Since it it is that time of the year, one of the questions I get a lot these days is a cry for help along the lines
” Hey Maik, I am having a pool party tomorrow/in three hours/next week and I need to look great.”

There I wrote this outline which should be helpful to anyone who is competing or simply wants to look great for a specific event. However, instead of laying out another dull training/diet/cardio routine, I want to point out the 4 biggest mistakes people usually make when prepping.

1. Time
You must give yourself enough of the above. Most people underestimate how long it takes to get in beach shape.
As a general rule, if you don’t have abs at the start of the diet, plan for 12-14 weeks. Otherwise you’ll have to crash diet, which will cause muscle loss and you’ll end up looking smooth and flat ( in addition to becoming a public menace).
At same time, being in shape early will give you a chance to post as many facebook updates as your friends can handle.
Lets assume you did everything right and need just that little bit of an extra push for the last week

The last week
Here is where most people get confused and end up damaging themselves greatly by following some obscure last-minute sodium/carbohydrate/water depletion/loading scheme with the result that they look worse than before.
Now, to be clear water, salt and carbs will have an effect on your appearance but a proper loading scheme will only make a good physique look great.
It will not turn a mediocre body into contest shape over 7 days. In short, athletes who win shows look great the week before already. With that being said, lets cover the big three briefly.

2. Carbohydrates:
Most athletes consume very few carbs the week before an event in order to deplete, and start carb loading on Thursday/Friday to store more glycogen in the muscles. The idea is to take advantage of the so-called supercompensation effect, where a carb depleted muscle sucks up carbs like a sponge thus creating a fuller and drier appearance.
There is nothing wrong with that approach but there are many shades of grey.
I personally only do a mild depletion from Sunday – Wednesday before the show where my carbs drop about 25-30%, then I do a carb load  Thursday /Friday where I consume about 120% of my regular carb intake.
Other people go zero carb for the whole week and only do a heavy load on Friday. For me, that approach doesn’t provide enough time to fill out, but you have to experiment for yourselves to see what works. Simply take note as to how many carb days and what kind of carbs it takes to make you look awesome.

Here is the carb load I used for my last show, the event being Saturday:

Sunday -Wednesday: I ate 120 grams of carbs as well as chicken and white fish for 300 grams of protein, fat was kept at a minimum. Not the most exciting way to live but it is only for 4 days. So you are basically eating 0.5 grams of carbs per lbs of body weight. Again there is not no exact formula, this is simply what works for me.

Thursday and Friday: 3 meals of 4 oz chicken and 8 oz white potatoes, 3 meals  of 4 oz steak with 2 cups of rice each which brought my carbs to around 400 grams (about 2 grams per lbs of body weight).

Saturday was pretty much the same, but I added salt and some junk food before the stage….hmmm donuts……

3. Water:
That is probably one of the most misunderstood subjects there is. Very often, water is being blamed for what really is fat “Oh I am just holding some water” .
Here is the thing: water moves whereas fat doesn’t so if it is there all the time, well…chances are it isn’t water.

Most people shouldn’t even try to manipulate their water intake, if your training/diet got you in great shape the week before why change it now? If you feel you should use any kind of diuretic, legal or not, keep in mind that your muscles are mostly made from water and dehydration will leave you flat. Therefore,I do not recommend cutting out water as it can lead to severe health complications.
I usually tell clients to drink when thirsty at an event.

So what about the opposite, the dreaded spill over where your precious muscles are obscured by oceans of water?
Don’t despair, if you feel that you spilled, it can be fixed by doing a light a whole body pump workout. This will make you sweat and force the body to transport the water from under the skin transport the water into the muscle cell. Most people actually don’t spill, they were simply not lean enough in the first place.
Sorry to be Grinch, comes with being German.

The same holds true as in regards to water, salt is very much misunderstood. A sodium deloading and loading protocol will only make a very good physique even drier and crisper, but if you not vascular the days before a show, its not the salt that is holding you back. again, you are not lean enough.
Sodium is needed to ensure that the muscle cell can contract and relax. All this is done via low electrical stimulus from the nerves.. If sodium levels are inadequate for neuronal function, then a muscle cell will fail to function properly, which is why long periods of cutting sodium out don’t make any sense.
Without sodium, you cant get a pump and your body will appear flat.
Cutting sodium out on Friday and re-introducing it on Saturday before the big event should do the trick.
Some athletes don’t bother without it at all and still look great. Again , it is all about observing and paying attention to detail.

These are the four biggest pitfalls when it comes to achieving peak condition, but with your newly gained knowledge you should be able to get yourselves in top shape.
Now go and rock the pool!