Today, you’re going to be learning the exact peak week strategy we used to help online client Jeff (shown below) get absolutely ripped for his recent photoshoot.
Now, before diving into the strategy we used, you need to understand one thing…
PEAK WEEKS AREN’T MAGIC.
...meaning that Jeff didn’t get ripped during his peak week. He got ripped the previous 13 weeks of dieting and being crazy consistent hitting his macro targets.
A peak week is the icing on top of the cake… the final touches to make sure you go into your shoot with the best possible look.
But if you’re not already super lean, a peak week won’t magically make you appear more ripped in a week.
That part comes over the last few months of nailing your diet, and staying accountable to your coach.
No amount of carb manipulation will make up for simply not being lean enough going into the shoot. This is exactly why I always make sure we have plenty of time when planning your nutrition periodization strategy ahead of time when you work with us as an online client, regardless if you're prepping for a photoshoot or not.
I want to make sure that we have time to take a diet break or two, give you refeeds if needed, and account for anything unexpected that comes up in life... because let's face it, coaching is about working with individuals with lives outside of just fitness.
There's always a possibility something will come up that'll set the prep back a few weeks, which is exactly why planning ahead for this months in advance is key.
There’s no worse situation than scrambling trying to get a lot leaner the last few weeks before a shoot. That leaves you stressed out, and knowing that you didn't bring your best look to the shoot... despite a significant time investment.
Basically, you need to have a smart plan for the entire diet leading up to you shootr, like we give our online clients - not just cross your fingers that the peak week will drastically change your physique.
But anyways, a peak week is the last 5-7 days before your photoshoot (or bodybuilding show, beach vacation, etc.)
During this period of time we’re manipulating your food intake, training, fluids… most everything, to make sure that you go into the shoot with the best possible look, and get amazing results from it.
Food choices here are generally very strict to remove any and all bloat, and avoid consuming anything that could cause you to be bloated during the shoot.
Generally, I recommend online clients stick to the below foods:
—> Proteins: Keep it to meat. Ground turkey, chicken breast, lean steak, lean fish.
—> Carbs: White rice variations, sweet potatoes, spinach, mushrooms, bell peppers, asparagus, blueberries. Greens are smart to limit to spinach and asparagus, because they're lighter and generally non-bloating.
—> Fats: Olive oil, coconut oil, nut butter - these give you a good diversity of fats, and also digest well for most everyone.
—> Condiments: Ideally they're minimally processed, and you're using the bare minimum.
—> Avoid: Dairy, artificial foods/sweeteners, super high fiber or voluminous foods (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, green beans, bananas, etc.) as these are more prone to cause bloat.
*Important Note: If any of these are not foods you've consistently eaten across this shoot prep, now is NOT the time to experiment with introducing new foods. We don’t want to learn two days before the shoot, that mushrooms give you crazy gas.
Splitting your days up into 4-6 meals will make absorption and digestion a bit easier.
We don’t want to create drastic changes here.
One BIG peak week mistake you often hear about in the bodybuilding community, is a peak week gone wrong, due to improper manipulation of sodium and water intake.
Really, trying to drastically change water or salt intake at this point is high-risk, low (or no) reward, and a misunderstood concept as a whole.
See, your body stores water both inside your cells (A.K.A. intracellular - makes your muscles look “full”) and outside your cells (A.K.A. extracellular - too much makes you look “watery”. Not a good thing.)
When people are trying to “cut water” to look leaner, they’re trying to reduce the extracellular water.
Problem is, your body has a tightly controlled system that likes to maintain a specific balance of intracellular & extracellular water. So when you decrease/increase one, you decrease/increase the other.
So while you might be depleting extracellular water, your muscles will also be getting smaller (due to depletion of intracellular fluid)... so your physique won’t look any better, you’ll just look “flat”.
(Credit to this article by Layne Norton, where I learned about these concepts during my first photoshoot prep.)
Similarly with playing with sodium levels - your body has a very tightly regulated system for maintaining adequate sodium.
When you cut back on sodium, your kidneys conserve more sodium by reabsorbing more & letting less leave your body, and leaving your sodium levels largely unaffected.
However, cutting sodium does increase levels of the hormone aldosterone.
Aldosterone’s job is to regulate water & sodium in your body. In this case, as aldosterone levels increase, water retention also increases - this means your physique looks softer and puffier during the shoot.
So here, we essentially want your body to just maintain homeostasis.
—> Salt: Salt your food similar to how you normally would. Don’t cut back here. If anything, adding a bit more salt is a good idea, as you'll be taking in less total salt due to the removal of processed foods.
—> Water: Keep water intake the same as always, but stop drinking it (except sips) by 6pm-7pm. We want your sleep quality to be as high as possible this week, to keep cortisol low.
We're deloading you through the week to keep inflammation low. Chase a fun pump, but stop well short of failure (3-5RIR).
Day of the shoot, pump up starting about 20 mins before the shoot with the movements you know work best for you in a constant circuit-like fashion. Make sure you’re touching on all of the muscle groups you want to be pumped.
A pump up session here could be something like:
-Cable Facepull x15-20
-Straight-Arm Pushdown x15-20
-Lateral Raise x15-20
-Bicep Curl x15-20
-Tricep Pushdown x15-20
Although there are many different strategies you can use here, my personal favorite strategy to implement with online clients is a carb front-loading strategy.
Basically, this means that we'll be ramping your carbs up early in the week, to bring your total calories to near maintenance levels.
We’ll be assessing how the increase in carbs impacts your physique, and tapering it down as needed to make sure that you’re on point going into the shoot.
Definitions you need to know:
—> Flat: You feel skinny & slightly soft. Usually a product of not enough carbs.
—> Spilled Over: Bloated. Usually a product of too many carbs.
—> Full: Your muscles feel hard & defined, with good vascularity. This is where we want you for the shoot, and spend peak week finding the ideal carb intake for you to achieve this.
Your carb intake determines if you’re “flat” “spilled over” or perfectly “full” going into the shoot, so the front-load approach gives us plenty of time to experiment with this.
Protein + fat intake are decreased slightly to allow for more carbs & fullness.
In Jeff’s case, his pre-peak week macros were:
And his peak week macros ended up as (AFTER adjustments throughout the peak week):
The thing we always make clear to online clients is, a great peak week requires great communication to pull off.
So every day of the peak week, you’ll be sending us:
—> First thing in the AM weight
—> Morning + night photos
—> How you’re feeling daily (e.g. how good your pumps are, if you’re feeling full/spilled/just right, how you look immediately post-training).
We’re adjusting this throughout the week, so I can’t emphasize enough how important good communication is. As you can see above, we were constantly tweaking Jeff's macros through the week, based on what we were seeing + his feedback.
This helped him look his absolute best during the shoot.
These are the specific instructions I gave Jeff for shoot day:
—> Carbs: You absolutely want to avoid foods that are higher in volume/fiber, or harder to digest - these will cause bloating. Focus on light, easily digested carbs that are low in fiber. E.g. white rice, rice cakes, Gatorade (if feeling flat).
Assess your physique often - if you’re looking flat, bump carbs up a bit, but realize that it will take a few hours for these to assimilate, so don’t get overzealous - better to be slightly flat than spilled over.
—> Protein: Keep it lower to avoid any bloating, fat is relatively low to allow quicker digestion of carbs.
—> Meals: I would eat your first meal ~8-10am (his shoot was in the evening), and eat every ~2 hours going forward. These meals should be higher carb (40-60g), low protein (10-20g), and moderate fat (5-10g), and you should have eaten ~4 pre-shoot. Make sure you’re continuing to salt these as normal.
We also had him "trial run" his food for the shoot the day before, so we could ensure he knew what to eat to feel great on the day of the shoot.
—> Water: Drink ~12oz water with each meal (unless you’re feeling spilled over). You can drink more if thirsty/not spilled, but no need to force it.
—> Pre-Shoot: 45 minutes before the shoot (15-25 mins before pumping up), I'd down 1/2 tsp of salt + 20-50g of sugar. This will help your pump during the shoot.
Really, you don’t need to overthink this TOO much - feel yourself as to if you’re full/spilled/flat, and realize that we’d rather have you slightly flat than spilled.
Finally, be sure to message me the morning of the shoot with how you’re feeling, and stay constant contact throughout the day of the shoot - I’ll help you tweak things from there!
Needless to say, Jeff crushed this process, and brought a great look to his photoshoot.
But again, remember that the real magic happened over the previous 13 weeks of dieting, when he nailed his macros and lost body fat weekly.
Beyond that, Jeff set himself up for success by spending a long time in a Building Phase + following a smart training program + being crazy consistent on his own before working with us.
Are you capable of getting lean for a photoshoot like this?Absolutely.
Will it happen in a week (or even a month)? Absolutely not.
That's exactly why periodization + long-term strategy is such a major emphasis of our coaching service. Without it, you'll never achieve your best body composition.
Ready to follow a smart, individualized plan, mapped out to your specific body composition goals? Click here now to apply for online coaching with our team.
Jeremiah Bair is a certified nutrition coach, strength coach, and owner of the online coaching business Bairfit. Check out his Podcast and Instagram for more educational content.
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