

Losing or gaining weight is all about the numbers. A 500-calorie deficit each day will cause you to drop 1 pound per week, while a surplus of this amount causes the opposite effect. Your daily calories and caloric balance either give your body energy…or take it away! If you are losing or gaining as shown below, the numbers below indicate how many calories you are in of a deficit or surplus.

  • 1.0lbs = 500 calories
  • .75lbs = 375 calories
  • .50lbs = 250 calories
  • .25lbs = 125 calories


Let’s assume you weigh 130 lbs., and you are gaining .75lb per week at 2100 calories. That means you are in a 375-calorie surplus.

Lets do some math!

To find your Maintenance Calories, subtract 375 from 2100 and that leaves you with 1725 “Calculated Maintenance Calories.” To find your Metabolic Factor, divide 1725 (Calculated Maintenance Calories) by 130 (weight in lbs.) which equals 13.269, so round up and your Metabolic Factor is 13.3.

If you are losing weight, you do the same thing, but you would add the calories back in. In the example above, the Calculated Maintenance Calories would be 2100 + 375 which equals 2475, for a Metabolic Factor of 19.


The Metabolic Factor is an easy-to-use rating scale that helps you decide when your metabolism is ready to entera dieting phase like Contest Prep. It considers the individual’s Maintenance Calories divided by their weight – if they are in surplus or deficit, it uses “calculated maintenance”. Hopefully this will give you a little guidance regarding where your metabolism should be before you start your next phase.

23 Oct

Peak Week, your last chance to put all the pieces together to deliver your best physical possible once you hit the stage. It can make or break even the best competitor. Nail your peak, and you will be walking off the stage with your head held high. However, even the slightest miscalculation can leave you disappointed and take a physique destined for First Place, thrown into a Second Call-Out placement.

Before you read any further, you need to understand what the “variables” are that we discuss in each strategy. Variables are the things we use to alter our physique during Peak Week and Show day.

Peak Week nutrition variables includes:

· Carbohydrates

· Protein

· Fats

· Water

· Sodium · Potassium

NOTE:  When going through these methods, keep in mind that it typically takes 24-48 hours for carbohydrates to fully assimilate. 


Your week starts off with three to four days of carb depleting followed by three days of carb loading with cutting water the last two days.  As the carb loading increases, water will start to be pulled.  This creates an environment where the competitor start to get really flat, which is often misunderstood as a lack of carbohydrates.  As a result, carbs continue to be increased as the competitor flattens out further.  Since it takes carbohydrates 24-48 hours to fully assimilate, the consumed carbs cannot be converted by gluconeogenesis and shuttled into the muscles fast enough resulting in the competitor being flat if not enough carbs where consumed and resulting in spillover if too many carbs are consumed.  The high concentration of glucose present out-side of the muscle cells, with the low remaining water in the body due to decreasing water, is pulled outside the muscle and under the skin, leaving the competitor flat and potentially a little watery.

This is an old school approach that is being phased out by most coaches. The water and sodium depletion is extremely dangerous. You have probably heard stories of competitors using this approach and looking better the day or to after their show, claiming they just “missed” their peak. Once the show is over and the competitor goes out and consumes a lot of food (and a lot of sodium with it), and a lot of fluids, the competitor will look their best the following morning. This is a very aggressive approach, VERY high risk, high reward, and low predictability due to rapidly changing variables with little to no time to observe and correct since you aim to have your highest carb day on the day before the show.


Your week starts off with carbs higher than usual. Protein and fats should typically stay consistent, but may be a little lower when carbs are at their peak. We are looking for a little bit of spillover to ensure we find the tipping point. Carbs should be lowered the following three to four days to clean up the spill. You should start looking a little crisper with improved definition. The next day or two, carbs are increased to tighten you up. This is common for bikini, figure and wellness competitors.

This is a conservative approach, low risk, moderate reward, and moderate predictability. Though variables change rapidly, you do have a day or two to observe and adjust should spillover occur before show day.


Your week starts with carbs at its lowest, and gradually increasing to their highest level when you are two or three days out. Protein and fats may be a little lower on the highest carb days. There should also be a little bit of spilling the last day of your carb up. Use the last one or two days to clean the spill and tighten you up. This is common for bikini, figure, wellness and Men’s Physique competitors.

This is a fairly conservative approach, moderate risk, moderate reward, and moderate predictability. Though variables change on a slow and steady approach early in the week, they change rapidly two to three days out, but you do have at least a day to observe and adjust should spillover occur before show day.


