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15 Oct

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 three-quarters of the athletes that reach the stage in local and National Qualifiers are not lean enough, if not more. That reduces to about half the competitors that compete in 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 take to that destination.

Understanding the amount of protein, carbs and fats and their individual physiological effect on your physique is imperative. Not to mention, their effect on each other has a direct impact as well. For example, Fats are carb sparing. Carbs are protein sparing. 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.

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 has a greater impact on fullness. Sodium (and carbs) has a greater impact on tightness.


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.

14 Nov

Executing a Reverse Diet correctly immediately after Contest Prep can go a long way to set your next Contest Prep under more favorable conditions.  Doing so you can increase your rate of muscle gain while keeping body fat accumulation down.  This will have a very positive effect on increasing your Metabolic Rate, and decrease the time of your next Contest Prep.

02 Mar

PRO TIP: Pay attention to your fiber. When we conduct our consultations, it still amazes me that so many competitors have no idea how much fiber they are getting. Fiber plays an important role in your nutrition. Fiber’s effects on digestion and cholesterol are big, but fiber is also a decent thermogenic and helps with Satiety, which is defined as “the absence of hunger”…or feeling full.

In addition, when athletes start to experience gastrointestinal (GI) distress, especially in the later stages of prep when calories are low and our metabolism is highly down-regulated, in many cases an adjustment to fiber (and keeping it consistent) can remedy some of the problems. More often than not, competitors will start taking in more high volume (and low calorie) foods due to hunger resulting in too much fiber. Usually a reduction in fiber can offset a lot of this problem.

So how much fiber should you consume? Well, the Institute of Medicine recommends that healthy adults consume around 14g of fiber for every 1000 calories. However, when calories get low in prep, if you can get at least 10g in for every 1000 calories you should be good to go.

What about Soluble and Insoluble fiber?

They both have their benefits. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and is believed to help with cholesterol and glucose control. Insoluble fibers don’t dissolve in water but it does help bring water in to the digestive track and helps make your poop softer. It’s also good for insulin sensitivity.

Both are good to help combat diabetes, and both are found in most plant based foods. So, if you are getting a lot of food variety, you should be fine.

Shameless Plug: This is another reason I believe macro counting is superior to meal plans. Meal plans (not the same as prepping food based on macros) are very restrictive which takes away a lot of food variety, and food variety is essential for gut health…especially in a deficit.

09 Sep

Q: Do I really need a coach for a bodybuilding competition? If so, when do I actually need one because that is a lot of money to spend in the “offseason” isn’t it?

A: If you want just to compete in a bodybuilding competition and do pretty good, no…you do not need a coach. If you want to compete in a smaller federation where softer physiques are the norm and competition might not be as fierce, you may not need a coach.

But, if you want to be “competitive” and deliver your “optimal physique” whether you’re standing on a small stage or a national stage against 1,000 other competitors showcasing their optimal physique then YES, absolutely 100% get a coach.

Here is something else to consider, and I’m sure it’ll ruffle some feathers. Don’t waste time, effort and money with a personal trainer. BIG MISTAKE. I am an NASM Certified Personal Trainer myself, and I thought I knew how to get someone ready (myself) to compete because of my certification and working as a trainer.

I was wrong.

Trainers are wonderful, for general health purposes. They provide a fantastic service for those who want to get fit, get in shape and improve overall health. That’s all well and good, but that is not what you need if you want to deliver a competitive physique on stage.

My husband is also an IFBB Pro and coach and we used to argue about the way to train folks for bodybuilding competitions. It wasn’t until I started training for a show myself a couple of years ago that I had to swallow my pride and admit he was right and have since changed my thought process and the way I do things. I transitioned from “trainer” to “coach” myself.

Trainers do not have the knowledge to prepare someone for the bodybuilding competition. Their training and education is primarily based on General Health and Fitness where as the way we train is 100% about asthedics for the stage.

So if you plan on competing in Bodybuilding (regardless of the division you are in) you will need a coach who is experienced in just that. Someone who understand how to balance everthing out from the viewpoint of the judges on the panel. Someone who understand EXACTLY what judges are looking for. Please understand. What YOU think will look good or your trainer thinks will look good is irrelevant. The only thing that matters is those 7-9 judges sitting 15 feet away from you. ANd NASM, ISSA, ACE and the others CPT’s do not teach that.

