Operation Peak Week
In January 2012, I committed to Precision Nutrition, a year long program of nutrition coaching and physical training. Now that it is November, the program is coming to an end with a bang. We are scheduling an end of the year photo shoot to mark how far we’ve come and to celebrate our awesomeness in general. We’ve done quite a bit of experimentation as part of the program, trying to find what feels best for our body – paleo, low fat, plant-based diet, intermittent fasting, etc. One last experiment is the peak week… A bodybuilding style one-week long eating and training regime, designed to help our bodies look their best as we smile and wave for the camera.
While Precision Nutrition, in general, is based on developing intuitive eating habits, rather than rigid prescriptions about anything, for this one week, we have detailed food and water intake guidelines, a specific training protocol and a plethora of miscellaneous tips and tricks.
I first learned about the bodybuilding pre-competition protocols earlier this year, talking to Mike. As he was getting ready for a bodybuilding competition in the spring, I was curious about his diet and training. He trained twice a day, and ate every two hours – often the same thing for days… He snacked on raw spinach, and would have 10-15 raisins as a treat after especially difficult workouts. And here I thought I was crazy… 🙂
I remember him saying: “Losing ten pounds is easy. You can lose ten pounds in a week… You manipulate water, salt and carbohydrate intake… Who cares? It’s the keeping it off that counts.” I also remember talking to a female trainer at my gym, also a bodybuilding competitor, who mentioned gaining fifteen pounds in one week after the competition. When I gasped at the number, she laughed. “You just get back to normal”, she said. “The muscle definition you see at a competition lasts for a few hours. Nobody actually looks like that. As soon as you start eating normally, you go back to normal”.
The basic anatomy of a peak week includes increasing both water and salt intake and cutting out carbs in the first three days, and then cutting out both water and salt, while increasing carbs in the last three days before shoot.This macronutrient switcheroo together with muscle depleting workouts in the middle of the week results in a significantly more “cut” look for the day of the shoot. It’s called body-BUILDING for a reason. You literally design and create your body. The things you can do… it’s obsessive, crazy… amazing… intoxicating?
Here’s the thing. Learning all of this was a real eye opener for me. It was like finding out that the pictures of celebrities are often Photoshopped. It was a whole other layer of “not real”. The people I talked to who compete, will be the first ones to admit to that. You look your best during a photo shoot. There is nothing wrong with that. But it’s kind of like holding your gut in for pictures – it looks better, but it’s not sustainable. Eventually, you have to breathe out. And I find a strange sense of relief in knowing that. I find relief in knowing how much work, time, obsession, and sometimes, sheer biochemistry (not to mention photo-editing), goes into producing the images we see every day.
Don’t get me wrong – I like my amber ales, and lattes, and occasional cookie or two (or three or four). However, I do tend to take “try anything once” approach to life… More than once if I like it…:)
So this week will be pretty nuts. I have a photo shoot on Thursday with Tim, the talent behind my current Facebook and LinkedIn profile photos. Until then, peak week protocols. Three brutal workouts. Four to five meals a day, consisting of 1 serving of lean protein and green vegetables. No dairy. No carbs. No alcohol. No… well, pretty much anything else.
Mission of the week –> do my best, not go crazy (well, at least stay at the current level of crazy).
That Greek yogurt will taste pretty damn good on Friday morning.