Peak Week Carb Loading

bodybuilding carbload peakweek Jul 09, 2020

So you have completed all of the hard work that a contest prep requires and I am going to assume you are lean enough to gain benefit from the manipulation of carbohydrates within a ‘peak week’ but you are unsure on how to set up your week ahead

Here are 4 methods of consideration for peaking with carbohydrate (CHO) manipulation

Let me start off by saying that this is a surface look at CHO manipulation, and is not a specific recommendation. Furthermore, le me also say that the approach you may take is individually specific.

How many grams of carbohydrate you use with each strategy is both dependent on your body weight and your diet history throughout the entire prep, so I won’t be giving specifics there.

In saying that, I thought it would be helpful to at least outline some of the potential approaches you can take when titrating your CHO consumption within a peak week.

The 4 approaches that I use for CHO peaking are:

  1. The front Load
  2. The back load
  3. Undulated load
  4. No load

The Front Load

This is likely the safest approach in that it comes with a low risk of looking worse. As the name suggests, you eat the majority of your CHO at the front end of peak week.

This may be as little as 1 high CHO day followed by 6 lower days or could be doing 3-4 days of higher CHO prior to moving back to your dieting calories.

How many grams per day and how many days in total, depends on the individual.

You would use this method on somebody who seems to tolerate CHO reasonably well but often looks better a few days after a refeed, or on a client that you have no prior experience with and don't want to risk feeding too many CHO too.

Note: In this example, Sunday would be 'show day'

The Back Load

The backload potentially offers the most drastic change in a 24hr period but comes with the added risk of making a mistake by eating too much or too little CHO.

As the name suggests, this is the inverted version of the front load and means you will be loading your CHO 1-2 days out from show day.

For those who are smart enough to use refeed data, this will be safer than going off bodyweight parameters (10g per kg for example), but if you do choose to go all out and ‘risk it for the biscuit’ then it may work well.

You would only use this approach on someone you have experience with and know they tolerate carbohydrates well. It is also typically preceded by a 'depletion' phase where you look to use up intramuscular carbohydrate in order to fill it back up in a super-compensatory manner, however, this can mean you never 'fill back out' properly also.

A heavy backload is a typically high reward but high-risk approach.

Note: In this example, Sunday would be 'show day'

Undulated Load

Undulated loading means exactly that… high, moderate and low CHO days consumed in an undulated fashion across the course of 7-14 days.  This is my favourite approach but it takes a little more experience to get right.

With this approach, you have the opportunity to have extremely high days of CHO to maximise super-compensation at the front end of the week, as well as repeat high days as well to maximise replenishment but you also get the 'safety' of having days up your sleeve to fix any mistakes.

There is a certain art to this approach but when done right it results in a very muscularly full physique, that is also separated and detailed.

This is the most time and energy-expensive method but for me, yields very good results consistently.

Note: In this example, Sunday would be 'show day'

No Load

And finally, the no-load, ‘load’.

The name again, says it all. You don’t manipulate CHO at all and instead, you just cruise on in to show day without any CHO manipulation. Not everyone looks ‘flat’ without a CHO load and sometimes being a little tighter can make you look bigger.

If you are someone who doesn’t seem to respond consistently well when given high carb days, I would suggest just dieting all the way into your show. Similarly, if the stress of a peak week typically rises for you, often an attempted load can end up making you look worse.

Note: In this example, Sunday would be 'show day'

👉🏻  Final Words

One thing that I will add to finish this off though is this…

If you want those CHO to be stored as glycogen, you need water and salt.

The more you mess with those two things, the higher the likelihood your CHO load will turn to absolute shit so don’t mess with them unless you have a VERY good understanding of how electrolytes impact the look and performance of a physique.

Peak week is about reducing the accumulated allostatic load in order to drive CHO replenishment up while driving extracellular fluid out. 

The best way to achieve this is with electrolyte homeostasis and a low-stress environment.