Several past articles in Applied Metabolics have focused on in-depth, science-based methods of contest preparation. However, these past articles have looked at the big picture of contest prep for various types of bodybuilding contests. A new study examined in minute detail the various techniques used by male and female natural bodybuilders in the final days leading up to their contest appearances. The last few days, often called "peaking" are critical to the competitive success of bodybuilders. I know this having competed myself, and I've also witnessed other bodybuilders whose final preparations for a contest went terribly wrong. I will analyze the techniques described in the new study about peaking for natural bodybuilders and also discuss a few techniques that can be improved. Bodybuilders tend to be "follow the crowd" types in that they often use techniques that have been used by many other bodybuilders in the belief that such techniques have a proven track record of success. Unfortunately, many such techniques are based more on the proverbial 'Bro science rather than established, evidence-based techniques. That being said, it's also true that bodybuilders should be credited with pioneering some exercise and nutrition techniques used in other sports and activities. This includes low carbohydrate dieting and using more isolated abdominal exercises that don't involve the hip flexor muscles.
The ideal contest appearance involves the lowest possible body fat levels coupled with the most retention of muscle mass. Some muscle is inevitably lost during the course of contest prep as a result of stringent dieting techniques. The key to success is minimizing the lean mass loss while ridding the body of superfluous body fat. Accomplished such a goal is easier for those who use drugs, such as anabolic steroids and growth hormones. The steroids retain muscle mass while promoting the use of body fat as a fuel source. Growth hormone, contrary to popular belief, is not so much an anabolic hormone (except for those who are deficient in GH release) as a muscle retention hormone. This point was abundantly clear at the 1990 Mr.Olympia contest. That contest, held in Chicago, remains the only drug-tested Mr.Olympia event. I covered that show for a bodybuilding magazine and interviewed most of the competitors. When I asked them how they were dealing with the impending drug testing at the show, most replied that they had either reduced or completely stopped using anabolic steroids anywhere from one to two weeks prior to the contest. They believed that the drugs would be cleared out of their bodies in that time frame. But I also noticed another trend. Some of the competitors had cut out all steroids but used growth hormone up to the show. Their rationale for this was that while GH would not add further muscle mass, it would "freeze" the muscle mass they had already accumulated, preventing any loss of muscle mass caused by the elimination of steroid usage. This . . .