Fitness Competitors’ Nutrition: Peak Week

Fitness Competitors’ Nutrition: Peak Week

Today we are going to talk about the week leading up to a fitness competition, whose methodology responds to very specific patterns: Peak Week.

What is Peak Week

Peak week, or final week, is the last 5-10 days before a competition where competitors adopt a series of nutritional and training strategies to dramatically improve their physical appearance.


It happens that the reality is different from what competitors are looking for, as it is very common to find cases where through the adjustments that they make, their physical appearance looks much worse.


Bodybuilder on stage.

You will find a lot of times images like the one above, due to these factors, among others:

  • Lack of definition at the start of the final week.
  • Subcutaneous water retention.
  • Abdominal distension.
  • Malabsorption and gastrointestinal disorders such as diarrhea and vomiting.
  • Dehydration.
  • Lack of vascularity.
In many cases,in the end they translate into a worse image than we had before we started the final week..


It is important to note that peak week has a potential small positive effect on the physical image.

However, it may seriously affect our image and even our health.

So don’t trust the preppers who claim “unique tuning” with great adaptations, as everything is invented and we know that the small changes that are generally better.

Pre competitive physique

Pre-competitive physique.

To do or not to do peak week

94% of competitors tune up in the final week (Chappell y Simper, 2018).

However, I wouldn’t do widespread tuning, since unless your body fat percentage is low enough, the positive aesthetic effects of a tune-up dissipate and even when doing things right we won’t look better, but we can look much worse.

What is the definition point you would recommend to start a tune-up?

I cannot give an absolute value, since in fact, over this period (peak week) there is practically no serious test, so it is a mixture of biological backgrounds experience with my athletes.

More than 5% body fat calculated by plyometrics or 8% calculated by DEXA would not require a tuning; I would just continue defining and two or three days earlier would make a moderate carbohydrate load.

In people who reach the aforementioned fat percentage, I would possibly choose to do a peak week to improve their “sharpness”.

How to make a peak week bad

At the start of the week

Cut carbohydrates, drink plenty of water, take lots of salt, and train to deplete to the limit.

Two or three days before

Cut water and salt suddenly, add diuretics; sometimes drink small amounts of distilled water and eat all the carbohydrates you are able to take.


Dallas McCarver (DEP) fading on stage at Arnold Classic Australia 2017.

The result is a water-retaining physique, swelling, diarrhea, dehydration, cramps, hospitalizations and sometimes death.

The high number of casualties in all regional competitions and deaths that have occurred throughout the history of aggressive tunings in bodybuilding are well known.

Why do people do bad peak-weeks

The tuning has a very clear objective:

To decrease the subcutaneous water by causing the skin to stick to a over-compensated muscle, so that the tissue’s own striations and a great vascularity are observed.

That’s why they make these changes in water and electrolyte consumption, and that’s why they make carbohydrate loads so aggressive.

Rich Piana

Figure III. Rich Piana (DEP) drinking a gallon.

How to do a good peak-week

Again, I say that work has to be done before starting the overhaul, I always say the same to my competitors:

“…if you told you to put on tan and get out on stage right now, are you ready?…”

  • If the response is no, they are not ready for a tune-up.
  • If the physical image is good, and ready to compete, you can make changes that will improve the image, but this should start further back.
Whether you do the tune-up or not must be known at least a month before.

It is very important to do at least a pre-trial to see the effects of the strategies adopted on the physical image, far enough away from the competition to correct any possible alterations we make by that date.


Peak… week? or month?

Approximately 3 weeks before the day of the show, I would slightly increase salt consumption, gradually, staggered, until approximately 7-10 days before the competition, where I would leave everything as it is.

If I consume 6 grams of salt a day, every 3 days I add 1 gram more, so that in 15 days I will be consuming 11 grams of salt daily that will remain stable for the last 7 days,


  • Because the sodium that contains salt is an osmolite, and is the main determinant of our blood volemia./strong>
  • If we want to see ourselves vascularized and large on stage we need a good amount of water circulating through our circulatory system and filling our myocytes.

Concentrations sodium

Figure IV. Direct relationship between sodium concentrations in the medium and osmolality. The more sodium, the more plasma.

Standardised diet

All of this doesn’t make sense if our diet is not standardized.

So about a month before the competition, the feeding system I use with my athletes and that I discussed in the article ‘On-season’, is changed to a guided traditional diet system and 100% prescribed by me.

Because if the amounts of sodium that come from the selected foods are changing, it generates trouble in the measurements.

However, it would only be necessary to do this in the last week to be strict.

Last days, the final week arrives, what do we do?

10 days before

I start 10 days earlier with a significant decrease in the amount of carbohydrates consumed, not dropping from 1g/kg/day.

If the intake was already low previously it should not be altered.

Training sessions

The training changes, and focuses more on less demanding work at the muscular level, further away from failure.

Specifically, during these days of depletion I use training schemes based on “lactic” circuits, with medium-intensity aerobic exercise.

Nothing too new because what matters most is to generate the least amount of muscle damage, so known exercises to which the competitor is accustomed.


7 days before


Carbohydrate consumption begins to increase, An X amount of carbohydrates is added to the net consumption of the previous day each day.

A general scheme I use with competitors weighing more than 85kg at this point and who came from consuming very few carbohydrates is:

Imagine you were consuming 1 gram of carbohydrates per kg of body weight.

