Peak Week Strategies for a Photo Shoot

Hey guys, I’m currently prepping for a photo shoot and there seems to be so many different “peak week” strategies even here on this site including the “shredded in 6 days” plan as well as others mentioned in the article “how to look jacked in 3 weeks”. Does anyone have any personal experience they can share about any of these approaches ?

Many thanks!

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You will have to be in very, very good condition (like single digit body fat) for any peak week strategy to make much difference.

Assuming you are, then Scott Stevenson posted an amazing article a few years back on manipulating water intake. It’s more or less the same idea as Thibs’s Shredded In 6 Days article

Best of luck with it. Doesn’t look like an easy thing to do.


Two key things:

1-What is your current condition? (If you’re not already Spider web of veins and feathers last week magic won’t visably have any effect)

2- are you assisted? This is very important. If you’re clean, you can’t “hold water” and no matter which silly online articles tell you to stop drinking, it will only hurt your final condition if you do.


Thanks for your response - I am unassisted and here is a sample pic I did last night with the photographer “unpeaked”

Thanks for your input !

When I was natural I would do this for a photo shoot. 14 days-2 days out, 4-6 liters of water per day. 1 day out 500 ml, nothing the following day until after my shoot. I would use dandelion root and uva ursi 3-4 times a day for the last week. This work VERY well for me, dried me right out. It does make you a little flat, but if being as sharp as possible is your goal and your not stepping on stage, just doing a shoot, this protocol works great… at least it has for me several times as well as many of my athletes. Hope this helps!

Hey thanks very much for the response, besides the water loading/cutting, did you manipulate carbs as well? It seems the majority of what I’ve been reading incorporates a lowering of carbs followed by a “carb up” of some sort the final one to two days depending on your individual condition.

What to do with carbs is really individual. I have tried it both of the main ways personally. Front loading which means basically start loading up on carbs 7 or 8 days out, see how the body is looking, then ease off and coast into the shoot. This way is safer because it gives more time to manipulate things if you over or under carb. And backloading, depleting my body of glycogen from 8 days out- 2 days out with high rep sets and 0 carbs then adding in 300 g carbs 1 day out, then more the following morning before my shoot. I prefer the latter and I use it with most of my clients… but all of this means nothing unless you are 8%or lower. For a photo shoot, carb up is not nearly as important in my opinion, compared to stepping on stage. The water protocol I mentioned above will make you look sharper and a little crispier, but carbing up is risky and some times end in a person holding more water and looking smooth. I’d like to go ahead and say if I was your coach, I’d tell you to just do the water protocol, keep your carbs at 200-300 all week, and have a little carbs before the shoot. That’s prob youu safest bet… now I cant just tell you that because I dont know your bf%, yourcurrent macros, your current training style, your current water in take, how your body reacts to carbs, etc etc etc. The last week is tricky and that’s why prep coaches even exist. Good luck man!

Like Fitgm mentioned, it’s a very individual thing. Not everyone will respond exactly the same way, and banking on trying something that worked for someone else when you have one shot to make it work isn’t always the best plan. Something more conservative is probably the safe play. Simply ensuring your glycogen stores are topped off is how you get that full look (with adequate water and sodium of course!) It’s when people start hoping to cash in on the body’s attempt to overcompensate how much it can store that you risk either nailing it, or messing it all up.


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Stu and fitgm- Thank you both for your input it is much appreciated ! As of right now on the nutrition front I’ve been adopting a lower carb approach (0-50g) since this Sunday, with those coming from a half a finibar and a serving of mag-10 before I train and then a small serving of berries in the am with breakfast. I’m also loading water until the last day and then will cut it down and will introduce some carbs the afternoon/evening before the shoot and then the morning of just see how I feel/look and adjust. Thusfar I’ve already seen a visual difference (leaner) in my appearance just from the reduction in carbs so I think the backloading of carbs later in the week once my glycogen has been depleted through the nutrition and training will (hopefully) turn out well. Another question if you guys have any more advice:

Immediately prior to the pumping up for the shoot and to stay pumped as long as possible would you guys recommend or have any experience using a sugary beverage to sip on for your carbs or is the idea to minimize your fluid intake and instead have something solid like rice cakes/honey? Or something else ?

Thanks again!

Yeah man, the only way to know which protocol works for your body is to try it. If your lean enough, your photos are going to look good either way. Your not competing for your pro card so it’s not detrimental if you miss your mark by a couple %. It’s a learning experience, took me 4 or 5 shoots of me either being full but watery or dry shredded but flat as fuck to learn my body. I think what you’ve outlined will work for you and I hope you will share with us your results post shoot. As for the carb drink, I’d suggest dry carb source. Rice cakes with peanut butter(bro as fuck) or I like reeces peanut butter cups because they have quick carbs, some fat and some sodium. Works well for me and it’s usually what I give to my guys n gals. I have used Gatorade before/during too tho, this was one of the occasions where I was over carbed and watery(I dont think it was due to the Gatorade) but what I’ve found that if the goal is to be dry as possible, go for dryer source of carbs with fats.

