Here we go again–Peak Week! It feels like I just finished recovering from the last one! But here we are, back on the grind, one week out from the NPC USAs.
So what exactly is “Peak Week”? It’s the week leading up to the show. This is the home stretch–the uphill finish–when everything comes together (hopefully), and you end the week at a physical peak, ready to take the stage.
What does this process entail? There are probably as many different ways to prep for a contest as there are competitors, but there are some standard practices most competitive bodybuilders employ during peak week. These include depletion workouts, some form of water manipulation, diet tweaks, and a carb-heavy refeed.
Here at the beginning of peak week, Day One, I still have my beloved coffee (which I drink black), but I’m cutting out artificial sweeteners (good-bye BCAAs, good-bye gum) because they have a tendency to cause bloating. I’m starting to increase my water intake to 2 gallons a day (which is no joke, especially without BCAAs and Crystal Light to flavor it). Other than that, my diet is the same as it has been for the past few weeks. (I’m carb cycling on an 8-day cycle of 3 days low/1 day medium/3 days low/refeed. But that’s a post for another day.)
A Day in the Life: Peak Week Day One
For those of you who are curious about what Peak Week looks like from the inside, I decided to write out my schedule for Day One.
6:00 am Wake up. (I don’t set my alarm, and this is late for me–which is great! I usually wake up between 4:30 and 5:00 during the last few weeks of contest prep.) I feed the cat and the dog, drink a cup of black coffee, and do my daily devotions. For me, starting the day with some quiet time is critical any day, but especially during this challenging week.
7:30 I wake up hungry, so by 7:30, I’m generally starving. (Why not just eat when I wake up? Because I try to keep to a set meal schedule throughout my contest prep.) I eat meal 1–a piece of Ezekiel bread, toasted, and 1/2 cup of scrambled egg whites. I start drinking my 2 gallons of water, which I will aim to finish by 8 pm.
8:00 First gym session. Today is my last regular strength workout–chest and arms. On the drive to the gym I deliberately avoid looking in the direction of Donut Mania, which I know harbors insanely delicious apple fritters, because there will be people walking out of there with giant pink boxes of delightfulness clutched in their arms. One more week, I tell myself. Water, water, water.
10:30 Back home, I eat meal 2–4 oz chicken, 1/4 cup jasmine rice, and a heap of green veggies (today: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and a few snow pea pods). More water. Much more water.
11:00 Back to the gym for session 2. My competition team takes a “yoga for jocks” class together. It’s difficult and hilarious–a room full of notoriously inflexible bodybuilders doing yoga is a sight to behold–but it works magic.
12:00 Third workout today–cardio! I’m still in the gym so I decide to get this out of the way now. I do 35 minutes on the AMT open stride machine, my favorite piece of cardio equipment. Alas, I start to fall behind on my water because the machine doesn’t have a cup holder large enough to accommodate my half-gallon jug.
1:30 I swing by Target on my way home to pick up cat food. I fall into a trance in front of the Oreo display and lose 10 minutes I will never get back. I fall even further behind on my water, because I am unwilling to schlep my plastic jug around Target, so it is sitting in the car rising to a temperature of about 212 degrees F.
2:00 Home for meal 3–a protein shake and 1/2 cup blueberries. I try to catch up on my water by using some of the 2 gallons to make my protein shake. This is cheating, of course. I then get to work. As a full-time freelancer, I’m always working on deadline. I’d love to take a nap, but not today. Deadlines don’t care about contest prep!
3:00 Weighted walking lunges. Now that the sun has dipped low enough that there’s a portion of my backyard in shade, I’ll strap on my weighted vest (which is 40#) and do my 200 walking lunges. I typically do these first thing in the morning, when it’s cooler, but today I got distracted with my Instagram feed (a rabbit hole of delicious food, and I fell right into it), so I have to do them now. It’s 111 degrees F. The dog usually paces me step for step. Not today. She’s lying on the patio, lolling her tongue dramatically. Now and then she lifts her head to gasp at me. I don’t feel sorry for her–she can go inside whenever she wants; she’s not obligated to suffer. Happily, today is the last time this week I’ll use the weight vest, though I’ll continue doing lunges right up until the day before the show.
3:30 Meal 4–4 oz ground turkey, 1/4 cup jasmine rice, more green veggies. This time, I throw in 75 g of spaghetti squash too because I’m damn hungry! At this point, I am *really* missing Crystal Light, which would definitely make drinking all this water less tedious. I observe that drinking water when you’re not thirsty feels like drowning.
4:00 I finally get to take a shower, now that all of my workouts for the day are completed. Showering during Peak Week involves lots of exfoliating in preparation for the infamous spray tan. (Exfoliating helps the skin absorb the tanning solution evenly, which prevents weird, unsightly blotches.) Exfoliating is tricky–too much and you’ll be left with minute scratches that show up when the tan is applied. Too little, and it will look like you’re wearing protective rollerblading gear on your knees, elbows, and ankles. First world problems, I know.
5:00 Water, water, water. Work, work, work. I cave in and have coffee–which I cannot count against my water balance, and therefore it pushes me further behind. No regrets.
6:30 Meal 5–4 oz chicken and salad. Still working. More water.
9:00 Meal 6–1/2 cup of low-fat cottage cheese and 12 almonds. Drinking half a gallon of water after 8 pm is a terrible idea because it means a bunch of extra trips to the bathroom during the night. Sigh.
10:00 Bedtime! Yes, it’s Saturday night, but I’m tired!
Day One of Peak Week in the books!