This is how bodybuilders get that lean low body fat look for their competition. It is a ton of work and requires knowing exactly what you are eating. I gotta hand it to them, its more work than I would be able to do!
Carb Loading & Carb Depletion: Competition Prep
Whether it’s that sharp, lean figure right before a competition or just a simple trip to the beach, this week long regimen will enhance your entire physique to help you lose that extra water weight and supercharge your muscles to give you a fuller, more defined look.
Step 1: Increase Sodium AND Water Consumption
During the week prior to any carb-cutting program, increase your sodium intake. Incorporate table salt into all of your meals throughout the day. Elevating sodium increases water retention in the body and decreases the water-retention hormone, aldosterone. This salt regimen should be kept up for at least five days or until the day before you begin to carb load. When sodium intake drastically declines, aldosterone levels will begin to readjust to their regular levels, and this automatically allows your body to excrete even more water – mostly from just beneath the skin. This ultimately leads to a more sculpted and defined look.
Increasing sodium, by default, means increasing water intake. It’s crucial to take in right around 50% more water than is normally consumed. Greater water intake sets the body up for greater definition at the end of the program. This increase in water will be maintained until almost the end of the program.
Step 2: Decrease Carbs by 50% (Days 1-2) AND Increase Protein Intake (Days 1-5)
Step 2 is where the carb depletion really begins. It is essential to drop your carb consumption by only 50% so you don’t shock your body by depleting your carb consumption too quickly. It is ideal to focus on only complex carbohydrates and consuming them earlier in the day versus during evening hours.
You MUST increase your protein intake when cutting down your carb intake to prevent the muscles from breaking down. Conversely, increasing your protein intake can be overdone; any extra protein will be utilized as fuel, sparing the body from emptying its glycogen stores. Thus, to enhance the muscle-saving effect of extra protein without hindering the depletion of glycogen stores, bump up your intake by ~50 grams daily on each lower carb day.
Step 3: Train with Higher Reps (Days 1-5)
While depleting carbs for five days, higher reps (12-20 per set) and 50% more sets should be incorporated. In other words, if a regimen normally utilizes 10 sets for shoulders, it should be bumped up to 15 sets (50% more work volume) and aim for 12-20 reps per set. Obviously, the weight will need to be adjusted in order to fulfill the workout. The main purpose is to lower carb reserves, and volume work is highly effective in doing so. The idea is super-compensation: the more carbs you can deplete, the greater amount that can be stored during the carb up process, which ultimately leads to a more defined look.
Step 4: Deplete Carbs Even Further (Days 3-5)
During these days, drop your carb intake at least another 50%. Once again, it’s important to emphasize complex carbohydrates, such as sweet potatoes, oatmeal and brown rice. When carbs drop, glycogen reserves decline; as glycogen decreases, the body begins to elevate its production of glycogen storing enzymes. When the carb-loading process begins, those carb-storing enzymes help to pack away these additional carbs as new glycogen stores, thusly promoting the fuller-looking muscles.
Step 5: Reduce Sodium Intake
The day before you begin to carb load, eliminate the additional salt that was incorporated into your regimen. As sodium levels decline, changes in aldosterone will enhance water excretion and promote a leaner look. It is only necessary to remove the additional sodium content; cutting out all sodium is not required to drop.
Step 6: Hello Carbs!
It is step 6 that bodybuilders and athletes alike seem to enjoy the most. After five days of depleting carbs, in addition to performing volume work, the muscles will be extremely low in fuel, making them highly susceptible to carbohydrates. Upon switching to a greater carb intake, most of what you ingest will directly be stored in the muscles. It is imperative that you do not over-carb load; the amount of carbs you consume should be equally distributed between all of your meals. In other words, there should never be a time when you consume 100 carbs in one meal and only 25 in the next. Starchy complex carbs are best when carb loading – ideal choices include red potatoes, sweet potatoes, oatmeal, white and brown rice and certain pastas.
Step 7: Decrease Protein Intake
Upon entering the carb loading phase, you want to remove the extra protein intake that was incorporated in Step 2. This concept is similar to that of carb depleting: A reduction in carbs should mean an increase in protein consumption; a reduction in protein consumption should mean an increase in carbs.
Step 8: Decrease H20 Consumption
During step 2, an increase in water consumption was necessary. At this time, water intake should be reduced by 50% of what you would normally consume on any given day prior to Step 2. In other words, if you normally intake two gallons of water, you would now only take in one gallon. Carbohydrates require water to generate new muscle glycogen; during a phase of restricted water and increased carbs, muscles make up for the lack of water by shunting some from under the skin and into the muscles. Thus, less subcutaneous water retention results and yields a tighter-looking musculature.
Step 9: Ease Up on the Training
During the carb loading phase, it is suggested that all training ceases. Training will thwart the incoming carbohydrates and prevent the muscles from reaching their “full” potential. The days off allow the body to utilize the carbs more efficiently in regards to a leaner look. Energy expenditure should be avoided as much as possible during these days.
Step 10: Pump it Up and Show Off!
Pumping up the muscles before stepping on stage (or impressing people at the beach) can be successfully done utilizing light weights or isometric movements. It is ideal to include movements that involve a full range of motion and adequate muscle stretching and contracting. The reps should be kept to a minimum so carbs are not burned up.
Most importantly – enjoy yourself! You’ve given yourself a great reason to show off. Have fun with it.
Chris Aceto, Last Week Prep Strategies for Bodybuilding