The debate surrounding the efficiency and sustainability of long dieting periods with smaller caloric deficits versus shorter dieting periods with larger deficits has garnered much attention in the bodybuilding and fitness communities. Central to this discussion is the phenomenon of metabolic adaptation, a complex set of physiological changes where the body reduces its metabolic rate to conserve energy. One key factor in metabolic adaptation is the role of the thyroid gland, specifically the production of thyroid hormones T3 and T4, which are crucial for regulating metabolism. This article will delve into both dieting approaches and their effects on metabolism, thyroid function and muscle mass providing insight into which may be the optimal strategy for body composition.
Shorter Dieting Periods with Larger Deficits
While shorter dieting periods with larger caloric deficits offer the appeal of quick results, the metabolic implications can be more complex. A significant caloric deficit sends a signal to the body, via the pituitary gland to the thyroid, to conserve energy, activating survival mechanisms that reduce metabolic rate, sometimes referred to as “starvation mode.” This reduction in metabolic rate can make it increasingly difficult to continue losing weight and may lead to a plateau with further reduction is calories, increasing the rate of muscle loss.
Even after the dieting period is over, the body may continue to operate at this reduced metabolic rate for longer periods of time, another drawback of Metabolic Adaptation. This adaptation can make weight maintenance and future weight loss efforts more challenging. According to a study published in the “International Journal of Obesity,” participants of “The Biggest Loser” competition experienced a significant and persistent drop in their resting metabolic rate, even six years after the end of the competition .
For those in long dieting phases like Contest Prep, it’s crucial to be aware of this metabolic slowdown. The metabolic adaptations that occur due to larger caloric deficits can make it challenging to achieve the desired physique within the competition timeline. Therefore, if opting for this approach, it’s essential to have contingency plans in place to counterbalance the potential negative metabolic effects.
Long Dieting Periods with Smaller Deficits
Opting for longer dieting periods with smaller caloric deficits offers some advantages, primarily in the form of less drastic metabolic adaptations. While still inducing a caloric deficit sufficient for weight loss, smaller deficits are less likely to trigger the severe hormonal responses that larger deficits can. This makes it easier to maintain a more stable metabolic rate over the long term.
A 2009 study found that moderate caloric restriction did not produce the same extent of metabolic slowdown as experienced in more extreme caloric restriction . Additionally, smaller deficits over an extended period offer the advantage of muscle preservation. According to a review in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, adequate protein intake alongside a moderate caloric deficit can optimize muscle protein synthesis, aiding in the retention of lean muscle mass during weight loss .
For those in the Off-season or focusing on Lifestyle changes, this approach provides a more sustainable pathway for long-term metabolic health and easier dieting phase, to include preps. It allows for greater flexibility in dietary choices, making it easier to adhere to in the long run. However, it’s important to note that the slower rate of weight loss might not be suitable for those on a tight Contest Prep schedule.
In the realm of long dieting periods with smaller caloric deficits, it’s crucial to discuss not just metabolic implications but also psychological factors. Research indicates that more extended, moderate dieting phases can be psychologically easier to adhere to, increasing long-term success . Moreover, the flexibility in caloric intake means athletes are less likely to feel deprived or restricted, making it more likely for them to maintain good nutritional habits.
Another important note is the potential for more effective nutrient partitioning. When the body is not in an extreme caloric deficit, it may more effectively allocate nutrients toward muscle repair and growth, offering a dual benefit of fat loss and muscle retention .
From an endocrine standpoint, smaller deficits over longer periods are less likely to elicit stress responses, such as increased cortisol levels, which can further sabotage muscle retention and metabolic rate .
The Endocrine Impact of Larger Caloric Deficits
A critical consideration in the context of larger caloric deficits and metabolism is the influence on the endocrine system, specifically the interaction between the pituitary and thyroid glands. When confronted with a significant caloric deficit, the pituitary gland often decreases the secretion of Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone (TSH). This reduction can result in suppressed production of thyroid hormones T3 and T4, which are vital for maintaining metabolic rate .
A study in the “American Journal of Physiology” illustrates that even short-term caloric restriction can significantly alter T3 levels, indicating immediate metabolic adaptations . Another study published in the “Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism” found that low-calorie diets led to a substantial decrease in T3 levels, impacting metabolic rate . These changes can be more severe with larger deficits than with smaller deficits sustained over a longer period. The larger caloric deficits can lead to a more significant reduction in thyroid hormones T3 and T4, which in turn affects metabolic rate. This is often observed as part of the body’s adaptive mechanisms to conserve energy during periods of significant caloric restriction [7.
