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.