6 Days Out: First Day Of “Depletion Phase”


Sunday, October 9th, 2005. Today is the first day of the final week “depletion phase,” although, for me, it wasn’t really like “depletion,” it was just like a “business as usual low carb day,” combined with some quick, high volume, higher rep training and drinking a lot more water. Read today’s blog for the details.

“Depletion phase” for many bodybuilders is the first three days of the final week that they all dread. Why? Because many bodybuilders cut all or most of their carbs out for three days in a row and combine that with glycogen-depleting weight training in an effort to empty out muscle glycogen completely, which allows supercompensation (more muscle glycogen storage than normal) to take place the final three days of the final week. Let me tell you… zero carbs or even less than 100 grams of carbs a day really sucks (been there, done that, don’t want to go there again).

“I don’t deplete completely. I’ve done it before and flattened out to the point that even three full days of carbing up couldn’t compensate. Complete depletion is too harsh for me and I find it completely unnecessary. I was very flat last week just from regular reduced carb dieting (combined with a lot of cardio and hard weight training). If I were to deplete completely for three days this week, there would be nothing left of me to carb up come Wednesday morning! I would be even flatter than I was last week.

My goal this week is to “deplete” conservatively and then carb up heavily so I come in as full and vascular as possible. Combine that with squeezing out all the subcutaneous water (and getting it inside the muscle cell for greater muscle volume and fullness), and you have a winning package.

My depletion phase consists of simply taking three more low carb days (NOT “no carb” days). It’s just like my usual low carb – high carb diet cycle (same foods), just like I’ve been doing all along the past couple of months. That means about 140 grams of carbs today, Monday and Tuesday.

On Wednesday, I will start carbing up, and I will carb up for three full days (plus the morning of the show, so that’s 3.5 days in a row total), and I will take in MORE carbs per day than I have the entire four months I’ve been dieting – even on high carb days. This is where the supercompensation takes place.

“I’m not logging in the details of my lifting workouts this week, but they are very simple: straight sets of 12-15 reps, (slightly higher reps than normal), with short rest intervals, about 30-60 seconds between all exercises. No high intensity stuff. I did not push to failure on anything, always just short of failure, and going for as much of a pump as I can get.

Some people do a full body workout for complete muscle glycogen depletion on the Wednesday before a Saturday show, (or whenever their last workout is), but I find that unnecessary, and I continue with my regular body part split. I do make it a point to make my last leg workout at least 7 days before the show and my last ab workout at least 4-5 days before the show. Training these body parts too close to the show can sometimes smooth them out, and certainly no new muscle is going to be built at this point. Abdominal definition will not be improved with ab training in the final week, it will be improved by eliminating water retention.

I’ve reduced my cardio to one session of only 30 minutes today, and will stay with only one session of 30 minutes on Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday I will stop the cardio completely, and Wednesday will be my last weight training workout.

No training of any kind is done the Thursday and Friday before the show. If I train, it will just deplete all the glycogen from all the carbs I am taking in. The idea is to allow my muscles to fill up with carbs (glycogen) Wednesday through Saturday and expand them like balloons filling up with air, thus making them larger and harder, with “thinner skin” all at the same time.

The only training I do Thursday and Friday is to work on my posing – not so much the routine to music for the evening show, but the mandatory poses. Hard posing can help bring out the muscle hardness. It’s also important to practice the poses a lot to condition yourself for a potentially long prejudging. You never know how long you will be up there. Could be 5-10 minutes. Could be 30 minutes. It depends on how many competitors are in your class and how tough a decision it is for the judges.

Posing is REALLY hard work. Imagine flexing every single muscle in your entire body from your feet to your head 100% at the same time and HOLDING IT like that for 10 minutes straight (yeah, its HARD!) If you don’t condition yourself for this through practice, then when you get on stage you may be winded, you may cramp, you may shake uncontrollably, or you may simply not be able to hold the poses hard enough and long enough for the judges to see you fully flexed, looking your best (“relaxed” muscle looks soft… if you’re not flexing it, the judges aren’t seeing it!)

I’ve been practicing the mandatory poses for at least 15-20 minutes a day, twice a day, almost every day for several weeks now, and once a day prior to that. Because I’m a vain bodybuilder, I also pose and flex any time, anywhere that I happen to pass in front of a mirror… whether that’s the shopping mall, a restaurant, an elevator, wherever, and pretty much nonstop when I’m in the gym… especially if there’s a lot of people around… Gotcha! JUST KIDDING! (heh, heh, you thought I was serious there for a minute didn’t you 🙂

Anyhow, I’ll log back in on Tuesday to let you know how the depletion phase went. (it’s pretty boring stuff… chicken, egg whites, tuna, chicken, egg whites, tuna, broccoli, asparagus, salad, broccoli, asparagus, salad, repeat, repeat, repeat, and sneak a half a cup of oatmeal and a 5 oz yam in here and there (enough to make 140 grams of carbs a day) and there you have it. Like I said earlier, it’s just 3 more days of the usual low carb dieting.

One thing I’m going to do differently today during depletion phase this time, (at the suggestion of Richie), is that while my carbs are low again for these three days, I’m going to increase my fats higher than normal. This will keep my calories up a little higher, provide some additional energy and prevent me from flattening out too much. In addition to my usual “healthy fats” that come from flax or Udo’s oil, I will be keeping red meat in the diet every day and also adding several tablespoons of natural (no sugar) peanut butter. Yum! At least I have something to look forward to these three days, eh?

Oh… I almost forgot… Also, during these three depletion days today, Monday, and Tuesday (before the Saturday show), I will be drinking 3 gallons of water a day. I wrote about why I do this in a previous blog(see September 25th blog from the achives for more details). This is part of the final week protocol to ELIMINATE water retention… Yes, you read that right, drinking so much water for three days that your eyeballs float is part of coming in DRY on show day. By drinking more water than usual for three days, your body flushes out more water than usual, then when you cut the water back later in the week, it continues to excrete the water at an accelerated rate, leaving your muscular definition looking very “crisp” and “sharp” due to having no subcutaneous water retention.

I’ll log in again Wednesday to tell you about how I carb up and what I eat, etc.

P.S. I was 178 lbs today. If this year is anything like previous years that I competed, I will probably hover around this weight til Wednesday, then I’m sure it will drop quite a bit more when I reduce the water back to normal (wednesday and Thursday), and then even more by Friday and Saturday when I stop drinking water, except for sips with my food. Making middleweights is obviously goign to be no problem.

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Comments on 6 Days Out: First Day Of “Depletion Phase” Leave a Comment

October 14, 2005

Sayeed @ 12:48 am #

Hi Tom,
Really enjoying reading your blogs.
In , Chapter 1 on goal setting was a real motivator for me and I bet that is obviously what is getting you through the toughest phase of your program.
I have a questiona if you have a moment to answer:
Apart from cutting back on the water intake 48 hours prior to the contest, do you have any other techniques to natuarally lose subcutaneous water.
Can’t wait to see your contest pics, good luck (not that you will need it).

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