Ask The Trainer #91 – Cutting Water Before A Competition


Hey, I had a question about peaking for my first physique competition coming up here in about 2 weeks. How many days out should I cut my water? Some guys have told me I should cut water 1 week out, some have told me 2-3 days out from the contest. I’m going to begin carb loading 3 days out. Right now I feel my conditioning is pretty good. I would like to get a little harder and fill out just a little more if I can. I would appreciate your thoughts. Thanks in advance.



Hi, Dave. I’m going to pitch this to you gently. DO NOT CUT YOUR WATER!!! ABORT MISSION!!! I REPEAT, ABORT MISSION!!! Sorry, that’s just my first reaction when people who are peaking for a physique event tell me they’re going to cut their water!

Let me explain…

Your muscle tissue is approximately 75% water. Of course, the premise behind carb loading is to initiate the synthesis of glycogen (stored carbohydrates) into your muscle tissue, which will help the muscles fill out, expanding against the fascia and skin, to give your muscles a harder, more voluminous appearance when you get pumped up.

This next point is very important! Muscle cells retain 3 to 4 parts of water for every 1 part of glycogen. So, for every gram of glycogen in your muscles, it will bind to 3-4 grams of water.

Now, what happens when you begin carb loading 3 days away from your contest and stop drinking water at the same time? Simple: There won’t be enough water in your system for glycogen synthesis.

Imagine, for example, trying to make Jello without adding any water to the powder. Even if you followed the other directions precisely, you still wouldn’t end up with the proper finished product. So, when you cut your water while carb loading, your muscles will look much like that Jello mixture without any water. That is— flat, smooth, and depleted.

Chad Shaw

Another important point is that when you cut your water too early, you will inadvertently cause subcutaneous water retention (which is water retained between the muscles and the skin). This would be your worst nightmare by having your muscle detail suddenly vanish because of some dumb theory.

When you shut off your body’s supply of water, it doesn’t take long for it to release high levels of the hormone known as vasopressin. This is an anti-diuretic hormone that stimulates the kidneys to conserve water, which, in turn, causes your body to retain more subcutaneous water. Therefore, the less water you put into your body, the more water your body will retain.

That being said, I recommend you drink your normal supply of water right until the night before your competition. During the day you will drink your normal supply of water. However, about 4 hours before bed, you should stop any water and only drink when you’re thirsty.

The day of the show, you should follow the same protocol you did the night before the show. Just drink water whenever you feel thirsty, but do not force down lots of it. This way, you will have enough in your system to prevent dehydration, or subcutaneous water retention, but not enough to cause any temporary bloating. Make sense?

One last thing that I want to mention is that from this point on, anything you do prior to your competition, do it minimally. For example, when you carb load, maybe include a yam with each of your main meals. Don’t go crazy and stuff yourself with pasta, rice, potatoes, bread, candy, etc.

In fact, you could EFX Sports Karbolyn for this too. It works amazingly well for carb loading before a physique or bodybuilding show.

Finally, don’t try eating a bunch of candy, or chowing down a burger right before your competition either. These last-minute tricks that might help you look maybe half a percent better will generally backfire and cause you to look several percentages worse. (I can attest to this fact based on my own experience!)

I wish you all the best with your upcoming competition!

Prove ‘Em Wrong,
Chad Shaw

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