T Nation

Strut Yo' Stuff

Ever wonder what kind of tricks those professional bodybuilders and models do with their training and nutrition right before the big day to look like number one? Of course those guys and gals are in top-notch shape and extremely lean to begin with, but they’ve got to have some tricks under their sleeves to get those muscles gorged so much they look like they’re about to bulge through the skin!

Seeing that the Hot Rox contest is coming to a screeching halt and summer is right around the corner, there are probably several of you T-Nation peeps that are interested in those manipulations with diet, water, and training that make you look your and allow you to strut yo’ stuff like never before.

My main man Thunder wanted to help you all out with this, as he’s the guru in this neck of the woods. He and I will both be happy to illustrate the process, as well as field any questions. Of course, all ignorant questions are subject to distribution of the scarlet letter.

Just wanted to add that I would be glad to offer what I know as well as I have done contest week a number of times.

This should be interesting as I am vey eager to here some of thsoe tricks that make one look full and ripped pre contest, shoot, or hell even a trip to the beach. Jusy to add what I personally have seen a BB’r do. It was the first show I had ever been two, and I went with a friend from the gym who happened to be competing, he was an older gentleman with lots of experience competing. We set out for the site, and about two hours before pre judging he stopped at an IHOP resteraunt, where he vicously attacked a fat stack of pancakes smothered in blue berry syrup, a t-bone steak and two poached eggs. I watched in awe as he tried to get every last ounce of water from the steak. The one thing I took note was that he ordered black coffee, and sipped it maybe twice. I have also heard of people eating resses PB cups prior.

J-Bird, Reese’s PB cups, eggs, trees, hearts, or any other variation is a high-quality bodybuilder food. I’d recommend that you have some every so often:-)

Just wanted to give the bizump to this thrizead so my boy T-Cat could get this rolling.

T-rock, you know I will, man I cant wait for my next fiasco at a buffet, I cant decide though shall I go breakfast style, or mexican. It is a tough call, but since I want to make it as enjoyable as possible I will ponder long and hard on that one:)

Ok, so where to start? How about approximately 1 week out? I’ll probably post in multiple posts so not everything is in one post. And again, let me preface this by saying that this is based on my opinion and my experience working with competitors. It’s definitely not the only way, as I’m sure many can attest to. However, more often than not, many a competitor have said they just didn’t hit it right on the day of the show. Whether that means they were dry, yet flat, or nice and full, yet watery, the story is the same – they didn’t get it right.

Ok, I’ll just assume we’re talking about Saturday being the big day, since that’s when most contests are.

What is done in the last 10-14 days or so largely depends on what’s been done leading up to this point. For example, if you’ve been really low-carbing it for an extended period of time, there isn’t much to do in the way of depletion outside of a depletion workout. If you haven’t, and have been following a more modest carb intake, then about 10 days out you should start to deplete. Many people cut out all carbs and I think this is an error. The purpose of depleting is to simply prime your system for the onslaught of carbs that will soon be coming. You just want to set up for the supercompensation and the tank doesn’t have to be completely empty to do so. In fact, in many cases being too depleted can make it very hard to fill out in time for the big day. I’d probably drop the carbs down into the 50-70g range for the duration of the depletion and replace calories with fat as opposed to protein.

As well, long before one gets to the depletion they should have jacked up the sodium intake. Actually, ideally it would be nice and high throughout the entire diet. That way, a new ‘baseline’ (high sodium becomes normal and your body upregulates the excretion of it. Remember, sodium is one of the most delicately controlled minerals in your body) is set which makes it very easy to drop water. On top of that sodium is very much needed to properly carb up and increasing it during the carb up when you’ve been fairly low sodium throughout the diet is a bad idea.

At the 10 day point, water intake should also be jacked up – probably trying to reach the 3 gallon range (12L for Canucks). The high sodium and high water intake will keep the nasty aldosterone low, again making it easy to drop water.

I’d say the last heavy day of training should be Sunday, maybe Monday, and leg training should have been cut out about 2+ weeks out. You don’t want to go into a carb up with sore muscles since the muscle damage will impair the activity of the glycolytic enzymes – bad carb up.

So this would bring us right to the “2 days out” point (when all the fun begins). At this point, assuming you’re already shredded, you’d look reaaaaaaaally flat, yet pretty dry.

