This post has been sitting in my browser tab and is actually about 4 weeks behind. Oops! I’m currently starting my reverse diet but a prep training and nutrition recap is much needed.
Unfortunately, I got sick again about 4 weeks out from my show. It’s not uncommon to get sick when you are overworked, over-stressed, or over-tired. The body and immune system just get run down. Being more susceptible to germs is high during prep.
My macros and workouts suffered quite a bit during the week I was sick. My appetite was super wonky and nothing sounded appealing. I was under eating and training suffered.
Less than a month out? Not good!
Thankfully, I listened to my body. I took a few days off from the gym and focused on nutrient-dense foods. My body bounced back relatively quickly which meant I had about 2-3 weeks to make some serious progress.
My training stayed fairly consistent during the last month of prep. I was lifting 6 days a week (this is normal for me off prep as well.) My bigger lifts certainly suffered due to the extended calorie deficit. Making progress in terms of strength or muscle gain is almost impossible in a calorie deficit (more on that later.)
- Offseason squat max: 245 lbs.
- Prep squat max: 175 lbs.
- Offseason deadlift max: 225 lbs.
- Prep deadlift max: 200 lbs.
- Offseason overhead press: 75 lbs.
- Prep overhead press: 55-65 lbs. (depended on the day.)
- Bench… I don’t bench. (Sorry coach! 😉 )
I switched up my training during the last week of prep to accommodate my fatigue. Each workout began with The Complex (officially the Cosgrove Complex.) For those of you that don’t follow my snapchat (amandamariefitt) or Instagram, “The Complex” is my absolute favorite way to get in a quick full-body workout. My energy levels were tanking fast near the end of prep. I needed to get in the best workout as quickly as possible.
- Conventional Deadlifts
- Stiff Legged Deadlifts
- Power Cleans (abbreviated version of a full clean)
- Front Squats
- Overhead Press
- Back Squats
- Good Mornings
Choose a weight that you can comfortably lift on your weakest lift in the sequence. For me, my weakest lift in this sequence is overhead press. I can comfortably press 55-65 lbs so my starting weight for the complex is normally 55 lbs.
Perform each move 6 times with no rest between exercises. (6 deadlifts, 6 stiff leg deadlifts, 6 rows, 6 power cleans, 6 front squat, 6 overhead press, 6 back squat, 6 good mornings.) Rest just enough to catch your breath once you complete them all. (about 45 sec -60 sec.) Then perform 5 of each. Repeat until you are down to 1 of each. The whole sequence should take about 10-12 minutes. Your ass will be royally kicked.
This really helped me meet my activity goals during those final days when energy levels and motivation were low. I would finish up my workout with a little bit of accessory work (shoulders, back, arms, whatever…)
Cardio: Nothing crazy. I was doing about 8-10 minutes of intervals 4x per week. For me, that meant intervals on the stepper. I’m not a huge fan of the treadmill so this was simply a personal preference. My fiance and I were also bike riding about 5 miles each evening.
I know many competitors have mixed feelings and thoughts about peak week. Some think it’s a magical time in which all the mistakes they made during prep are somehow cured or fixed. Some trainers put clients on ridiculous peak week programming in which their food is limited to a total of 6 items with excessive cardio. Many people still water and sodium deplete which is a totally out-dated, potentially dangerous, and unnecessary method.
I will direct you to Layne Nortons Peak week guidelines in which he outlines nutrition, sodium and water, supplements, etc. If you are a competitor, or coaching competitors, please take time to read each section and really delve into the science behind these recommendations.
First and foremost, peak week is not magical. If you aren’t where you need to be heading into peak week, nothing you do during peak week will fix that. Can you continue to make progress during peak week? Absolutely! Will you magically drop an additional 3% body fat? Probably not.
Peak week is simply when a competitor dials in on the details, like bloating. For me, this meant paying attention to foods that cause me bloating personally. This is different for everyone so I cannot make blanket recommendations on what you should or should not be eating. The last few weeks of prep, start paying attention to which foods cause you discomfort or bloat. Make a list. Those foods are foods you want to stay away from during peak week. That’s it when it comes to nutritional guidelines. You simply want foods that agree with you and make you feel fab.
There is absolutely no reason to cut out protein shakes, powders, bars, or condiments if you’ve been eating them your entire prep with no problem. Some people cut these out because they feel the artificial sweeteners don’t agree with them. Again, personal preference. If you’ve been eating them for 8, 10, 12 weeks without issue, there won’t magically be an issue with continuing to eat them during peak week.
Sodium & Water
Honestly, I cannot believe there are still coaches who have their clients sodium and water deplete. It truly blows my mind. That body is a complex machine and strives for homeostasis. If you try to “trick it” by dehydrating yourself, all you’ve done is force your body to overcompensate by holding as much water subQ (under the skin) as possible.
Many times, competitors look worse after sodium and water depleting and look better the day after their show, once they’ve consumed salt and water. Furthermore, dehydration decreases blood volume which means you won’t get that pump or vascularity that looks so great on stage. It’s not uncommon for depleted competitors to feel weak, dizzy, or less alert. Overall, I think it’s a completely unnecessary and dangerous practice.
There are other ways to work with your body to encourage natural expulsion of excess water.
The best method is to actually sodium and water load. This means, about 10 days to 7 days out from your show, you actually increase your normal sodium and water levels. I have my clients track these sodium levels in their MyFitnessPal app and then start salting foods or using NUUN tabs in their water. The best way to think about this is “Where sodium goes, water goes.” More sodium in your tissue means more water in your tissue. This increase in sodium causes a natural increase in water and a natural decrease in aldosterone.
Aldosterone is a hormone that indirectly affects water retention. Aldosterone stimulates your kidneys to absorb more sodium and water while simultaneously releasing more potassium. When you consume excess salt, your adrenals reduce their production of aldosterone, thereby allowing your kidneys to excrete more sodium. You have essentially sent your system into “over drive” and your Na+/K pumps are working quickly to try and regulate this abnormal increase in Na+ and water.
Wait, isn’t that exactly the opposite of what you want to do? Yes.
This is why you perform this little maneuver about a week out from your show date. You give your body a few days of increased Na+ and water which causes that decrease in aldosterone and increase in Na+/K pumps. About 2 days before your show, you suddenly drop back down to “normal” levels of Na+ and water. Decreased serum sodium concentrations trigger the release of aldosterone from your adrenals. At this point, your pumps are still working quickly and the increase in aldosterone in your system means you naturally expel excess water.
“Normal” levels of sodium for me worked out to approximately 2,800 mg. About a week out I bumped that up to 3,500 mg. I also increased my water consumption by 1.5 liters (normally drink about 2-3 liters per day.) Two days before my show, I dropped back to normal levels. I continued to drink “normal” amounts of water the day before and day of my show.
The easiest way to think about this is simply: More sodium = more water retention. Less sodium = less water retention.
It makes sense that people would think that cutting out sodium completely would cause a body to drop water but your body is smarter than that. All you’ve done is force your body to retain any water it does get.
Instead, flood your body with sodium, control the water retention (a week out), and then allow your body to expel naturally.
During the last two weeks I received my theme wear, suit, and starting wrapping up my WBFF loose ends.
I officially made the decision to cross over to bikini which meant I had to contact the WBFF and add bikini division to my competitor number. Along with this change, I needed a gown!
- WBFF Bikini: Bikini Round and Gown Round.
- WBFF Fitness: Bikini Round and Theme Wear Round.
My mad dash for a gown happened 4 days before I left for Chicago. I also had some last minute alterations done to my Wonder Woman theme wear. I picked up my theme wear suit 2 days before I left. Talk about last minute. 😉
I will elaborate on competition specifics, my travels to Chicago, and show day in my next post.