This is very similar to old school Conventional Peaking without water and sodium depletion. The week starts with very low carbs to fully deplete glycogen from your muscles. This should continue for three to four days with rapid carb increases the next two to three days before show day. We are looking for glycogen supercompensation during the carb up phase, right up to show day. Protein and fats should be at their highest while depleting, then dropped during the loading days. This is common for men’s bodybuilding and classic physique and women’s bodybuilding and physique where more extreme levels of conditioning are necessary.

This is a very aggressive approach, high risk, high reward, and moderate to low predictability due to rapidly changing variables, glycogen dynamic change, and little to no time to observe and correct since you aim to have your highest carb day on the day before the show.


This follows the same path as Back Load Peaking, except for hitting your peak one day out, leaving a day of carb reduction if “slight” spilling occurs. This reduces the risk a little and slightly increases predictability. But because the back loading is so extreme, if spill over is more than slight, you will still not have enough time to clean it up. This is common for men’s bodybuilding and classic physique and women’s bodybuilding and physique where more extreme levels of conditioning are necessary.

This is a very aggressive approach, high risk, high reward, and moderate predictability due to rapidly changing variables, glycogen dynamic change.  There is slightly more predictability than standard backload peak due to the clean up day which gives a little time to observe and correct.


Your week starts with a slight increase in carbs for one to two days, followed by four to five days of glycogen depletion. This is a carb depletion phase, not a calorie depletion phase. In fact, you should be no more than a couple of hundred calories below, or above, your normal dieting calories prior to peak week. This should continue until the day before the show when the rapid-carb loading begins.

We are looking for glycogen supercompensation the last 24-hours before taking the stage. Protein and fats should be at their highest while depleting, then dropped during the loading days. Carb intake is so high (extreme amounts over 800 carbs the day before she show is common) and the process is so fast that this is one of the very few times that potassium loading may be involved, in a VERY SPECIFIC way. You start with your potassium load first thing in the morning, then sodium later in the day.

This is an EXTEMELY AGGERSSIVE, EXTREMELY HIGH RISK, HIGH REWARD, and very low predictability since you are allowing little no time for observation and adjustments and variables change dramatically. Even with a clean-up day tagged at the end, the carb intake is so high, one day clean-up is not enough and can lead to a bloated appearance in the core, even if spillover does not occur. However, the reward for perfect timing is extremely high and produces the most extreme levels of hardness and tightness IF the competitor is lean enough.

NOTE: Rapid Backload Peaking was developed by Cliff Wilson, which took him about 10 years to perfect. It is EXTREMELY difficult to pull off and you really need to be dialed into the competitor and have an excellent eye. Potassium use in this method must be damn near perfect, and is timing based. Time it wrong and blurring will occur, the core can give the appearance of some bloating, and in some instances sickness can occur. It should be noted that Cliff adamantly states, “This should only be used for the most extreme levels of conditioning such as Men’s and Women’s Bodybuilding only, not suitable for other divisions.” The risk it to high when other protocols can give the same or better results for levels of less extreme conditioning are required, with less risk to the competitors physique. Though it may be something to look at for Women’s Physique in the NPC/IFBB as this division has increased the level of conditioning the last couple of years.


Peak Week begins with a slight modification to calories, usually with an increase of carbs. Prior to Peak Week, the competitor should already be increasing calories as stage lean has been achieved for some time now. Muscle glycogen is full, but not quite at full capacity, and the competitor is now less sensitive to carb increases.

When Peak Week begins, a simple increase of 15-25g of carbs may be all a competitor needs. Protein and fats typically remain consistent, or slight variation. Each day, the competitor should start looking a little fuller and tighter. By two to three days out, the competitor should be at or near his/her peak. For the remaining one to two days, a slightly larger increase in carbs, maybe fats, may be used with an increase in sodium to fine tune the physique. By the night before the show, the competitor should be at or near full glycogen capacity.

The chance of spillover is low due to the drop in sensitivity to carb adjustments, and the adjustments themselves are slight. By show day, food intake is primarily used to keep the competitor from getting too hungry, with some benefit to maintaining fullness. Sodium and water are the main variables to put the finishing touches on fullness and tightness. This is a conservative approach, exceptionally minimal risk, high reward, and high predictability since you are allowing time all through Peak Week for observation and adjustments. Changes to variables are usually subtle.

If the competitor is still dieting down prior to peak week, a little more aggressive carb increase(s) may be need the first few days or so, perhaps a fats as well.

NOTE: Progressive Linear Load Peaking was developed by Dr. Joe Klemczewski and can be used for all levels of conditioning. Best used when competitors reach stage lean early and are already in a state of reverse dieting. It is an innovative approach developed in just the past few years, but its popularity is on the rise resulting from its high level of success and minimal risk, high reward, and high predictability methodology.