Written by Fakhri Mubarak
26 March 2018


Getting Hard & Dry at Contest Time

Banishing the Water Demon



Water is the most important nutrient in your body. The average amount of water in the adult body is 50 to 65 percent water, averaging around 57 to 60 percent. The percentage of water in infants is much higher, typically around 75 to 78 percent, dropping to 65 percent by age one. Body composition varies according to gender and fitness level, because fatty tissue contains less water than lean tissue. The average adult male is about 60 percent water. The average adult woman is about 55 percent water because women naturally have more fatty tissue than men. Overweight men and women have more water, as a percent, than their leaner counterparts.

 Let’s assume you worked your butt off and your body fat is between 3 to 5 percent onstage. As you can see, your body is very dependent on water and needs it to function. Many competitors trying to get that last-minute edge by pulling water find that it often leads to disaster. They end up looking flat, depleted, soft and watery onstage, no matter how low their body fat is. Why does this happen?

 Don’t Cut Water Too Early

 The biggest mistake a competitor can make is cutting water way too early. To the beginner, it’s as simple as the less water you drink, the less water your body will hold. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. The first thing that will happen is the competitor will flatten out. You want water to fill up your muscles with intercellular water, and limit extracellular water. The human body maintains a 70/30 ratio of intercellular to extracellular water as it functions day to day. When you limit your water, you are increasing aldosterone levels. Aldosterone is a hormone that increases the reabsorption of sodium ions and extracellular water. Aldosterone acts on the kidneys to conserve water and sodium for bodily functions. This increases water retention, and blurs out your muscles because of the layer of extracellular water under your skin. Water is also a natural diuretic.

 As a competitor, you always need to keep your water high. I recommend to my male clients 1.5 gallons a day all year long. Ten days before the show, I’ll bump up their water to two gallons per day if they can handle it. You have to hydrate your body before you begin to pull water or you will flatten out. In addition, increasing water tricks your body when you start cutting back on water as you get closer to the show— so it makes drying out a lot easier. Your body will get used to the high amount of water, so any decline in water intake will “dehydrate” your body and tighten up your skin.

 Reduce Water Gradually

 Four days before the show, start cutting your water by one-quarter of a gallon per day. During these days, most likely you will be carb-loading (not every prep is the same). As you carb-up, you want to continually drink water. I recommend drinking your water only with meals and while you’re still training and doing cardio.

 The day before the show is when most people make the mistake to cut off their water too early. Here’s where you should be honest with yourself and/or have a person like a coach on your side to give you an honest opinion of how you look. If you’re getting fuller and drier, you could start reducing the water to one cup per meal. A good way to determine this is to feel how hard and dense your muscles are. If you are hard and you’re drying out, that means your body could do with less water and still stay full. If your muscles are soft although your body fat is low, that means you still need to get the water in to help form muscle glycogen. Just be VERY CAREFUL because you could easily spill over and ruin your whole prep in a short time.

The day of the show is crucial. For the most part you won’t be drinking much water but again, keep your body in front of the mirror to determine your needs. I recommend minor sips just to get the food down. After prejudging, go eat and hydrate yourself a little more. You could have 10 ounces of water right after prejudging, and with your meals have a little diet soda only. Make sure you don’t come back to the show looking smooth and soft. Judges and fans don’t like that. No matter what level you compete at, always maintain the utmost professionalism and present your best physique onstage.