Your Guide to Level 4 Leanness
Here's what you need to know...
- There's lean and then there's really lean and dry, like how a bodybuilder looks on stage. If you're already lean, this 6-day plan will take you to the next level, just in time for a contest or photo shoot.
- You don't just want to dump water weight; you want the muscles to look full and round. This will require special techniques.
- The biggest mistakes when cutting water weight are made when manipulating minerals and cutting water intake too soon or too gradually.
- This is not a fat loss diet. It's a specialized plan to look your leanest on a target date.
The 4 Levels of Leanness
There's more than one level of leanness. And there's a big difference between being "not fat" and being shredded. Here are the levels below. We've tried to find a physique photo that somewhat represents each level:
Level 1: Not overweight, but no visible abs either.
Level 2: In shape. Some upper abs showing.
Level 3: Nicely cut. Abs easily visible.
Level 4: Shredded.
Level 4 leanness involves not only a very low level of body fat, but also a certain extent of dryness. This is a term that comes from competitive bodybuilding. Bodybuilders manipulate their water and carb intake to get rid of water weight.
The goal of this peaking procedure is to minimize subcutaneous water (just beneath the skin) while keeping the muscle as full as possible. This combination will allow a bodybuilder to pump up before the show and look his best.
A full muscle will push against the skin, and if there's no water between the muscle and skin... voilà: separated and full muscle bellies.
It's very, very tricky, and the difference between first and fifth place often comes down to which guy gets his final week of "drying out" right and which one screws it up.
In the non-bodybuilding world, actors and models often use these fluid manipulation techniques before a shirtless scene or photo shoot in order to look their leanest.
A lot of times we accidentally manipulate our subcutaneous fluid levels. Ever wake up one day, catch a glimpse of yourself in the bathroom mirror and think, "Wow, I'm ripped!" Then, two days later, you look in the mirror again and look softer or kind of bloated?
Obviously you didn't gain that much adipose tissue in two days. The reverse wouldn't happen either: you can't go to bed chubby and wake up lean. Yet something is happening, and it's visible to the naked eye.
Most of the time this is due to "water weight" fluctuations. You just happened to eat and drink a certain way, or train a certain way, that caused you to drop or retain a couple of pounds of fluid.
Below we'll tell you step-by-step how to drop several pounds of water and get that ripped look on purpose. It isn't exactly easy, but the results can be dramatic.
Real World Water Manipulation
By adopting a trick or two from competitive natural bodybuilders, you can learn to control this phenomenon and use it tactically when you want to look your leanest.
It could be used to "peak" before a day at the pool or before you take some shirtless selfies. The techniques contained here are designed to get you from Level 2 to Level 3, or from Level 3 to Level 4.
Most people will drop several pounds of water weight in just six days, along with some fat, causing them to look leaner and, if done correctly, more vascular and pumped.
Note: These techniques will not make you look shredded if you're fat. While most people can drop a pound or two of fat along with the water in these six days, this is not a diet.
It's designed to help already lean people get super lean. If you're just plain chubby, this isn't the program for you.
There are three main factors we're going to be manipulating here to cause your body to dump water fast:
1. Carbohydrate Manipulation: Low-carb and high protein diets are notably diuretic, putting your body into a fluid flushing mode.
Dropping carb intake alone will cause just about anyone to lose a couple of pounds of water bloat. This plan will have you consuming 60 grams of carbs per day or fewer, then tactically carbing up at the end.
2. Fluid Intake: You don't get "dry" by not drinking water, at least not at first.
You put your body into flushing mode by consuming tons of water, then cutting water intake suddenly at the end. During most of this program, you'll be drinking a few gallons of water per day.
3. Training: The goal here is to get yourself glycogen depleted. Do this and by the end of the week your muscles will soak up the carbs and inflate drastically.
The Level 4 Leanness Plan
This schedule assumes a Saturday physique competition or photo shoot.
Monday: Drink 2.5 to 3 gallons of water today. You're going to avoid carbs as much as possible, except for around your workout when you'll drink 97.5g of Plazma™ (57 carbs). That's one and a half servings.
It's fine if you get a few grams of trace carbs from solid food, but try to avoid them.