Fitgm- Thanks again for your continued feedback! Definitely will post shoot pics and give continued updates. Right now I’m at about ~ 3 gallons per day of fluid with between 30-50 carbs per day since Sunday and I continue leaning/drying out by the day it seems with the low carb approach, seeing almost daily visual changes. I’m almost afraid to mess with anything lol! Do you think I could potentially skip the carbs the afternoon/evening before and just possibly have some quick carbs before the shoot (rice cakes pb or Reese’s cups ) just to help facilitate a good pump? Or is it more about getting those carbs in the afternoon/evening before the shoot that’s more important ? I’m just afraid of waking up and being pissed that I might have overdone the carbs even though “In theory” if I take in an appropriate amount I should come into the shoot fuller and possibly drier but I feel like it’s a crapshoot lol. Just curious since it seems like you have a bunch of experience in this area what you think ?

Thanks again!

To answer that question for you is difficult because I dont know your history and how your body handles carbs. When I prep someone, I give them several different types and amounts of carbs for refeeds through out the prep. This let’s me learn and see which carb sources and what amounts their body does better with. I just had a guy in a show who needs 600+ grams the day before and a big pancake bacon and eggs meal the morning of to not look flat on stage. Where as one of my long time clients who I’ve prepped many times over the past 5 years just needs 200 g the day before and you guessed it, a Reeces in the morning before stage. Do you have an endo, messa, or ectomorph body type? When you eat high glycemic carbs what happens to your body? Do you usually eat carbs pre work out? If yes, do you eat just carbs or do you have protien and fat with them? All these little details matter but in your specific case, with out knowing all this stuff, I honestly think 200-300 g the day before you’ll be fine. Have them with fat and protien each meal and evaluate your physique about an hour after each meal. If your eating 1600 calories the last week, try not to go way over that when you introduce carbs the last day. Lower your protien enough to fit in the carbs, you dont need much protien ar this point. The following day you can decide what you want to do based on how you look. If you feel like you went a bit over on the carbs, keep em out until shoot time. If you wake up looking lean but flat(which is more likely) keep slowly feeding on carbs the way you did the day before and continue to evaluate your physique after each feeding. When is your shoot? If I’m not busy the morning of, you can send me a pic and I’d be willing to give you my advice.

Wow thanks once again for the detailed response. So many factors to consider! My shoot is Saturday at 1pm. Right now I haven’t been currently counting macros but I know I’ve been pretty low this week with estimates of around:

Carb: ~40-60g per day
Protein: ~ 150g per day
Fat: ~ 30g per day

This is my current physique as of 2pm today after 2 meals and 2 gallons of water. Let me know if this helps give you any insight as to how I should proceed over the next 2 days.

Thanks again for all the advice!



Sorry, was very busy yesterday and did not have time to respond. You look fucking great man, nicely done! You definitely
Look a little flat but with your carbs being that low for that long you absolutrly should be. I say try what we have talked about. Mild amount of carbs today, 200-300 g with some fat and protien each feeding. Cut your water today to half a liter and no weight training. Some light cardio is ok but I dont usually advise doing anything before show/shoot day besides resting and eating. Are you taking a herbal diuretic? If not, I HIGHLY recommend you run out ASAP and get yourself uva ursi and dandelion root. The otc water shed products at supplement stores are mostly under dosed shit so dont waste your money there. Start taking those asap and you’ll start peeing like crazy, as I’m sure you already are with 3 gallons a day lol. Then tomorrow, no fluid 8 hours before shoot. Normally a show or shoot will be in the morning on sat, so I have the athlete just stop drinking once he/she goes to bed, and nothing in the morning until after stage/shoot. It makes it more difficult if the shoot is in the evening, but it’s still do able. Small sips to get food and pills down is ok. Continue eating carbs the way you were the day before, you will have glycagen stored in your muscles from the carbs you ate the day before because you were carb depleted for several days so your body was in a state ready to soak em up. And with out burning them off in the gym or with intense cardio, they should be stored away in the right places. So you dont need to go crazy on the carbs in the hours leading up to shoot, just keep having small feedings, maybe 3 or 4 small meals with say 40-50g carbs, 15-20g protien, and 10g fat. Not that exactly, but that’s what I do. Then your reeses during pump up, and boom. Your gonna look awesome. Looking forward to seeing some shots!

Fitgm- warning long post coming !