You need someone with experience in identifying your strengths and weaknesses for stage purposes, and with the expertience in how to balance them out. Someone with a trained eye and experienced eye.

You need someone who not only understands The 5 Stages of Contest Prep, but someone who knows how to set you up for all phases prior to prep starting and how to properly navigate through all 5 stages.

Someone who understands how to properly work through your Set Point and understands how you respond to carbs, sodium and other “variables”, which is crucial come Peak Week time.

Someone who will individually build your workout program and nutrition based on aesthetics, balance and symmetry.

You need someone who can DO THIS ALL while keeping your health a priority, and keeping it in check.

Look, a competitor’s physique is not built during prep, its built over time in the offseason. What I mean is, the purpose of contest prep is to peel the body fat layers off, and preserve as much muscle mass in return so when you step on stage you will be showcasing the “Grand Reveal” of all your hard work and effort that you put in during the offseason. And that hard work and effort needs to be under the guidance of someone who specializes in doing just that, a Physique Coach.

Unfortunately, too many competitors think that they need a coach after they reach a certain level of leanness or muscularity but the hard truth is that you leave a lot of gains on the table when you don’t have a coach help you do the building. Even the best coach can only get you to look as good on stage as your offseason allows. If you didn’t focus on the right body parts, from all the required angles and/or created imbalances, that is all going to show as a great big flaw for the judges to critique, regardless of how low someone cuts your calories or how many hours of cardio they prescribe.

So take it from someone who began as a Personal Trainer, but only made it to the next level (winning my IFBB Pro Card) when I realized there is a substantial difference between a Personal Trainer and a Physique Coach. Not to mention, getting ready for a bodybuilding competition is hard, time consuming and expensive. And if your personal trainer hasn’t been through that themself, preferably at a high level, you’re taking a huge chance on someone who is going to take you through hell and back who hasnt been there themself.

That’s a lot of things you risk wasting by not doing it right.

08 Sep

Why do I call out people for giving bad advice to competitors? Why don’t I just keep scrolling and mind my own business?

Because I take this seriously.

Coaching is my chosen profession and because there are no licensing regulations and literally ANYONE at any level can claim to be a prep coach and take money from unsuspecting competitors because we like to think that people wouldn’t charge for a service if they actually aren’t experts. But mostly because I’ve been on both sides of the aisle.

I’ve been the judge sitting there watching a competitor literally BOMB on stage because their physique that they have worked so hard on (as I’ve seen on social media) looked terrible on stage because they trusted a bro-science “coach” whose only credential is having been a competitor themselves and sometimes having some sort of personal training certification. Well….I happen to also have a personal training certification and this means that I had the same sort of education and testing to get it as they did and I know full well that it is great for helping the general population get healthier but it is NOT enough to successfully lead a competitor into and out of a competition.

This is a sport that is rife with body dysmorphia. That is literally what we do. We take a great physique and pick it apart to find all the flaws that NO ONE ELSE SEES AS A FLAW. You MUST do things the right way because you are screwing with the mind, body, and metabolism of a person who is already inclined to walk away with a warped sense of what they look like.

That is a HUGE responsibility.

I can’t let people, even if they are super sweet and well meaning, pass along junk science or “this is what I do with my clients because everybody’s different” and just keep scrolling. My conscience just doesn’t allow it. And I think that doing what some think is “professional courtesy” and just turning a blind eye to that sort of thing is watering down our profession. Then when some young girl leaves the stage and ends up hospitalized with an eating disorder, or worse, if I saw that she was getting crap advice and said nothing, I’m partly to blame as well.

I’m not that person. It may not always earn me friends and it might ruffle some feathers, but you will always know where I stand. And for the love of God, coaches, please stop just answering clients’ questions with a lazy “trust the process” and explain to them the how’s and why’s since you are being paid to COACH them. Don’t coaches teach too? And competitors, stop accepting that as gospel if a coach tells you that. You deserve better. ~Natalie