So far, there hasn’t been much interest in this thread, so I’ll post more later.

thunder, and timbo

i think there is plenty of interest in this thread, and trying to peak for a contest, or simply a date with the beach. i think most guys are a little more casual, meaning that they probably are not going to compete but still would like to have a near competition level
so that leads me to my question. if someone is trying to reach a goal of 6% bf on the 4th of july, and trying to look his absolute best on that date would you recommend the same approach, or something a little less extreme?
i have set a goal of 6%bf (which would be the best condition of my life) by july 4th. no contest, no hot date, i am just determined to look my absolute best on that date. ill definitely take some physique pics that day to cherish the moment. but my question is, do you think such an extreme approach is necessary with just a casual goal rather than a contest?
im currently following t-dawg/temporal nutrition style. i would definitely appreciate if you guys could walk me through those last few weeks. thanks, p-dog

I’m interested to hear what people have done during those last couple of days. Up to that point your looking flat (and feeling it).
So how far out do you change your diet to fill/round out the physique? You want those muscles to be looking fuller than full, ready to pop like a north star zit! Peaking at the right time is critical.

It’s understood that this can vary from person to person but what kind of guidelines can we set up here?

Thunder, And then? Bro I am very interested in this, as I have depleted before, and although my pics came out very well, I know I did not do it the best I could have. I went 0 carbs for three days, and did upper body workouts with high reps, I know I didnt carb up right, as I ate some rice cakes for a day, and had some fresh pineapple. Boy I really didnt have an idea what I was doing, but I did it to learn about the affects, and of course to impress some of my college friends when I returned for homecoming. One note about that, when I got into town I went with a girl I dated throuhout college to eat, I had a fat stack of PB pancakes, followed by an unreal amount of cookies, and then I had to take some pictures, those turned out way better than the shots I took a day before, which goes to show how you can really miss the nail. But thunder do continue…and Timbo where you at?

Timbo, Thunder…

You guys rock.

Thunder, my man, no need to enter a disclaimer. I really see you as the Shiz Nizzle on this stuff, so just have at it, big boy! C’mon, you wear the pants at home, don’t ya:-) Real nice start.

One thing that I’ll just add to T-Cat’s first post is in relation to those that are just dropping carbs (i.e. to 50-70g) in that 10-14 days out range. You really should compensate for those lost kcals by adding protein and/or fat. Simply dropping the carbs and kcals–with no compensation–is going to lead to depletion and rapid muscle wasting.

P-Dog, personally, I don’t feel that the depletion-supercompensation routine is that drastic whatsoever. Rather, it’s the strict dieting and extremely low levels of body fat that so often accompany it that really take the toll. That being the case, I think following the guidelines that Thunder and I will help to illustrate will still hold for those that have a certain date to look his/her best.

Einstein (BodIQ), I love that North Star Zit alliteration. Awesome! You’re referring to the loading procedures, which we’re about to get to, my friend.

Thunder, I do have one more issue to raise. It seems that refeeds are generally quite popular during dieting phases. How far out–from the contest or the two-week mark–should one cut these out so they don’t interfere with the process? I would imagine that a week or so would be adequate time, no?

wow…left hanging…great info thunder.

Timbo i’ll get you in pm.

Lots of interest in this thread. Don’t think that there isn’t.

In my particular case, partly due to “let’s see what happens this way” and partly due to my getting a nasty intestinal virus, I decided to try something a little different. I’ve gotten pretty depleted over the last few days/weeks, and am under weight at the moment - although with significantly less BF than when I started a couple of months ago. So I thought I’d do a Growth Surge Phase II cycle for the last week, add some muscle while keeping the same percentage of BF. I’ve done this before and it worked well for LBM gain…but then again I wasn’t taking pics at the end of the cycle either. So if anyone has any advice for my situation, I’m more than willing to listen.


Just a couple of my own observations hear.

First and foremost, I suggest one track their nutritional intake throughout the course of one’s diet, as well as their refeeds/overfeeds/loads. In this manner, one can see what works best for refeeding/loading purposes. Over the 2.5+years that I have collected my own nutritional data (excel), I have seen what works best for me and under what conditions.

Secondly, I do not feel that less carbs and less kcal equals severe muscle wasting. We can argue this point till we are blue in the face, but, in large part, the partitioning between muscle/fat during such severe restriction as contest prep will be determined by a myriad of factors. It is my general practice to continue diet prepartions up until the point of the load (although I may graduate up kcal, although still below mntc).

Thirdly, I am in favor of replacing carbs with protein, rather than fat (particularly closer to show time). The simple reason has to do w/insulin sensitivity, and thats a whole notha post.