Both dieting strategies have unique metabolic consequences. Longer periods with smaller deficits tend to have a less pronounced effect on the metabolic rate and high muscle retention, while shorter periods with larger deficits can lead to a more rapid metabolic slowdown, and less muscle retention. The latter may make subsequent Contest Preps more challenging, and time between prep longer due to the lingering effect of Metabolic Adaption resulting from an excessive deficit.
When choosing between long dieting periods with smaller deficits and shorter periods with larger deficits, consider not just the speed of weight loss but also the long-term metabolic consequences and the ability to preserve muscle mass. Both approaches have pros and cons, and the choice should be tailored to individual metabolic responses, the timeframe available, and the goals set for stage appearance or future preps.
 Fothergill, E., Guo, J., & Howard, L. (2016). Persistent metabolic adaptation 6 years after “The Biggest Loser” competition. International Journal of Obesity.
 Redman LM, Heilbronn LK, Martin CK, de Jonge L, Williamson DA, Delany JP, Ravussin E; Pennington CALERIE Team. Metabolic and behavioral compensations in response to caloric restriction: implications for the maintenance of weight loss. PLoS One. 2009;4(2)
 Helms, E. R., Zinn, C., Rowlands, D. S., & Brown, S. R. (2014). A systematic review of dietary protein during caloric restriction in resistance trained lean athletes: a case for higher intakes. Nutrition & Metabolism.
 Byrne S, McLean N. Elite athletes: effects of the pressure to be thin. J Sci Med Sport. 2002 Jun;5(2):80-94.
 Aragon, A. A., & Schoenfeld, B. J. (2013). Nutrient timing revisited: is there a post-exercise anabolic window? Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.
 Hill, E. E., Zack, E., Battaglini, C., Viru, M., Viru, A., & Hackney, A. C. (2008). Exercise and circulating cortisol levels: the intensity threshold effect. Journal of Endocrinological Investigation.
 Samuels, M.H. (2008). Effects of variations in physiological cortisol levels on thyrotropin secretion in subjects with adrenal insufficiency: a clinical research center study. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
 Klieverik, L.P., Coomans, C.P., Endert, E., Sauerwein, H.P., Havekes, L.M., Voshol, P.J., Rensen, P.C.N., Romijn, J.A., & Kalsbeek, A. (2009). Thyroid Hormone Effects on Whole-Body Energy Homeostasis and Tissue-Specific Fatty Acid Uptake In Vivo. American Journal of Physiology.
 Spaulding, S.W., Chopra, I.J., Sherwin, R.S., & Lyall, S.S. (1976). Effect of caloric restriction and dietary composition of serum T3 and reverse T3 in man. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
Peak Week, “The final week leading up to a bodybuilding contest and the sole purpose is to “fine-tune” the athlete’s physique for the grand reveal on the stage.” Although there is no specific definition of Peak Week, this statement summarizes it best.
The three criteria that must be met prior to Peak Week for a bodybuilder to optimize his or her peak are: being stage lean, knowing and stabilizing macronutrients, knowing and stabilizing sodium and water intake. If any one of these is lacking prior to Peak Week, your chances of peaking optimally greatly diminish. And if you are not already stage lean (the most important criteria), you will not be stage lean come show day; it’s not “magic week!”
Criteria 1: Your must be stage lean PRIOR to the beginning of Peak Week
This is your Number 1 Priority and can not be overemphasized. It is THE MOST IMPORTANT criteria. To peak properly at the right time, you must already be stage lean, and look your best “to date” during the final week before peak week begins. If not, criteria 1 and 2 will have little to no effect. Body fat should already be at its leanest. Lines should already be showing and prominent. We have judged over one thousand competitors over the last several years, and it’s safe to say that 80% of the athletes that reach the stage in local and National Qualifiers are not lean enough. That reduces slightly for National Shows.
There is an inherent, yet misguided belief, that most competitors head into peak week with a mind set of “once I lose all the water, I will look drastically different by the time I hit the stage.” However, that is nothing more than wishful thinking and setting up for failure. While losing some water weight can be effective IF YOU ARE ALREADY RIPPED AND STAGE LEAN, for most people it’s more body fat that needs to be lost. And that’s not going to happen during peak week. At least not enough to have influence on the naked eye.
