Peaking for Drug-Free Bodybuilding with Dr. Eric Helms • Stronger by Science



Notice: This piece was the MASS Analysis Evaluate cowl story for November 2023. If you need extra content material like this, subscribe to MASS.

Dr. Eric Helms’ kicked off his fifth aggressive season in September with three competitions over consecutive weekends. This plan put him within the distinctive place of planning three back-to-back peak weeks, a prospect that may terrify loads of opponents. The aim of a peak week is to optimize the competitor’s look on stage. Peaking regimens sometimes embody making simultaneous changes to train programming, carbohydrate consumption, electrolyte stability, and water consumption.

The standard method to peaking goals to lower subcutaneous water retention and enhance intramuscular fluid retention (or muscle “fullness”). Virtually, this typically features a depletion section, throughout which the competitor consumes a low calorie, low carbohydrate food regimen, adopted by a carbohydrate loading section in an try to tremendous compensate glycogen storage. Usually, the following section prescribes a reasonable carbohydrate consumption, water restriction, and, in some instances, decreased sodium and elevated potassium. 

In Dr. Helms’ expertise, this follow doesn’t produce constant outcomes, as these variables are sometimes modified haphazardly with none trial and error. Notably, a few of these tips are borrowed from the improved bodybuilding world. Whereas water restriction is likely to be acceptable for opponents utilizing performance-enhancing medicine that affect water retention, it doesn’t look like useful – and might be detrimental – for drug-free bodybuilders. There’s an affiliation between extracellular water and skinfold thicknesses, however dehydration can enhance the retention of subcutaneous water. Early analysis instructed that every gram of muscle glycogen saved is accompanied by roughly 3–4g of intracellular water, however that is extremely variable. A dehydrated competitor can look “flat,” regardless of having loaded carbohydrates. 

Carbohydrate loading does seem to successfully enhance muscle measurement. The competitor’s response to carbohydrate “refeeds” all through prep can inform the best amount of carbohydrates, together with size and timing of the height week loading section. A depletion section might be pointless since, on the finish of prep, most opponents are actively weight-reduction plan on very low energy. If a person is already in a deficit, he/she is arguably already depleted. One easy method to peaking, which he used for his back-to-back reveals, is to have a heavy loading day the Thursday previous to the present adopted by a tapered consumption main into the present. The Thursday heaviest loading day is usually ~4-8g carbohydrate per kg body weight, or 25%-30% increased than a typical refeed day. A typical taper on the next day is likely to be ~25% decrease, or about an identical quantity of carbohydrates as a typical refeed day. 

People on very low calorie diets sometimes devour loads of fiber to advertise satiety, which attracts water into the intestinal tract. Since fiber can’t be saved as glycogen, it needs to be minimized in the course of the carbohydrate loading section (<20g day). Sodium could be useful on competitors day for some people to acutely increase blood strain and enhance vascularity in response to a pump-up. Nonetheless, the response to sodium needs to be examined beforehand, as this isn’t useful for everybody. 

Bodybuilders competing in consecutive weekly reveals needs to be conservative concerning the post-show meal. Given that the majority people don’t eat a ton within the 1-2 meals main right into a morning or afternoon stage look on present day (sometimes ~700-800 kcals, in Dr. Helms’ case), there’s room to devour an honest sized – albeit cheap – celebratory meal. He recommends specializing in the expertise and the social engagement, versus consuming every little thing on the menu. Bear in mind, you’re about to enter one other peak week!

Whereas the peaking course of is usually considerably reproducible from present to indicate, it’s essential to keep in mind that you’re coping with a dynamic system, loads of assumptions, and a altering setting. It’s crucial to just accept a degree of uncertainty. Lastly, this course of is psychologically difficult, and it may be tough for even probably the most seasoned competitor to objectively consider his/her physique. It’s extraordinarily useful to lean on a coach or a fellow competitor to information you thru peak week, assess your physique underneath constant lighting situations with and with out the spray tan, and make it easier to make choices that may put together you to carry your greatest look to the stage.

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This piece was the quilt story for the November 2023 concern of MASS Analysis Evaluate. For those who’d wish to learn the complete, 78-page November concern (and dive into the MASS archives), you possibly can subscribe to MASS here.

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