Tip: Buy three, one-gallon containers of water with a handle. This will let you visually know exactly how much water you have left to go.
Tuesday and Wednesday: Same as above.
Thursday: Today you'll bump up water intake to 4 gallons and do the Mag-10® Pulse Fast.
Do not eat any solid food during the day. Only consume 6 servings of Mag-10®, one about every 3 hours. The water you use in your Mag-10® counts as part of your 4-gallon goal.
Friday: If you choose to take an herbal diuretic, start it this afternoon and begin your carb-up. You'll have 6 solid meals, each containing 50-75g of carbs. Avoid sodium/salt as much as possible.
Meal #1: Breakfast around 7am. Get your carbs from fruits to fill liver glycogen. Starting the carb-up with fruit replenishes liver glycogen very fast. We believe that the faster liver glycogen is filled, the more effective the rest of the carb-up will be.
Meal #2 through #4 (10am, noon, 3pm): For these meals, go for more starchy carbs. Yams and potatoes are best. Plain rice is fine too. Avoid grains such as wheat as these might bloat you up. Keep water intake under 8 ounces per meal.
After meal #4, stop drinking any fluid!
Meal #5 (about 7pm): Eat one Finibar™ Competition Bar.
Meal #6 (optional): Only have this meal if your muscles aren't yet full-looking or you think you can get a little fuller. Almost anything goes with this meal. Remember, you still won't be having any water, but go ahead and eat any sugary food you crave.
Avoid any foods that you know will bloat you up. Do not eat until you have a "food baby" bulge in your belly. When you start to feel some stomach tightness, stop eating.
Along with this simple sugar meal, have two tablespoons of food-grade vegetable glycerine, which is found in most health food stores.
Friday night: Before going to bed, fill the bath with water as hot as you can tolerate, pour 400g of Epsom salts in the bath and soak in for 20-30 minutes. Add more hot water as it cools.
Saturday (contest, photo, or beach day): Breakfast depends on how you look:
- Looking flat? Have another simple sugar meal.
- Looking good? Small portion of fruit and protein.
- Holding water? Protein only (shake with very little water).
Forty-five minutes before pumping up for your shoot, take two tablespoons of vegetable glycerine with one can of full-sugar soda.
Here's How It Works
The goal of the low-carb days with super-high water intake is to deplete glycogen to better supercompensate later on, but the real goal is to put the body into water flushing mode.
Doing both for five days turns you into a fountain: your body simply flushes everything you drink. When you suddenly cut your water on Friday, you're still in heavy flushing mode. As a result, you'll dry up significantly by flushing and not drinking.
A gram of carbohydrate pulls 2.7g of water into the muscle. So if you carb up when you're in flushing mode and not drinking, where do you think this 2.7g of water will come from? Beneath your skin, of course!
The vegetable glycerine recommended is a plasma expander, meaning that it pulls water into it. When you consume this thick, sickly sweet liquid, it basically goes to the muscles and pulls water into it.
Since you're not drinking any water at the time, the water that's attracted to the glycerol will come from beneath your skin. So, you'll look dryer and fuller at the same time.
Remember, our goal here is glycogen depletion, not muscle gain, although the "shock effect" of this style of training is certainly challenging to the body.
Monday: Full Body Workout
- Sets of 10-12 reps
- Take a good 3 seconds to lower the weight (eccentric portion of lift) and about 2 seconds to lift it.
- 6-8 sets per muscle group
- 30 seconds rest between sets
- Never hit failure. Excessive muscle damage slows down glycogen repletion. Stop 2-3 reps short of failure.
- Use alternating sets
A1. Quad exercise 10-12 reps
30 seconds rest
A2. Hamstring exercise 10-12 reps
30 seconds rest
Repeat 6-8 times
B1. Back exercise 10-12 reps
30 seconds rest
B2. Chest exercise 10-12 reps
30 seconds rest
Repeat 6-8 times
C1. Triceps exercise 10-12 reps
30 seconds rest
C2. Biceps exercise 10-12 reps
30 seconds rest
Repeat 6-8 times
Note: It's best to do more sets of the same exercise than to use many exercises.