Criteria 2: You baseline Macronutrients must be dialed in and stable
Knowing how many carbs, fats, and protein you consume daily is essential for proper peaking. Think of your macronutrient intake like a road map to your final destination. Or in this case, your final look. Your current location is the best indicator of the optimal path to get to that destination.
Understanding the amount of protein, carbs and fats and their individual physiological effect on your physique is imperative. For example, Fats are carb sparing. Carbs are protein sparing. Additionally, they are independent variables that can alter your physique – the more variables you change, the less predictable the outcome. Understanding the relationships and how to apply them on an individual basis can be the difference in being flat, hard, full, tight, or spilled. That can be the difference in first place or second call-outs. If your macronutrients are not known and stable prior to peak week, how can you plan and predict their effect on your physique leading up to the stage?
Something to consider here.
Carbohydrates have significantly more impact on peaking compared to protein and fat. And considering that carbohydrates take approximately 24-48 hours to fully assimilate, their timing is crucial the last couple of days. Load too many the day before or consume too much the day of your show can lead to spilling and/or a bloated core.
Criteria 3: Know your daily water and sodium intake
Knowing your sodium and water intake, and its stability leading up to peak week, is just as important, and for similar reasons, as your macronutrient intake. And just like your macronutrients, the longer they are stable prior to peak week, the less difficult they will be to manage. Water (and carbs) have a greater impact on fullness. Sodium has a greater impact on tightness. Think of of carbs and water as sledge hammers – minerals are like finishing hammers.
Remember, the only time water will cause spillover is if you carb load too much that excess glucose attracts water outside the muscle cells. But even without much water intake, to many carbs will still cause spillover; water is not the root cause.
You have put in a lot of demanding work, dedication, resources and made a lot of sacrifices on your journey to the stage. If you do not meet these three criteria leading up to peak week, perhaps consider pushing your show out to a later date.
If you are going to do this, do it right.
Navigating the world of fitness and nutrition is a journey filled with evolving insights, unique challenges, and breakthrough moments. As individuals embark on this transformative journey, it’s crucial to have reliable tools and metrics that offer clarity and guidance. Drawing upon my extensive background as an analyst, I crafted and introduced the concept I termed the “Metabolic Factor” – a simple yet profound metric that bridges the gap between data-driven insights and holistic coaching. This metric not only provides a snapshot of one’s metabolic health but also serves as a roadmap to optimize training, nutrition, and overall well-being. Dive into the following chapter to unravel the genesis, workings, and applications of the Metabolic Factor, and discover how it can revolutionize your approach to fitness.
As a coach, my utmost passion lies in assisting clients in accomplishing their fitness goals. I have refined and enhanced a basic pre-existing formula that was not being utilized to its fullest potential; creating a universal rating system to accurately determine metabolic readiness for dieting. 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 took that calculation, added some enhancements, and devised a rating system, which I refer to as the Metabolic Factor.
This tool has been a major asset in helping me determine if a client is metabolically ready for prep, or any dieting phase. But the story behind the Metabolic Factor goes back to my previous career as a management and data analyst. Let me explain.
I’m a data junkie. Prior to embarking on a coaching career, I was an Analyst and Process Improvement Specialist for the Department of Defense, Centers for Disease Control and Department of Veterans Affairs. For 20 years, I was sniffing out hidden trends and finding ways to optimize processes for a living. 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.
One of the things I love about the Metabolic Factor is that it’s not just about aesthetics. Yes, it’s important for clients to look their best, but it’s even more important for them to be healthy and able to sustain their progress over the long term. By focusing on metabolic readiness, I can help clients avoid crash diets and other harmful practices that may yield short-term results but ultimately do more harm than good. Of course, the Metabolic Factor is just one tool in my coaching arsenal. But it’s been a game-changer for me and my clients. I’m constantly refining and improving the calculation based on new research and my own experience, but the basic principles remain the same.
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.
“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
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
Metabolic Factor Zones
While the Metabolic Factor zones and rating scale are primarily described in the context of athletes, it’s important to note that these principles are applicable to a wider audience. The underlying physiology remains the same, whether you’re an athlete or not. Following the zone descriptions, we will discuss how to interpret and apply this information from a non-athlete perspective.
DANGER ZONE: For those with a Metabolic Factor < 10, maintenance calories are calculated to be less than 10 times body weight in pounds and often below the Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). Sustaining such a low caloric intake for a prolonged period can have significant health implications. It suggests an inadequate energy supply for basic bodily functions, leading to serious energy shortages, nutrient deficiencies, and metabolic disturbances. This scenario can cause muscle loss and hormonal imbalances, adversely affecting performance and overall health.
