Are you fat or are you lean? What do you mean you’re not sure? You’re not fat, but you’re not exactly ripped either? Somewhere in the middle?
Many people have the same problem, even those who train hard and watch their diets. They’re probably what we call “levels 2’s” — certainly not fat, but not exactly cut either.
You see, we believe there’s more than one level of leanness. And there’s a big difference between being “not fat” and being jaw-dropping shredded.
The 4 Levels of Leanness
Here are the levels below. We’ve tried to find a physique photo that somewhat represents each level:
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 involves not only a very low level of body fat, but also a certain extent of “dryness.” This is a term that comes from competitive bodybuilding. Bodybuilders manipulate their water intake and carb intake, then take diuretics (both herbal and/or pharmaceutical) to get rid of “water 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.
It’s very, very tricky, and the difference between first and fifth place often comes down to which guy gets his final week of “drying out” right and which one screws it up.
In the non-bodybuilding world, actors often use these fluid manipulation techniques before a shirtless scene or photo shoot in order to look their leanest. We don’t know for sure, but we bet Ryan Reynolds did something like this for his infamous display of low body fat in the movie Blade Trinity.
A lot of times we “accidentally” manipulate our subcutaneous fluid levels. Ever wake up one day, catch a glimpse of yourself in the bathroom mirror and think, “Wow, I’m ripped!” Then, two days later, you look in the mirror again and look “fat” or at least softer and kinda bloated?
Obviously you didn’t gain that much adipose tissue in two days. The reverse wouldn’t happen either: you can’t go to bed chubby and wake up lean. Yet something is happening, and it’s visible to the naked eye.
Most of the time (barring a mild allergic reaction or something) this is due to “water weight” fluctuations. You just happened to eat and drink a certain way, or train a certain way, that leads to you dropping or retaining a couple of pounds of fluid.
Well, below we’ll tell you step by step how to drop several pounds of water and get that ripped look on purpose. It ain’t exactly easy, but the results can be quite dramatic!
Real World Water Manipulation
By adopting a trick or two from competitive bodybuilders, you can learn to control this phenomenon and use it tactically when you want to look your leanest. It could be used to “peak” before a day at the pool or the beach, for example.
The tricks and techniques contained in this article are designed to get you from Level 2 to Level 3, or from Level 3 to Level 4. Most people will drop several pounds of water weight in just six days, causing them to look leaner and, if done correctly, more vascular and pumped.
Warning: These techniques will not make you look “ripped” if you’re fat! While most people can drop a pound of fat along with the water in these six days, this is not primarily a “diet.” It’s designed to help already lean people get super lean, to basically bump from one level of leanness to the next.
But if you’re just plain chubby, then this is not the program for you. Lose the fat first, then worry about subcutaneous water, tubby!
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 secret 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 aren’t going to add any muscle in six days, so don’t worry about it. The goal instead is to get yourself glycogen depleted. Do this and by the end of the week your muscles will soak up the carbs and inflate drastically.
The Level 4 Leanness Plan
This schedule assumes a Saturday bodybuilding competition, photo shoot, or day at the beach.
Monday: 2.5 to 3 gallons of water, 50g of carbs or less
Tip: Buy three one gallon containers of water with a handle. This will let you visually know exactlyhow much water you have left to go. And the handle makes it easy to carry around with you everywhere — which you’ll pretty much have to do to get in three gallons!
Friday: Begin a gradual carb-up. Today eat five or six meals, each containing 50-75g of 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. We believe that 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.
Now the “fun” begins. 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 contains carbs derived from simple sugars: pancakes and syrup, pie filling, waffles, chocolate, etc.
Along with this simple sugar meal, have two tablespoons of vegetable glycerine (found in most health food stores). Also on Friday, take an herbal diuretic such as Taraxatone. Although the proper thing to do is go by the label directions with these type of products, best results are usually achieved by taking three servings on Friday: one about an hour or two before you cut water intake, one when you cut intake, and one before bed.
Another trick is to take an Epsom salt bath (400g of Epsom salt in very hot water) for 20-30 minutes before bed. This is what European bodybuilders did to help shed water before diuretics became popular. (The salt and mega hot bat drastically increase perspiration.)
Saturday (photo or beach day): Breakfast depends on how you look.
• Looking flat? Have another simple sugar meal.
• Looking good? Small portion of fruit and protein.
• Holding water? Protein only (shake with very little water).
Forty-five minutes before pumping up for your shoot, take in two tablespoons of glycerol in one can of full-sugar soda.
Your week’s supplies.
The goals of the low-carb days with super high water intake are to deplete glycogen to better supercompensate later on, but the real goal is to put the body into water flushing mode. Doing both for five days turns you into a fountain: your body simply flushes everything you drink. (Not a good week to take a long car trip. Or see a movie. Or go anywhere where a bathroom is more than 20 feet away.)
When you suddenly cut your water on Friday, you’re still in heavy flushing mode. As a result, you’ll dry up significantly by flushing and not drinking.
A gram of carbohydrate pulls 2.7g of water into the muscle. So if you carb up when you’re in flushing mode and not drinking, where do you think this 2.7g of water will come from? Beneath your skin, of course!
By the way, the glycerol recommended is a plasma expander, meaning that it pulls water into it.
When you consume this thick, sickly sweet liquid, it basically goes to the muscles and pulls water into it. Since you’re not drinking any water at the time, the water that’s attracted to the glycerol will come from beneath your skin. So, you’ll look dryer and fuller at the same time!