So I did the shoot yesterday and really felt good with how it went. I ended up doing about a ~200 gram carb up, possibly a little bit more on Friday. The day was basically as follows:

-Rice cereal with a splash of almond milk (unsweetened) with cinnamon and banana with a side of pineapple and couple eggs /egg whites
-1 Finibar

  • rice cakes with honey/peanut butter
  • Steamed chicken breast with white rice and avocado
    Was basically eating a combo of all that throughout the day until I was just barely satisfied. I felt hungry and wanted to eat more but held myself back from overdoing it. I pretty much cut water around ~6pm with just a few sips after that. Woke up in the morning looking pretty good maybe a little flat so had some chk/rice/avacado around 930 (~50 carbs) I got to the shoot and around 1230. I had more rice cakes with pb/honey and the Reese’s cups as you suggested and a few sips of Gatorade. Timing was a little off with the photographer in terms of when I should eat that stuff unfortunately but I still think everything came together well.

The shoot was exhausting ! Definitely underestimated the effort involved especially which such little fluid intake. All in all was a great day. He gave me one pic so far with more to come but even if this is the only pic from the whole shoot I have,I’ll be very pleased! Feel like I had a good combo of dryness/fullness.

I think the things for next time to consider for me would be:

A: Should I have had more carbs on Friday and Saturday morning and of different variety.

B: Timing and amount of carbs pre- shoot. ( I was basically just winging it and popping the Reese’s minis at will throughout the shoot and hoped for the best that I’d keep a pump and not look bloated by eating too many of them )

C. I didn’t start the dandelion root and uva ursi on Friday until about 5pm had two servings of each by the time I went to bed and would wonder if I would’ve started these earlier in the day or week if it would’ve made a difference.

D. I feel like even though I drank a lot of water up until Friday, I really didn’t pee all that much that day indicating to me maybe I should have upped the water even more leading up to Friday.

Anyways, was a great first experience doing a shoot. I am considering possibly doing a men’s physique show in the future in which case I can try and fine tune things even more.

Thanks so much for your insight as I definitely picked up some great tips and strategies!

Here is the pic:


Looks like it all came together pretty good! I found that over the years I got a little gutsier with each successive contest and how much I pushed my carbs and sodium. It really is a crazy individual learning experience that you can’t just read from a book.

Good work!


You look great man!! I’d say you nailed it, that’s a great shot! It’s crazy how much effort a shoot takes eh, I always tell people a very hard training session is much much easier than an hour long photo shoot. Especially being dehydrated, makes it even harder. Looks like you did a great job man. Next time I’d suggest tracking everything down to the gram just so you can be as precise as possible.

A. I figure out which carbs to use by trial and error through out the diet and that’s how I learn what my body likes, and what doesn’t agree with me. I usually just stick with the same carb sources the whole carb up just so I know that my body takes them well. As far as the amount, that’s individule and you will learn by experimenting in the future.

B.Again, you will have to play around with this. For your future shoots and comps, track every single gram you take in(all nutrients and fluids, not just carbs) and record it all so that you can look back and adjust things according to how you feel you looked each time.

C. Yes, I start the diuretics 5 days out. Some start earlier and some start them later in the week but I like 5 days out. This may help flush a bit more water out next time.

D. You said you were drinking g 3 gallons a day all week correct? If so, that’s a LOT of water. I dont know if drinking more water will do you any good, so I’m not sure why you weren’t peeing excessively, which is normally what happens. It might be a sodium issue. I didn’t want to bring up sodium because that’s a whole other thing/variable, and a lot of natural guys just keep sodium steady through out so didn’t want to add another thing for you to have to worry about. If your interested, you can do some research on how sodium effects the drying out process, which it can dramatically.

All in all, you did great man!

I cut water weight for strongman, not bodybuilding, but I had a couple questions, since these 2 things are different from what I do. First off, what is uva ursi? Does it work by a different mechanism than dandelion root? I do use dandelion root every time I do a water cut, but I’m not familiar with uva ursi. How do you dose each?

the diuretics 5 days out… I don’t do this. lol. I only take my diuretic once, the day before weigh in, around noon. and then I cut off food and water until the next morning. What is the point of starting the diuretic so far out?

Uva ursi ie another herbal ingredient used in some of the most potent otc water pills but it’s usually underused. As is dandelion root most of the time, which is why I like to have my people just buy the 2 individule ingredients so they can dose them more effectively. When to start them varies from coach to coach but what I’ve found is because they are herbal, not pharmaceutical such as diazide or aldactone, they are not very strong in one or two doses. For me personally, once I tried starting them earlier in the week, they seemed to build up in my system to the point where I was peeing a LOT more when I cut my water back, in comparison to previously when I would start them the day before show. I’ve seen this in my clients too, so its normally what I have ppl do. They are cheap and it’s not going to do the athlete any harm, so I figure if it helps to get just a little bit more water out, then why not.