Water Retention and Looking “Dry”
The more water that collects inbetween your skin and your muscles, the less defined and chiseled your physique will be. This effect can be observed after eating a salty meal, where this overload in sodium causes the body to retain excess fluid, causing a bloated and puffy appearance. This art of manipulating water levels can make a huge difference on stage and is usually the deciding factor in which bodybuilder finishes 6th or 1st.
You can apply the tricks in this post not just when entering competitions to get that edge over your fellow competitors; but also to social events i.e. wanting to look that extra bit shredded at the beach.
The first thing I should mention is that these techniques are for manipulating water and not fat. You need to be lean (under 10% body fat) for this to make a noticeable difference. If you are under 10% body fat and you successfully manipulate water levels effectively, you will go up a notch in terms of rippedness!
Ryan Terry’s Water Protocol
When I attended the BodyPower Expo 2014, I was lucky enough to have the chance to speak to Ryan Terry. Ryan is a USN sponsored athlete that was the first ever British mens physique IFBB PRO. He has won the Arnold Classic Mens Physique category and has been national champion of the UK, beating Rob Riches in the process.
With Ryan displaying exceptional conditioning whenever he competes, I was really intrigued to get an insight into his water manipulation techniques that have helped him beat the best of the best. Thus the advice given below is more or less what he does to peak for competitions/photoshoots.
Drink Water to Flush Out Water
The best way to flush water out the body is to actually drink more water. When you drink more water your body acts similar to a fountain. Then when you cut out all water consumption 24 hours before competition or your show time, then your body will continue to flush out water, making you appear increasingly “dry”.
After 24 hours passes, your body starts to retain water as your body is now aware that you’re not drinking, your dehydrated and so it must preserve water levels for all your bodily functions.
Ryan starts to increase his water intake 6 days out and increases his water intake by 1 liter each day. This is a really good tip. Some competitors decrease there water intake rather than increasing it; which will only decrease the flushing process. Ryan also said that by the last day he is drinking up to 12 liters of water. Extreme results, require extreme measures!
Carb Depleting and Loading
The point of carb depleting and loading is to eliminate water retention outside of the muscle cell. Carbs bind with water, thus by carb depleting you will be flushing this extracellular (outside the muscle cell) water retention; as well as intracellular (inside the muscle cell) water retention. This is why after carb depleting your muscle may temporarily shrink as there is less water inside the muscle cell.
When the body is carb (energy) depleted, studies have shown that glycogen fills the muscle cells more efficiently as the body craves these carbs. This results in more full, vascular muscles.
How to Carb Deplete
Having less than 20g per day and incorporating full body workouts with a high intensity is the best way to deplete glycogen stores. Circuits and supersets can work well during this period. A small calorie deficit will also help. If you have been dieting for a while, then you will most likely be depleted to a degree already.
How to Carb up
Natural carb sources should be used during this period. unnatural and refined carb sources aren’t optimal during this time. Honey for example is one of the best foods for increasing glycogen stores due to its desired 1:1 ratio of fructose to glucose.
Many increase their carbs by 200g+ during carb up days. My personal opinion is that the best way to truly get full muscles is to increase not only carbs, but calories.
This is exactly why many competitors comment that they look better the day after competition as they enjoyed some of their favourite treats after competition and happened to overeat. As a result they appear more vascular, dry and full the following day.
If you are worried about “spilling over”, then eating maintenance calories will also help you fill out. Spilling over – the theory that consuming too many carbs during carb up days will result in water retention outside the muscle cell.
Day 1: Carb Deplete – Less than 20g carbs per day. 9L of water
Day 2: Same. 10L of water
Day 3: Same. 11L of water
Day 4: Same. 12L of water
Day 5: Carb Load. Cut water up to 24 hours before your comp.
*Drink the same proportion of water as day before. Thus if you are to cut water out at 12pm, drink 6l of water before 12pm. If you are to cut water by 6pm, you would therefore drink 9 litres. This is the same ratio as the day before when you take in to account the hours of the day.
Day 6: (Day of Competition)
Some load on salt and some deplete salt before competition. Ryan Terry recommends cutting all salt/sodium out 72 hours before competition. The only potential problem with cutting salt is that the body reacts to this by raising aldosterone levels – which also causes water retention. I asked Ryan specifically about this and he said this happens after 72 hours, so anytime before then is fine.
When I asked for examples of diuretics he used during his prep Ryan revealed that he eats “shit loads of asparagus!” which is a powerful and natural diuretic. He also recommended dandelion and drinking a glass of red wine the night before competition. Alcohol is a natural diuretic and I think the choice of red wine is because of some of the health properties stemming from the high antioxidant content in grapes.
Ryan also recommended supplementing with vitamin C during your prep to keep cortisol levels low. When cortisol (stress) levels rise during prep, your body will naturally hold more water. Dose: 1000mg x2 daily.
Vitamin C will particularly help when you’re depleting carbs because cortisol levels tend to rise during this period as your body’s energy stores are low.