Remember, our goal here is glycogen depletion, not muscle gain, although the “shock effect” of this style of training is certainly challenging to the body.
Monday: Full Body Workout
• Sets of 10-12 reps
• 3020 rep tempo (That’s a three-second negative or eccentric, no pause, a two-second lifting portion or concentric, no pause, repeat.)
• 6-8 sets per muscle group
• 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
A1. Quad exercise, 10-12 reps
30 seconds rest
A2. Hamstring exercise, 10-12 reps
30 seconds rest
Repeat 6-8 times
B1. Back exercise, 10-12 reps
30 seconds rest
B2. Chest exercise, 10-12 reps
30 seconds rest
Repeat 6-8 times
C1. Triceps exercise, 10-12 reps
30 seconds rest
C2. Biceps exercise, 10-12 reps
30 seconds rest
Repeat 6-8 times
Note: It’s best to do more sets of the same exercise than to use many exercises.
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
• Faster tempo: 2010
Wednesday: Upper Body Only
• 15-20 reps
• 2010 tempo
• 6-8 sets per muscle group, 30 seconds rest between alternative sets.
• Replace lower body work with shoulder work (dumbbell press alternated with bent over laterals for example.)
Thursday: Off Day or HIIT Day
No weight training today, but you may perform some HIIT-style cardio (intervals) to flush water and increase insulin sensitivity. This is the only day of the week you’ll perform any type of cardio.
Friday Morning: Muscle Emphasis
If there’s a muscle you want to emphasize on Saturday, train it on Friday morning, but de-emphasize the eccentric or negative portion of the movement as much as possible. Basically, perform sets of 12-15 reps in rhythmic, fairly fast fashion for 10-12 sets.
This will lead to more glycogen surcompensation in that muscle group so the next day it will look more full.
It’s time to pump up before your photo shoot or “unveiling” at the pool. Here’s some guidelines:
1. If you over-pump, you’ll have a lack of separation. If you under-pump, you’ll look smaller. So, perform resistance training just enough to get a small pump and some vascularity going. This is especially true for the arms.
2. Don’t pump up the legs; they look better unpumped.
3. Focus most of your pumping energies on shoulders and chest. It’s pretty much impossible to over-pump your shoulders, so nail ’em good!
4. If you have a choice, keep the temperature in the room high. This facilitates the pump and keeps you pumped for longer.
Note: If you don’t have it, you won’t get it by pumping for 30 minutes! Pumping only highlights and polishes the physique. Again, if you’re not lean enough, nothing — not water manipulation or pumping or lighting tricks — is going to help you.
4 Common Peaking Mistakes
Physique peaking and manipulating hydration is easy to screw up. In fact, even the top guys screw this up 25% of the time. Here are the most common mistakes:
Mistake #1: Not being lean enough to begin with
Playing with your water and glycogen levels can enhance the look of an already lean physique. It’s the icing on the cake, so to speak, providing you with fuller muscle bellies, more separation, and enhanced vascularity.
But, if you’re still a fat ass, then peaking strategies aren’t going to do much for you! If you aren’t below 10% body fat, don’t even bother! A lot of bodybuilders blame their peaking procedures on their shitty stage appearance, saying that they were “retaining water.” No, they were retaining fat!
Guidelines: At between 8 and 10%, you’ll see some decent improvements, but not super drastic. If you’re between 6 and 8%, these techniques will make a marked difference in your appearance. And finally, if you’re below 6% they’ll leave you floored by the dramatic visual difference!
Mistake #2: Screwing with your mineral balance
Don’t fart with your sodium intake! Many people sodium load for a few days, then sodium deplete and potassium load for the last few days of their peaking procedure. Do not do this!
It sounds simple enough: Sodium makes you hold subcutaneous water, and potassium favors retaining water in the muscles, right? Yes, technically, but it’s much more complex than that. The body wants a proper mineral balance. If you drastically cut one mineral and bump up another one, you play with that balance and chances are you’ll screw up.
Basically, you have a 50/50 chance of getting this right. You could very easily look much worse by toying with mineral balance. Now, you can avoid salting your foods in those last few days, but that’s it.
Mistake #3: Cutting water intake too soon
Note that we only begin to cut our water intake in the afternoon on Friday (taking in only about a half gallon on Friday AM.) Many people attempt to cut fluid intake a full two days before an event, but this leads to deflated-looking muscles.
Cutting water intake too soon can also make you hold water because your body will upregulate its aldosterone levels, which will prevent flushing sodium and water out of your system. And oh yeah, not drinking anything for a couple of full days might just be unhealthy!
Mistake #4: Cutting water intake gradually
Many people will over-consume water (three gallons or more) for the first two or three days, then gradually decrease water over the next three or four days. This is another mistake. By gradually reducing water intake you lose the benefit of the flushing mode.
Why? Because over the two or three days of gradually reducing water intake, the body will adapt and bring its aldosterone levels back to normal. So you’re flushing a lot of water at the beginning of the week, but very little at the end (when you really need to).
The best approach is to suddenly cut your water so that your body stays in ”flushing mode” even when no water is coming in.
It takes most people a couple of tries to perfect these techniques and customize them to how their body reacts. (For example, you may need two days to carb-up.) So play around with it until you figure out what works best for you.
Whether you’re peaking for a bodybuilding competition or you just want to look a little better for the pool party on Saturday, these techniques can get you there!