Tuesday: Full Body Workout, Different Exercises
Today you're going to do the same type of workout you did on Monday, with these differences:
- You can use different exercises (example: a row instead of a pulldown for back). Still use only one exercise per muscle group.
- 12 to 15 reps instead of 10 to 12
- Faster tempo
Wednesday: Upper Body Only
- 15-20 reps
- Normal tempo
- 6-8 sets per muscle group, 30 seconds rest between alternative sets.
- Replace lower body work with shoulder work (dumbbell press alternated with bent-over laterals for example.)
Thursday: Off Day or HIIT Day
No weight training today, but you may perform some HIIT-style conditioning (intervals) to flush water and increase insulin sensitivity. This is the only day of the week you'll perform any type of cardio.
Friday Morning: Muscle Emphasis
If there's a muscle you want to emphasize on Saturday, train it on Friday morning, but de-emphasize the eccentric or negative portion of the movement as much as possible.
Basically, perform sets of 12-15 reps in rhythmic, fairly fast fashion for 10-12 sets. This will lead to more glycogen surcompensation in that muscle group so the next day it will look more full.
It's time to pump up before your photo shoot or show. Guidelines:
- If you over-pump you'll have a lack of separation. If you under-pump you'll look smaller. So, perform resistance training just enough to get a small pump and some vascularity going. This is especially true for the arms.
- Don't pump up the legs. They look better unpumped.
- Focus most of your pumping on shoulders and chest. It's pretty much impossible to over-pump your shoulders, so nail them good.
- If you have a choice, keep the temperature in the room high. This facilitates the pump and keeps you pumped for longer.
Note: If you don't have it, you won't get it by pumping for 30 minutes! Pumping only highlights and polishes the physique.
4 Common Peaking Mistakes
Physique peaking and manipulating hydration is easy to screw up. In fact, even the top guys screw this up 25% of the time.
Mistake #1: Not being lean enough to begin with
Playing with your water and glycogen levels can enhance the look of an already lean physique. It's the icing on the cake, providing you with fuller muscle bellies, more separation, and enhanced vascularity.
But if you're still too fat, peaking strategies aren't going to do much for you. If you aren't below 10% body fat, don't even bother.
Related: 7 Fat Loss Mistakes
Guidelines: At between 8 and 10%, you'll see some decent improvements, but not super drastic. If you're between 6 and 8%, these techniques will make a marked difference in your appearance. And finally, if you're below 6% they'll leave you floored by the dramatic visual difference!
Mistake #2: Screwing with your mineral balance
Don't mess with your sodium intake. Many people sodium load for a few days, then sodium deplete and potassium load for the last few days of their peaking procedure. Do not do this.
It sounds simple enough: Sodium makes you hold subcutaneous water, and potassium favors retaining water in the muscles, right? Yes, technically, but it's much more complex than that. The body wants a proper mineral balance. If you drastically cut one mineral and bump up another one, you play with that balance and chances are you'll screw up.
Basically, you have a 50/50 chance of getting this right. You could very easily look much worse by toying with mineral balance. You can avoid salting your foods in those last few days, but that's it.
Mistake #3: Cutting water intake too soon
Note that we only begin to cut our water intake in the afternoon on Friday (taking in only about a half gallon on Friday AM.) Many people attempt to cut fluid intake a full two days before an event, but this leads to deflated-looking muscles.
Cutting water intake too soon can also make you hold water because your body will upregulate its aldosterone levels, which will prevent flushing sodium and water out of your system.
Mistake #4: Cutting water intake gradually
Many people will over-consume water (three gallons or more) for the first two or three days, then gradually decrease water over the next three or four days. This is another mistake. By gradually reducing water intake you lose the benefit of the flushing mode.
Why? Because over the two or three days of gradually reducing water intake, the body will adapt and bring its aldosterone levels back to normal. So you're flushing a lot of water at the beginning of the week, but very little at the end when you really need to.
The best approach is to suddenly cut your water so that your body stays in flushing mode even when no water is coming in.
It takes most people a couple of tries to perfect these techniques and customize them to how their body reacts.
For example, you may need two days to carb-up. So play around with it until you figure out what works best for you.