Finally, I agree with everything Tizzo and Thunder had to say regarding water/sodium prior to the dance. This is very important. I usually make sure to depelete about 7-10 days out (i.e., begin the depletion). Light upper body work is done throughout the week, as is intermittent IBUM and possibly some HIIT (again, for me this does not cause muscle wasting, rather improves glycotic activty upon initiation of the load).

Following this protocol, my best load to date (vascularity, paper thin skin, pump) has been with right around 1,200CHO; 64F; 312P. The protein could most likely go lower without negative effect…but of all the loads and comp manipulations, this has been the best to date.


You big Damm Tease, Keep it rolling Brother! I may be still to heavy to use it now but I will be single digit sometime this year!!

Thanks Thunder and T-ROCK for this awesome thread! T-MAG you should probably think about cut and pasting this for a written article when it’s through!

Thunder…Timbo… Great thread, but you guys aren’t trying to pull a reverse endaround on us are you? We blow the last week you two take the cash and prizes? Just kidding. I’m waiting to see your take on the carb up process. My entire diet is a 7 day cycle w/ a 2 day carb up, just repeated until desired effect is reached, or in this case the date is here.

Vaines must have his opinion on this since he seems to be the keto guru here.

Vizzle I agree that it takes several rotations to see what works best for each person, but for how a person will look, I feel it is better to be flat and dry than over flow full and wet/smooth.

I have also found that when I alter my training too much on the final week, even w/ the depletion session, I still don’t load as fast as when I keep training as I have for the past 4 wk phase. just my thoughts.

guru x

P-Dog, as Timbo said, I don’t think the whole approach is THAT drastic. Rather, it’s pretty fun to watch how drastically your body can change in a matter of hours. You said you want to look your best, so follow the guidelines that will make you look your best.

Timbo, as far as refeeds go, I’ve habitually stopped them about 10-14 days out, again depending on the individual. This is one thing everyone has to remember. This is a template and adjustments often need to be made based on individuals. Oftentimes, I’ll have to tweak the timing based on what I’m seeing.

Char, what exactly are you asking? Sorry, I’m not sure what the question is, since you seem to have achieved favorable results.

Vain, agree on the need to track nutritional intake during the entire diet. But then again, anyone competing should already be doing this.

I however am not in favor of replacing carbs with protein, over fat. Insulin sensitivity does not become an issue in one week’s time. If it did, then the whole idea of a fat load wouldn’t work when fat was used as the caloric ballast instead of protein. And trust me, fat loading DOES work (and MUCH better than a full carb load).

I’ll also disagree on the light training, IBUR, and HIIT, mostly the latter two. Not for any ?muscle wasting reasons? and sure it does upregulate glycolytic activity, but for the same reasons that leg training is stopped at least 2 weeks out. Leg separation will not be as good if you don’t lay off them for 2 weeks, and they’ll be flat. You should be in shape and ready a week out anyway, so the last week is simply a week of manipulation and not one of fat loss. If someone is still trying to drop a couple pounds of fat in the last week, they’re not ready to start playing with things.

Vain, the numbers you gave, are they totals for one day, two?

I’m wit P-Dog: bring on the info Thunder!


You bring out good points in my protocol I must elaborate on. Although I do favor to add protein instead of fat, both during the diet phase and up to contest prep, I do understand and agree that fat is a necessary requiste for the load. For a long time, I used to shudder thinking about combining fat and carbs together, primarily becuase of fat gain. However, the actual fat in the load seems to great a better fullness. Perhaps in such a depleted state (particularly at low levels of body fat) muscles accept intramuscular fat much the same way they do gylcogen. Furthermore, the lipid seems to create that balance between water and oil that actually pushes the water against the muscle structure. As such, I make sure to include fat in the refeed/load. This actually was a product of data tracking and seeing what happned upon refeeds. As such, a few bags of peppermint patties does the trick (there is also a reason for the patties [coconut oil based]).

The only particular reason I do HIIT and IBUM up till and prior to the whole deal is to maintain a psychological mindset. Yeah, there is no doubt that at such lowered levels of body fat, and furthered calorie restriction that much more fat is going to be tweeked. What I have noticed however, is that HIIT performance seems to have protected against spillage. Your comment on the leg separation is very valid, and I should probably consider that. Fortunately, legs are my strong suit in competition or “peek day” due to my years playing hockey.

The same reason for the light concentric work…this is highly unstructured and done only when I feel the need…again, its more for the psychologcial benefit. Obviously any major heavy or eccentric work is avoided to protect against problems with carbing.

By the way, the first totals I gave are for one day only. I typically might tweek the second day depending on the results.