Additionally, it raises the risk of psychological issues, including an increased likelihood of developing eating disorders. Raising caloric intake in this context presents a complex challenge, as many individuals in this situation experience a suppressed metabolism, resulting in low energy and difficulty in achieving strength gains, despite consistent training efforts.
Precise management of caloric intake is crucial during this phase; even a slight surplus, such as an additional 60 calories per day over maintenance needs, can lead to undesirable weight gain. While adequate nutrient intake is vital for muscle growth, exceeding caloric needs may lead to fat accumulation instead of muscle development. This phase requires a careful balance to prevent rapid fat gain, while also avoiding the risks associated with consistently consuming calories below 10 times one’s body weight, especially when aiming for muscle growth. Therefore, calorie adjustments should be minimal and infrequent to effectively navigate this sensitive balance.
CAUTION ZONE: For those with a Metabolic Factor 10 & 11, this stage marks a significant stride in the fitness journey, where modest increases in caloric intake can lead to appreciable gains in strength and an enhanced sense of well-being, all while keeping fat accumulation to a minimum. Progress at this juncture may appear gradual, but the positive shift in momentum is both perceptible and motivating.
It is during this phase that the fruits of your unwavering commitment and hard work begin to manifest in concrete outcomes. While the progress is steady and observable, it’s important to continue exercising caution with caloric increments to optimize strength gains alongside metabolic improvements.
BASELINE ZONE: Athletes with a Metabolic Factor 12 are leveraging a well-structured diet to lay the foundation for energy and strength gains. Incremental increases in calories, judiciously implemented, are designed to boost vitality without significant weight gain. As athletes progress through a Metabolic Factor 13, the subtle caloric adjustments continue to support energy levels while beginning to sculpt a more defined physique. Remarkably, the transition through the Baseline zone is marked by sustained strength improvements and minimal weight gain, showcasing the body’s remarkable adaptability to a fine-tuned balance of nutrition and training.
OPPORTUNITY ZONE: Once athletes reach a Metabolic Factor 14, they often experience a pivotal shift: they not only maintain their current weight amidst an upsurge in calories but may also start to see a refinement in body composition. As they incrementally increase their caloric intake, their bodies adapt with promising improvements. This zone is characterized by obvious metabolic improvement, where each calorie serves a precise purpose—energizing workouts, facilitating recovery, and supporting muscle hypertrophy, all while keeping fat accumulation to a minimum. It’s a critical phase for fine-tuning the body’s metabolic capabilities. For those not in competitive lanes, this zone serves as the starting point for noticeable body composition improvements.
ADVANTAGE ZONE: In general, starting a prep with a Metabolic Factor 15 marks a pivotal stage and heralds the onset of body recomposition. It’s the zone where many find themselves leaning out even as they reverse diet, offering a significant edge for those about to embark on contest prep. Those who wait until hitting this zone to begin prepping for competition require fewer caloric decreases than typically seen in the industry. Our extensive client history underscores this, with over 99% of those starting their prep from this advantageous metabolic state achieving Top 5 placements, attesting to its efficacy as a contest prep baseline.
The metabolic adaptability within this zone is not just advantageous for those entering prep; it’s also a period of positive change for those still in a reverse dieting phase, potentially leading to a leaner physique as calories continue to rise. This zone serves as a crucial point where metabolic efficiency synchronizes with training to optimize strength and muscle definition.
OPTIMAL ZONE: At a Metabolic Factor 16, the achievements of our clients are particularly striking, with a surge in class wins, overall titles, and pro cards. At this stage, caloric intake is substantially high, propelling energy to peak levels and facilitating notable increases in strength. A remarkable aspect of this phase is the minimized role of cardio; it often becomes an ancillary component of the fitness routine, sometimes only becoming necessary during the later, more intensive stages of contest prep.
This allows athletes to concentrate on refining their physiques with an emphasis on detail and symmetry. The dieting phase becomes markedly more manageable, as the high metabolic rate provides a buffer against the typical challenges of prep, underscoring why this zone is often seen as a precursor to competitive success.
ELITE ZONE: Athletes with a Metabolic Factor 17 or higher with their hyper-upregulated metabolism, are sometimes referred to as “macronators” because of their capacity to consume substantial amounts of food while maintaining an optimal physique. A remarkable feature of this zone is the minimal, sometimes even non-existent, need for cardio during contest prep.
