Dealing With Water Retention

by Demetri on November 30, 2002

Getting shredded for a bodybuilding contents requires careful planning. The two most important factors in getting ripped for your contest are your diet and water retention. Sure your workouts are important but there seems to be no shortage of muscular bodybuilders in the gym, and the assumption here is that you’ve built up a physique you think is worthy of showing off on a stage.

Water retention is one thing that a lot of competitors struggle with. Everyone wants to come in dry as a bone but so many are smooth as babies.

It’s really simple when you realize that the more water you drink the less water you hold. Plus the goal here isn’t to be dried out from days before but to dial your water in to come in nice and tight for the pre-judging. That’s when they decide who wins your weight class and unless you’re a contender for the overall you should focus on the pre-judging.

The Plan

  1. Start drinking 8 liters of water a day (I’m only 150 lbs at contest time so go up or down accordingly) on the Sunday before a Saturday show. Make sure to drink only distilled water.
  2. Pick up an herbal diuretic and start taking 3 times the recommended dosage 4 days prior to contest time.
  3. The day before the prejudging you’ll drink half your daily total by 24 hours prior to the prejudging. Stop drinking any fluids at this point. For example, prejudging is at 11 am on Saturday then on Friday you’ll drink 4 liters of water (assuming you’re the same size as me) by 11 am on Friday. After that you drink nothing, nada zip. No water, no Tab Cola, no tea until after the contest.
  4. Eat some dry carbs in the evening (dry rye toast, rice cakes, etc..) and the morning of the contest (before, during and after pre-judging).
  5. Water is allowed during the evening show but only sips. Just wet your mouth. An alternative to water that will help tighten you up a big more is a shot or two of hard liqour.

Why It Works

At first it seems a little backwards to be drinking in so much water when you don’t want to hold any. Many people (myself included when prepping for my first contest) like to gradually taper their water consumption down until contest day. This is not the right way to go. Your body will go into a water holding pattern and you’ll be crazed with thirst.

So why does it work? When you drink large quantities of water your body will do it’s best to flush it out. You’re essentially causing a diuretic effect and probably won’t need any help from herbal diuretics at all. The beauty is that once you stop drinking water is that your body will keep flushing it out. When you stop drinking water your body will still keep flushing it out. Even after 24 hours of not drinking water and eating dry carbs I was still urinating more than one would expect.

The dry carbs help with a couple things. Firstly the carbs, if you’ve been doing a CKD (aka Keto Diet), will make your muscles look fuller. Secondly the dry carbs will force your body to pull water out of your blood (and hopefully skin and fat cells) in order to help digest them.

If you follow this plan you’ll be dry, tight, and not that thirsty.

Enhancing the Plan

There are a couple of things that you can try to get just a little tighter. You can try using a prescription diuretic like Lasix or Aldactone. They’ll be more effective than an herbal diuretic but are not generally a good idea. People usually take too much and they can also cause electrolyte imbalances which can result in some pretty painful cramping while you’re on stage.

One of the best and safest over the counter product you can use for getting tighter is Preparation H. It’s a topical diuretic that pulls water out through your skin where you apply it. That’s how it shrinks hemorrhoids and it can help give you paper thin skin and tighten you up a bit more. It could be the difference between winning and coming in second.

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