We often get asked if our photos are photoshopped. Everyone wants to know the secret behind a ripped ab shot.
Aside from a good photographer and some essential grooming, you have to make sure that you are eating the right diet in the final week prior to the photoshoot (often referred to as peak week) if you want to look shredded.
But before we delve into the specifics of peak week, we need to remind you of one unavoidable fact.
That fact is, if you’re not already lean enough one week out, you’re not going to be looking ripped on the day!
You have to give yourself enough time to strip off excess body fat. Even drastic measures such as water and salt manipulation, or crazy amounts of cardio, cannot make up for a fat loss phase that is too short.
So, before you even start worrying about the final week, find out how long you need to get lean and give yourself at least this length of time.
Now we’ve established that fact, let’s take a quick look at what a photoshoot is actually like by going behind the scenes on our latest shoot — they can be a lot of fun!
So hopefully that’s got you hyped up for your up and coming shoot! Let’s now delve into the peak week diet…
What’s the aim of peak week?
The goal of peak week is simply to make sure you’re looking your absolute best on the day of the photoshoot.
What it’s not is a miracle last-minute method to lose fat.
The hard work in the months prior to the photoshoot determines 95% of your photoshoot shape. Getting peak week right is simply getting that final 5% to make you look your absolute best.
So how do you get that final 5%?
The peak week diet
When you diet for fat loss, you will almost always reduce your carbohydrate intake. This helps with fat loss but it can also make your muscles look much smaller over time (sometimes referred to as being ‘flat’).
To combat this, you want to increase the amount of carbohydrate you eat in the final week before your shoot. This is called carb loading.
However, you can’t just eat as many carbs as possible in peak week — this will end in disaster!
If you eat too many carbohydrates, you can ‘spill over’ which ruins your definition and makes you look soft and spongy.
‘Spilling over’ is where you eat more carbohydrates than your muscles can store. This causes excess glucose to move into the space between your muscles and your skin, blurring definition byacting like a soft blanket draped over your muscles.
So how do you know how many carbs you need to eat and when to eat them? There are two key approaches…
The two peak week diet approaches
There are two main approaches when it comes to the peak week diet:
- Carb front loading — where you eat the majority of carbs towards the beginning of the week.
- Carb back loading — where you eat the majority of carbs towards the end of the week.
We have experimented with both methods and both work, but one is much less stressful than the other!
When you carb back load, you don’t find out whether you’re approach has worked (or if you’ve totally messed it up) until the day of the photoshoot.
When you carb front load, you can see how your body reacts a few days before the shoot and then tweak things to make sure you’re looking bang on when it comes to shoot day. Unsurprisingly this is far less stressful!
So now you know the basics, you probably want to know how to put them into action.
Day-by-day guide to peek week
Here’s a day-by-day breakdown for carb front loading, based on what we have found works best:
7 days out:
This is the last day of your fat loss diet. Your carbs will probably be at their lowest and protein may be a little higher than usual to compensate.
Here’s an example (these number will obviously vary depending on the individual!):
6 days out:
This is the start of the carb front loading. Increase carbs a little and your protein and fat intake can drop a bit as a result.
5 days out:
This will be your highest carb day. Carbs can be increased to about 3 times the amount you were eating in the week prior to peak week.
Keep getting your carbs from good healthy sources (sweet or regular potato, basmati rice or oats) and eat plenty of veg as normal. You can reduce your protein and fats as you’re now eating more calories from carbs.
4 days out:
Now you can start reducing your carb intake.
If your muscles look a bit soft and less defined, reduce your carbs by more, but if you still appear quite small and ‘flat’ then reduce carbs by less.
3 days out:
Keep reducing your carbs following the same rules as yesterday — reduce carbs more if you look soft and less defined and reduce carbs less if you feel too ‘flat’.
You can increase protein and fats again to make up for the reduced calories from carbs.
2 days out:
This will be your lowest carb day.
You can increase protein and fats again as we have found this helps keep you feeling full and energised.
If you’re organising any aspect of the photoshoot yourself, you also better check out our guide on how to prepare for a fitness photoshoot at this point.
1 day out:
This is your final mini carb load.
Increase carbs by less if you already feel pretty full and muscular and increase them by more if you’re feeling a bit flat.
To avoid bloating, minimise your intake of foods high in fibre (such as fruit and vegetables), plus anything you know will bloat you out (such as bread, for example).
Once you get to the day of the photoshoot there’s no need to count calories.
A couple of hours before you start shooting, try to eat a low fibre carb-heavy meal. We have found that half a medium-sized margherita pizza works well although there are plenty of other options.
Throughout the day, only eat low-fibre carbs to avoid any bloating — this means you can have a lot of fun eating what you usually wouldn’t!
Every 1-2 hours we consume the following to keep us looking our best and feeling energised:
- Sugary snacks (Mars bars and Milky Way bars worked well for us).
- Rice cakes with honey and peanut butter.
Don’t worry about protein intake – your muscles won’t waste away with just one day eating low protein!
But what about water and salt?
There’s a lot of talk about water and salt, but you’re not doing a bodybuilding show here, you’re doing a photoshoot!
Fitness photoshoots can actually be seriously tiring!
They usually involve tensing your muscles and holding weights in awkward positions for minutes on end, so the last thing you want is chronic cramp or total exhaustion due to lack of water or salt!
Plus, water is what makes muscles appear big and full. Think of beef jerky compared to a big steak — the jerky is dried out, small and stringy whereas the steak is full of water and is big and full!
The general consensus is that messing with these too much will only make you look and feel worse.
We just drink normal amounts of water up until the day of the shoot where we then try to only drink as much water as we need to feel good. Just sipping on a little water every time you feel thirsty is a good approach — avoid chugging down litres of the stuff as this could bloat you.
Whilst there’s a lot to take in, the key takeaway from this article is not actually about peak week at all!
“Fail to prepare or prepare to fail” is what we really want you to remember!
You’ve gotta give yourself enough time to strip off excess body fat before you even start worrying about peak week. We have always looked our most shredded as a result of a well-planned and executed cutting phase!
If you’re not sure how to go about planning and executing a cutting phase, check out our tried & tested fat loss plans — they will walk you through the entire process and handle every aspect of your diet and training.
Good luck with your photoshoot!