WATER and SODIUM depletion during Peak Week can have a negative effect to your conditioning on Contest Day.
During Peak Week, our shared objective is to optimize muscle hydration while minimizing subcutaneous water retention. To achieve this, it’s crucial to distinguish between methods based on Science, and “Bro Science” myths. By focusing on effective strategies, we can enhance muscle definition and maintain optimal conditioning on show day.
In our previous conversation, we talked about how the Bro Science method of water and sodium management during Peak Week can cause chaos on your appearance and must be strictly avoided. This approach is a major factor behind numerous physique competitors, ranging from Bikini to Bodybuilding categories, not achieving their optimal look on stage.
Let’s start with water…
Science vs Bro Science
Science indicates that our muscle cells contain 70% water, while the remaining 30% is distributed elsewhere in the body. This balance is favorable for athletes, particularly for those in peak condition, such as competitors in bodybuilding or fitness shows. It’s essential to avoid disrupting this water-sodium balance during the crucial Peak Week of training. However, some coaches, often referred to as “bro coaches,” may recommend manipulating this ratio through various methods like reducing sodium intake, decreasing water consumption, and even using diuretics. These practices can negatively impact electrolyte levels and potentially hinder an athlete’s performance. Instead, it’s beneficial to stick with the natural 70/30 water distribution that already provides a competitive edge.
The issue at hand is “Homeostasis” – the body’s natural inclination to maintain a stable balance among interdependent elements. This is particularly evident in physiological processes.
Did you grasp that concept? “Tendency towards a stable equilibrium” indicates that the body strives to maintain balance. In this context, attempting to alter the 70/30 water ratio will prove unsuccessful. Rather than reducing water intake (remember, the body aims to preserve a 70% equilibrium, i.e., homeostasis), be aware that this action also depletes water content from muscle cells, which contradicts the objective of Peak Week.
Why, you may wonder?
“…If you’re dealing with a chemical system under equilibrium, any change to that system will then be met with a shift in the overall system to counteract the change and maintain equilibrium.”
In simpler terms, decreasing water intake affects the body’s balance (70/30). Reducing water levels beneath the skin leads to a greater reduction of water within muscles, as muscles naturally store more water. Consequently, this results in a flat and stringy appearance instead of a hard and full look.
Regrettably, numerous individuals still follow “bro science” myths, believing that excessive water intake can cause spill over and blur muscle definition, leading to water manipulation and cutting practices. Many people assume that since glycogen is approximately two-thirds water, it must be the cause of the issue. However, the real problem lies in excess carbohydrate consumption. Water intake does not dictate the amount of glycogen created from carbohydrates through the process of Gluconeogenesis – carbohydrates are responsible for that. With proper carbohydrate management, consuming ample water is not an issue. Any excess water not used for glycogen synthesis or other bodily functions will simply be excreted through urination.
Excess carbohydrate consumption leads to an overload of glycogen production, which can cause your muscles to appear undefined or soft. This common misconception is often attributed to water retention, but it’s actually the combination of excess water and carbs in the form of glycogen. To achieve optimal conditioning for the stage, it’s crucial to manage your carbohydrate intake and prevent consuming too many carbs. By doing so, you can maintain a lean and sharp appearance, and keep carbohydrates at optimal levels for your body’s needs to stay tight and full.
Nonetheless, if your body is fully hydrated and glycogen levels are slightly lower, consuming additional water or sodium (perhaps both) approximately 2 hours before you take the stage can effectively help you regain fullness without the risk of spillover.
A common mistake made by many is loading up carbohydrate intake the day before the show, believing it will boost glycogen levels. However, it takes about 24-36 hours for carbs to assimilate fully and reach the muscles, so this strategy is less effective. While it may lead to increased vascularity, the risk of spillover also heightens. However, even with adequate water intake, insufficient carbs or sodium can cause a flattened appearance. It is preferable to appear slightly flat rather than spilling over.
Now that we’ve mentioned sodium, let’s dive deeper into this topic.
Sodium, like water, plays a crucial role in maintaining the body’s fluid balance. When you reduce sodium and water intake, the body adjusts by trying to maintain its usual levels for a few days. With decreased sodium consumption, the body responds by increasing the production of aldosterone – a hormone responsible for water retention. This hormone promotes sodium re-absorption and potassium removal. When you deplete sodium and water prior to an event, you actually increase aldosterone levels, leading to water reabsorption from the kidney nephrons and causing it to flow into the interstitial space. By understanding the importance of sodium, water balance, and aldosterone, you can better manage your body’s needs and optimize your performance.
Aldosterone, the enemy within
Depleting sodium and water intake can cause decreased blood pressure, affecting the “pump” effect and possibly leading to dizziness or fainting. Moreover, reduced blood pressure impacts kidney function, resulting in insufficient water circulation in the body and causing water accumulation in the subcutaneous layer, causing your physique to soften and blur. Simultaneously, the body may increase aldosterone levels to counteract low blood pressure and restore fluid balance. This unwanted situation stems from poor kidney function due to sodium and water imbalance. While increasing potassium intake might seem like a solution, it can actually elevate aldosterone levels further, contributing to more subcutaneous water retention under the skin.
Compounding the issue, some individuals may incorporate diuretics along with sodium and water depletion. Diuretics are often prescribed to those suffering from hypertension, aiming to decrease blood pressure by allowing the kidneys to expel water and sodium, thus reducing blood volume (which consists significantly of water). By adding this extra step, you may inadvertently lower your blood pressure and negatively impact your physique, especially when increased blood volume is crucial for achieving an optimal pump and enhanced vascularity.
Furthermore, imbalanced electrolytes can pose a significant health risk and exacerbate loose skin issues. On the other hand, maintaining adequate electrolyte levels can help improve skin elasticity. Proper electrolyte balance is crucial for overall health and a well conditioned physique on the stage.
In case you’ve been informed that your body isn’t lean enough or requires additional conditioning, AND you appeared more fit before Peak Week, this is the reason – specifically for your legs.
Congratulations! You’ve unintentionally transformed your perfect physique from a week ago into a flat and soft appearance on the big day. The key to maintaining your desired look is consistency in water and sodium intake throughout the entire process, rather than making drastic changes.
Keep in mind, consistency is vital for developing and showcasing an impressive physique. Staying dedicated during preparation and the initial phases of Peak Week ensures you look your best during the performance.
(Note: This is not in reference to a sodium load prior to hitting the stage. That’s a different subject.)