Sunday1*1,2 = 1,2g/kg
Monday1,2*1,2 = 1,4g/kg
Tuesday1,4*1,4 = 2,0g/kg
Wednesday2*1,5 = 3g/kg
Thursday3*1,5 = 4,5g/kg
Friday4,5*1,5-2,0 = 6,75-9g/kg

This scheme is not immovable, and will be adapted based on athlete reports such as gastrointestinal tolerance and changes in esthetic image.


During these 7 days, fiber intake is minimized, and carbohydrates come from mainly refined cereals; some source that is very well tolerated, in fact is almost always rice/rice cereals/rice flour.


Water should not adjust from the previous 7 days.

If entering a weight category, a sharp drop in the water consumed (up to ~8ml/kg) can be made 12-24 hours before weighing.

But the effects this may have on the final image, especially in federations where weighing is far from the competition, may be very negative.

Therefore, the effects of loading and the association of 3 to 17g of water per gram of glycogen stored must be taken into account. considering that the maximum concentrations of a sportsman are about 870 grams and that in a state of overcompensation this capacity can increase up to x1.79.

Normally there is a weight gain of about 3kg during loading, so this should be considered beforehand if you have to enter a weight category.


Figure V. Pre-competition weighing of a classic physique.

Water consumption can be increased slightly at the start of loading, but in any case, a few weeks earlier, together with the increase in sodium intake, we should have increased water intake.

If we consume 4 liters of water a day, we can increase it to 4,5 liters on Monday and 5 liters on Wednesday.

Still, I am more in favour of leaving the water alone and producing the least possible alterations in recent days.

If we want to consume more water because we are going to do an intense carbohydrate load (after having tested it previously), we must adjust the water weeks before the peak week.

Training sessions

During this week the training will involve the pumping of full body muscle , torso-leg or push-pull-leg, away from muscle failure, without cardio, and will be maintained until the day before the competition where the last training will be done in the morning, which can’t be leg training.


The last 4 workouts should be especially light, focused exclusively on stimulating the entry of glucose into the muscle cell by translocation of GLUT4 receptors in the absence of a state of hyperinsulinemia.

That’s to say, just do enough and don’t overdo it.

If you like the ‘no pain no gain’ workouts do not attempt to overdo it when you feel energised from the load, go out on the balcony and scream a little or call a friend and lie to him saying that you have taken out PR, but listen to the working model.

Altering cell functionality by causing damage to your membranes by the muscle tension you have produced in training is a problem of all that will end with accumulation of interstitial edema (retention) and poor glucose uptake, so stay still.


Salt is left still, we have already made changes weeks ago.

The day before the competition

12 hours before you can reduce (not cut off) the intake of water and sodium.

It is not particularly important, since when this is done it will achieve a greater diuresis. But what we do not understand is that the water compartments in the [intracellular-extracellular(plasma-isterstie)] organism are stagnant and maintain a stable ratio


So, if we lose water, we lose it arithmetically, also with our muscle tissue that we are interested in bursting water so that our muscles look hard and our veins dilated by the volume of circulating water.

I let my athletes drink water until they go to bed the night before.

The day of the competition

The competitor gets up, goes to the bathroom normally and starts preparing.

  • Don’t drink water until pre-stage
  • If you normally use supplements that need to be swallowed, don’t use them now.

During all these days I monitor the competitor’s body changes, so I know how he is physically, but that same morning I will be asking him again for fasting pictures.

You should already be ready for the stage, if you is not very vascularized (obvious because it has just been looking at photos) and you are starving (which does not usually happen), I allow you to do a “cheat-meal” about 4 hours before you go out to the stage.

BEWARE! This can cause problems, the athlete has not eaten anything different in a month, and suddenly getting food that they like: Pizzas, burgers, ice cream and the like can burst the gastrointestinal system.


  • I don’t instruct you to weigh anything you eat, just eat until you get satisfied, without bursting or starving.
  • I encourage you to chew food well, chewing is a key aspect of food digestion and nutrient absorption. So eat without anxiety.
  • If I have a competitor who has experienced gastrointestinal discomfort during preparation, WHO IS THE MADMAN that made you eat this meal.
In cases where everything is ready, just make a normal meal like any other day, maybe a little bigger, with a little extra salt, and some food you like (a portion of ice cream for example).

Before going out on stage

Before you go on stage, you should drink water in small sips, without going crazy and without swelling to avoid the urge to urinate during competition.

I recommend eating crackers, biscuits or the like while pumping backstage, and I would remind you of:

Competitors 1

One of the most famous scenes in the history of bodybuilding at Mr. Olympia 2006 between Ronnie Coleman and Jay Cutler.

The work of months of preparation is reflected in how much you enjoy being on stage from start to finish, not in the position you come.

To the champions!

Bibliography Sources

  1. González-Hernández (2010). Principios de Bioquímica clínica y patología molecular. 1ed Editorial Elsevier.

Related Entries

  • Fitness Competitors’ Nutrition: Off-Season en este enlace
  • Fitness Competitors’ Nutrition: On-Season en este enlace
  • Fitness Competitors’ Nutrition: Post-Competición en este enlace
Review Nutrition Competitors’ Fitness: Peak Week

What is - 100%

How to do it - 100%

Errors to avoid - 100%

Recommendations - 100%


HSN Evaluation: 5 /5
Content Protection by
About Alfredo Valdés
Alfredo Valdés
He is a specialist in metabolic physiopathology training and in the biomolecular effects of food and physical exercise.
Check Also
Occlusion (Kaatsu) Training and Muscle Hypertrophy
Occlusion (Kaatsu) Training and Muscle Hypertrophy

We’ve already discussed the possibilities of experimenting with the whole spectrum of repetitions available to …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *