What contest bodybuilders and a great number of models, athletes and film stars have come to realise is that there are varieties of leanness and getting into the final state requires drying out or manipulating your subcutaneous water retention to reveal every angle of definition.
When we talk about fluid retention we’re not talking about dropping the essential healthy water that is keeping us hydrated and making up the vast majority of our body. Rather it is the unsightly fluid retention just under the skin that occurs for a variety of reasons. Some people just genetically carry more of a base level. Sometimes fluctuating hormones in both women and men can alter fluid retention levels. Various diets encourage retention as do certain environmental conditions and injuries or disease.
Many times we may see others in the gym that don’t work out much harder than us but just seem to stay more ‘ripped’ (cut, lean, defined, solid, dry, slim – whatever words suits your preference). Assuming your body fat levels are both similar the main difference will then only be fluid retention.
You can minimize fluid retention throughout the year by understanding what dietary items work best for you and maintaining proper hydration, however there are some techniques you can employ for when you need to ‘peak’ into absolute optimal condition – and fast. Be it an event, party, photo shoot, holiday on the beach, competition or whatever, there is a certain point at which losing more boy fat is simply going to take weeks (fat loss is a steady but slow process) and you need to make a change now.
The levels of Leanness
For the sake of argument and rather than discussing absolute body fat percentages which are often poorly measured and disputed let’s give four examples of men who work out. This can more or less apply to women just as easily but since men can usually tell their leanness more directly from abdominal definition than women, you girls may have to apply a more ‘all over’ approach to define your body fat levels.
The 4 Levels of Leanness
Level 1: Not clinically overweight or obese, but no visible abs either.
Level 2: In shape. Some upper abs showing.
Level 3: Nicely cut. Abs easily visible.
Level 4: Shredded. Insanely cut. "Dry."
Level 4 leanness is the sort of shape bodybuilders and models can achieve that involves not only very low body fat percentages but a dry look which involves minimizing the fluid reserved under the skin. They may use specific diets and training regimes and then take diuretics (both herbal and/or pharmaceutical) to get rid of the fluid weight.
The goal of this peaking procedure is to minimize subcutaneous water (just beneath the skin) while keeping the muscle as full as possible. This combination will allow a bodybuilder to "pump up" before the show and look his best. A full muscle will "push" against the skin, and if there's no water between the muscle and skin... voilà: separated and full muscle bellies.
For bodybuilders this process is very difficult and borders on hitting absolute peak form and missing out by hitting the wrong point.
For models and actors, on camera, even with good lighting and makeup you can’t really fake extreme definition. Plenty of models and actors, when they’re doing a shirtless scene or need to look specifically athletic may employ similar fluid control techniques to give themselves a fantastic edge. They still need to be in top shape first but to take it to another level briefly requires the sort of advanced techniques that follow.
Sometimes you may have noticed yourself looking fantastically lean without having had much change in your routine. A few days later you may not look quite as good. Naturally this bloat or change is not new adipose fat tissue generated over night. Fat doesn’t appear or vanish that fast no matter what you do. What is likely is that some combination of diet and nutrition has occurred to push you accidentally into low fluid retention levels.
Now using the techniques outlined in this article you can employ that combination whenever you need to hit a peak. And the results can certainly be eye-catching.
This is not a basic guide to keeping some water weight down nor is it a system designed for long term use. It is not a replacement for a good fat loss programme and it certainly won’t be the answer for somebody who is genuinely fat. If you aren’t even at level 1 leanness you can expect very little from manipulating water levels. You may well end up losing some actual fat on this 6 day programme but the majority of fat loss diets will do more for you first.
This technique should essentially move you down a level of leanness. A level 1 can briefly achieve level 2 style upper ab definition and lose some bloat. A level 2 can move from muscular but smooth to good clean model definition of a level 3. And those level 3 guys can achieve a genuine level 4 ultra dry body building peak physique.
But be realistic with yourself. If you are still fat concentrate on the fat loss diets first.
There are three main factors we're going to be manipulating here to cause your body to dump water fast:
1) Carbohydrates: Low-carb and high protein diets are notably diuretic (puts your body into a fluid flushing mode). Dropping carb intake alone will cause just about anyone to lose a couple of pounds of water bloat. This plan will have you consuming 50g of Carbs per day or fewer, then tactically carbing up at the end.
2) Fluid Intake: You don't get "dry" by not drinking water, at least not at first. You put your body into flushing mode by consuming tons of water (which will down-regulate aldosterone, the steroid hormone that acts to conserve sodium and secrete potassium), then cutting water intake suddenly at the end. During most of this program, your goal will be to drink 2.5 to 3 gallons of water per day.
3) Training: You won’t build any muscle in six days, so don't worry about it. The goal instead is to get your self glycogen depleted. Do this and by the end of the week your muscles will soak up the carbs and inflate drastically.
Also, well informed athletes make great use of natural diuretics - supplements designed to assist in the regulation of proper and efficient water storage for the human body.
6 days to Level down leanness
This programme assumes you are hitting your peak on a Saturday for the event, party, day on the beach, competition or whatever it is. The schedule therefore begins on the Monday morning.
Monday: 2.5 to 3 gallons of water, 50g of carbs or less
Note 3 gallons is a lot of water. Even for an athlete used to maintaining proper hydration you may struggle to understand how much you’ll be drinking and urinating on this schedule. If possible buy either bottled water or put your water into large containers or jugs so you can visually see how much you’re consuming. Don’t leave it to memory as we tend to naturally over estimate how much water we drink and should you drink too little the programme will fail completely.
Note for women Although this programme is primarily aimed at men it can certainly be adopted for female targets and is used extensively in magazine and film shoots by a lot of famous women not to mention fitness performers and the like. Be aware that you may need to round down some of these recommendations for your size. For most women start with 1.5 gallons of water and see how this works for you. Drinking way too much water can actually be dangerous in certain circumstances.
Friday: Today we begin the carb loading to increase muscle fullness and swell the muscles and make everything look hard. Eat around 6 meals today each containing at least 50g of clean carbs.
In the first one or two meals, have fruits as your main carb source. Starting the carb-up with fruit replenishes liver glycogen very fast. The faster liver glycogen is filled, the more effective the rest of the carb-up will be.
For meals three and four, move to starchier, faster-absorbing carbs (yams, potatoes, rice if it's tolerated well). Meal four should be at 4PM.
After 4PM we drastically alter the diet. Water intake should be cut completely at 4 or 5PM. One or two more meals should be consumed after you cut water. Have only one if you're already looking "full." Have two if not. These meals should contain carbs derived from simple sugars: cookies, pancakes, biscuits, cakes, chocolate, etc. Enjoy the cheat foods – your body will simply drive these sugars into muscle tissue at this stage.
Along with this simple sugar meal, have two tablespoons of vegetable glycerine or collagen supplement. Also if you tolerate pump products or creatine loading products well this would be the time to make use of them.
Use of a sauna suit or actually sitting in a hot sauna or other perspiration inducing environment will cause extra dryness and really peak the physique. Be very careful with this though. Some people have gone too far and induced severe dehydration which is not only unpleasant but can cause lasting damage. If you aren’t sure or feel dizzy or tired avoid this completely and don’t worry about it.
Saturday (event day for peaking): Breakfast will depend on exactly how you look after Friday night’s carb up.
If your muscles look and feel unpumped and flat then eat a meal of protein with plenty of sugary cheat foods again. Don’t over do it and fill your stomach to bursting but even a small chocolate bar will generally work.
If you are happy with the general appearance eat a little fruit and something light to maintain the condition and avoid hunger.
If you’ve gone overboard and look a little bloated then have a very low water protein only shake with no sugars of any kind.
If you want to achieve a particular vascular look (veins showing and looking like you’ve really worked out) you can reuse the two spoons of glycerol or liquid collagen to really fill out the veins.
The goals of the low-carb days with super high water intake are to deplete glycogen to better super compensate later on, but the real goal is to put the body into water flushing mode. Doing both for 5 days forces our body to start flushing everything from your body. During this time you will be urinating very frequently. This is the body flushing the excess water from your system. This is perfectly normal but you may need to ensure you have ready access to a toilet!
When you suddenly cut water on the Friday afternoon your body is still locked into this flushing mode and continues even though excess water intake has halted. When you add in all those carbs they draw in water to the muscle to deposit the glycogen and since all the free water has gone it can only continue to draw it from your fluid retention under the skin.
Training on the schedule
The following workouts over the 6 days are not designed to build muscle or really damage you but are aimed solely at shocking the body into carb loading and increasing water flushing mode.
Monday: Full Body Workout
Sets of 10-12 reps
30 seconds rest max between sets
Never hit failure. Excessive muscle damage slows down glycogen repletion. Stop 2-3 reps short of failure.
Use alternating sets
Tuesday: Full Body Workout, Different Exercises
Today you're going to do the same type of workout you did on Monday, with these differences:
You can use different exercises (example: a row instead of a pulldown for back). Still use only one exercise per muscle group.
12 to 15 reps instead of 10 to 12
Wednesday: Upper Body Only
6-8 sets per muscle group, 30 seconds rest between alternative sets.
Replace lower body work with shoulder work. Overworking legs causes too much fatigue. Legs get naturally pumped on the diet part and overworking them will leave you feeling heavy and slow. Shoulders on the other hand are one of the hardest muscle groups to really pump up given that they’re multiple small muscles so they may need as much work as possible to force them to swell with glycogen.
Thursday: Off Day or HIIT Day
No weight training today, but you may perform some HIIT (see Energy Systems Training article) if you find that sprint style cardio training helps rev up your system. This is also useful in that sprints can force your body to store more glycogen without causing huge disruption to your tired body.
Friday Morning: Weaknesses
Don’t push yourself but if you have a weak area or a particular muscle group you really want to peak extra high the next day then spend some time wearing this muscle out. When you start eating those cheat foods you’ll find they super compensate these muscle groups and really give them a great look on the Saturday. Be sure not to train late in the day when you’ve cut water and started eating extra sugar as your body won’t be up for this punishment. If you can’t work out Friday morning just rest.
Saturday Your day has arrived!
You can perform a 30 min pumping routine if you really want to appear full and vascular. Virtually any exercise you perform today will make you feel swollen and look fantastic. Enjoy it as it won’t last for long. Be sure not to exceed 30 minutes or lift too heavy as this will simply tire your muscles and burn out that precious glycogen you’ve forced into the muscles.
Things to note
You may wish to try this routine out for practice before employing when it really matters as it’s not easy to judge exactly how your body will react until you try. Once you’ve tried it and found exactly what worked you can employ this at any time to ensure you look your very best. Remember this is not a long term plan for fat loss and maintaining a low body fat level to begin with is essential to seeing much difference. So if you’re not at least Level 1 leanness don’t even attempt this technique. Most guys should be at least Level 2 to see a genuine difference. Take a look at our dieting for fat loss articles first to make sure you are genuinely going to be lean enough to take advantage of this perfection routine.
Some people may need to start carb loading on the Thursday for a perfect look. Some may need to leave until later on the Friday night. Experiment until you find what really suits your individual body type.
Don’t cut the water too early or start lowering it day by day. The shock value of sudden water removal is what works in this programme. Remove it too early and you’ll dehydrate and feel rubbish, not to mention voiding the point of the carb loading. Reducing water slowly also lets the body adjust and defeats the flushing effect we’re trying to achieve.
This is an advanced technique employed by bodybuilders and film stars to achieve the sort of physique you just can’t achieve without some clever manipulation. You can still be in fantastic shape year round and will hardly need this programme often but now you will have an extra weapon in your training and dietary arsenal to bring out when you need to really look your absolute best in a very short time.