A prime example is Amanda Wright, one of our Wellness clients, who earned her IFBB Pro Card without any steady-state cardio during prep. Her metabolic base was so strong at the beginning of her prep that, even when weight loss slowed, she had ample calories to reduce, making the addition of cardio unnecessary. This illustrates the immense benefit of building a solid metabolic foundation through careful nutrition and strategic training.
Being in the Elite Zone equips athletes with a significant advantage, allowing for a more flexible approach to prep. These athletes are able to focus on fine-tuning their physiques to division standards and enjoying more food while those who start prep at a lower MF than advisable are struggling to retain muscle mass due to their reliance on hours of cardio. They experience better recovery, improved cognitive function, and a more positive mental state.
Additionally, they start the next offseason with a significant advantage over their peers who deal with lower calorie intakes, high rates of cardio, and a heightened risk of rebounding weight gain and developing eating disorders.
Beyond the Competition: Metabolic Factor Zones are for Everyone
Having explored the various Metabolic Factor zones and their unique characteristics, you might be curious about their relevance beyond the realm of competitive athletics. You might be wondering, ‘These Metabolic Factor zones sound geared towards athletes. How do they relate to someone like me who’s not competing?’ It’s an excellent question, and one that we take seriously.
While our descriptions have primarily focused on the athlete’s perspective, the core principles are applicable to anyone interested in improving their body composition and overall health. In competitive circles, a Metabolic Factor of 15 or higher is the gold standard for us before entering a contest prep phase. This is essential for those who need to reach the intense levels of leanness and muscle definition required on the competitive stage.
However, if you’re not planning to compete, the stakes are different. Extreme leanness may not only be unnecessary but could also be counterproductive for your general well-being.
For non-competitors or those focusing on lifestyle changes, we recommend aiming for a Metabolic Factor between 13 and 14 before starting any serious dieting. This ensures that you’re well-prepared for the physical and emotional challenges that come with modifying your diet, and allows you to achieve your health and fitness goals in a balanced and sustainable way.
Now that you have a better grasp of the significance of the Metabolic Factor, let’s delve into how you can apply this formula to yourself. Keep in mind that when computing your metabolic factor, it is crucial to consider your maintenance calories rather than your caloric intake while gaining or losing weight.
Let me give you an example, and we are going to use the previous example used to formulate maintenance, surplus, and deficit calories.
If you recall, losing or gaining weight is alla bout the numbers. A ~500 calorie deficit each day will cause you to drop1pound per week, while a surplus of this amount causes the opposite effect. Knowing your maintenance or calculated maintenance calories is crucial when determining your metabolic factor. Here are the reference points, and previous example again to help with that calculation.
- 1.0lbs = 500 calories
- .75lbs = 375 calories
- .50lbs = 250 calories
- .25lbs = 125 calories
Let’s assume you weigh 130 lbs. and are gaining 0.75 lbs. per week on 2100 calories, you’re in a 375-calorie surplus. To find your Maintenance Calories, you’d subtract this surplus from your current caloric intake: 2100 – 375 = 1725 calories. This is your “Calculated Maintenance Calories.”
To determine your Metabolic Factor, you’d then divide these Calculated Maintenance Calories (1725) by your weight in pounds (130). The equation would be 1725 / 130 = 13.269. Rounded up, your Metabolic Factor becomes 13.3. This number serves as an individualized metric that you can use for further nutritional planning.
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.
It’s essential to note that the Metabolic Factor is not a guarantee, it assumes that the client’s nutrition, workout, and other relevant variables are on point. While all factors matter, ensuring consistent nutrition and training practices are especially crucial for harnessing the benefits of one’s metabolic rate in their bodybuilding journey.
In summary, the Metabolic Factor is a simple yet effective tool to determine when your metabolism is ready for a dieting phase. It involves dividing your Maintenance Calories by your weight, or by using “calculated maintenance” if you are in a surplus or deficit. By using this rating scale, you can have a better idea of where your metabolism should be before starting a dieting phase.
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:
· 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.
FRONT LOAD PEAKING
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.
MID LOAD PEAKING
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.
BACK LOAD PEAKING
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.
BACK LOAD PEAKING WITH A CLEAN UP DAY
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.
RAPID BACK LOAD PEAKING
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.
PROGRESSIVE LINEAR LOAD PEAKING
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.
Is there even such a thing as a show being the wrong show for you? Can the show you select before starting prep end up also being the first ingredient in your recipe for disaster on show day? Positively, yes ma’am, the show that you pick can be the difference between feeling like a rising star or falling flat on your face.