T Nation

Weight Gain During Peak Weeks

Hey Coach,
I’m just curious what your take is on the following. I’ve noticed in any given phase of lifting, all other variables like cardio, daily macros, sleep, etc. held constant, I will always gain around 2lb during peak weeks when my main lifts get down to sets of 2 or 3–even if I’m in a slight deficit or eating at maintenance. Sure enough, it’ll always come off the next week or two with no other changes other than entering into a deload week or starting the next phase at higher volume.

My theory is that it’s just extra water weight from the spike in stress that week, but I wanted to consult with you. Do you think it’s anything to be concerned about, and if so are there ways to combat it?

Could it be that during your peak weak you don’t need to use glycogen as fuel, or not a much, and thus are refilling your glycogen stores? Since glycogen holds water (4g water per g of glycogen), that’s how you are gaining weight. This would be reconcilable with the weight coming off in the weeks thereafter.

CT wrote the below cases to explain glycogen use in different training styles

Interesting perspective, thanks. I’ve always chalked it up to cortisol, but this makes alot of sense. It might be more optimal for me to taper carbs and bump fats as reps go down and intensity goes up.

I do still believe there’s a cortisol element as my muscle definition always seems to get washed out a bit (particularly around abs) only to come back in a week or so. Heavy lifting does stress me out, even in the time leading up to a workout and mentally prepping for the new PR.

Do you believe the peak weeks are necessary to continue progressing?

It’s absolutely normal to gain weight in a properly done peak week, or deload week, or growth week (a concept I’m writing an article on).

YES, lowering cortisol absolutely plays a role.

Less cortisol means less adrenaline. If both are lower you use up less glycogen and overall energy. Less cortisol also tips the body in a positive anabolic balance. Both will favor weight gain through an increase in glycogen storage and muscle growth.

Note that in some people this can be counterbalanced by a drop in water retention. Cortisol increases water retention through an upregulation of vasopressin and aldosterone. Decrease cortisol, you also decrease these hormones and you flush water out.

Furthermore, some eat less during deload/peak/growth weeks. Which greatly diminishes the potential for weight gain. In my experience this is a mistake: you should use these weeks to do everything possible to maximize growth, recovery and put your body in the best state possible to kick ass in your next phase.

To progress? No.

To progress optimally? Yes. But they need to be done the right way. I’m working on article on that topic.

So then it could either be the stress, as @jskrabac mentions being stressed out by the heavier weights, or increase in glycogen stored.

Looking forward to reading it Coach.

I would actually think that it’s the opposite. The peak week normally has lower cortisol levels. Yes, the weights are heavier, but the volume is much lower.

Interesting, thank you for the response.

Why do you suppose my weight drops off in the following deload and/or start of next phase then?

Losing water weight? Cortisol increases water retention. Lowering cortisol will lower water retention. Could be a difference in food intake too.