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Fitness photo shoot prep

A couple weeks ago I had a fitness shoot done by Tropical Hainan's resident photographer, Jake Canning. I had been working on getting back into shape for several months and when he approached me with the idea I got very excited. I decided to take the opportunity to get the most muscular and lean look I could within 2 weeks. This is something they call a "Peak Week" in the bodybuilding world and I decided to give it a go again for the first time in 2 years. To be honest, it's not really the most thrilling week ever, and requires a fair amount of hard work and some diet manipulation. Just a few notes before talking about my peak week. A few words to be known are: glucose, glycogen, carbohydrates(carbs for short) and supercompensation. I could talk about these terms and why they are important for hours, but I'll try not to bore you with too many details!


Glucose - quite simply put, is blood sugar. It is what fuels the body and gives you energy at different intensities of exercise.

Glycogen - is glucose which is stored in the muscles. Glycogen levels decrease when muscle groups as muscles are put under stress (exercised).

Carbohydrates - are one of the 3 macronutrients along with protein and fat. Carbs are broken down into sugar (or glucose and glycogen).

Supercompensation - occurs when the body is deprived of carbohydrates as glycogen levels depleted, then is refilled with a large influx of carbs.


Phew! Ok, now that that's done, let's get on to the week.



Looking pretty good as a starting point, but determined to look at least a little bit better for the shoot.


Step 1, 10-4 days out: I began loading up on sodium and increased my water intake drastically (around 7-8 litres). The point of this was to get my body into a state where it would retain a substantial amount of water, which eventually encourages a diuretic effect (lots of trips to the bathroom, #1 of course). It was around halfway through this time (7 days out from the shoot) that Jake and I did a practice session as per his suggestion to work out any kinks.


Not looking too bad, but definitely a bit softer and less defined than when I started. This is because of the amount of water I was retaining. Usually you'll end up looking a little worse before you start looking better. Jake is extremely good, so he was able to make me look better with some good lighting...


Step 2, 7-4 days out: At this time I reduced my carb intake to practically nothing. I also changed my workouts to full body high-rep routines. The point of this was to burn off as much glycogen as possible. I increased the amount of fat and protein to make sure I still had enough fuel in the tank to hit the gym hard. I ate a lot of vegetables as well, to fill up my stomach.


By the 4th end of the 4th day, I had burned off most of my glycogen and was looking a little bit smaller than usual. My muscles were not quite as full due to the lack of stored glycogen, which leads to the next step.


Step 3, 3 days out: I decreased my sodium intake 4 days out so my body would stop retaining so much water... Now the fun part!! The morning of the 3rd day out from the shoot my body was depleted of glycogen and was screaming to be replenished. I woke up early and did as many push-ups, pull-ups, jump squats and lunges I could muster on no food. Right after that workout I started eating A LOT of carbs. About 2x the amount I normally eat (about 500 grams). Since I was so depleted, the carbs were shuttled to my muscles as they were digested. Thus, supercompensation had begun!


Step 4, 2-1 day out: Here I began monitoring my body and how it responded to carbs. If you eat too many, it will cause what they call in bodybuilding "spill over" which basically means your muscles are full and having any more carbs will make you look less defined. Carbs also cause the body to retain water, so over these last few days I reduced my water intake to around 2 litres by the last day. During this time I didn't work out at all, as I didn't want to burn off any glycogen. 


The morning of the shoot and damn was I happy.... Except for my Sideshow Bob hair in the pic on the right. Muscles were looking tight and full, and my definition was on point. I was ready.


Last step, the day of the shoot: I woke up and ate about 4 PB&J sandwiches before heading to Jake's for the shoot. Just wanted to have a good amount of sodium and carbs before stepping in front of the camera. Makes you look just that slight amount more full. Pre-shoot I hardly drank any water, just a few sips as needed to keep myself from passing out or anything stupid like that. 



Some of the photos from the shoot. Jake did an incredible job and I am super satisfied with the results of the shoot. I was also thrilled to chug a bottle of water, go out for some drinks and eat a lot of McDonalds... Don't judge me, I was hungry.


Anyway, this is an extreme approach to dieting and should only be done by those who are already quite lean so that they can see the effects of it more clearly. Be careful not to rebound and put all that weight back on by going on a bender right after the shoot! I have been victim to that pitfall in the past and almost fell back into it again this time. That being said, this method is a very effective way to prep for a photo shoot and I recommend it to those whom are looking for a little extra edge. 

Justindrums 11.07.2017 1 251
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  •  Patrick: 

    Hey Justin,

    Great post, it's a window into a completely different world..... 

    But your hair deserves a post all of its own, it's like something that belongs in "Little Shop of Horrors"... I swear that foliage has a life of its own :) 

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