Jerry Brainum discusses sodium, water intake, and the biggest contest prep mistake that makes bodybuilding muscle look flat.

In the final week before a bodybuilding competition, athletes will deplete themselves in order to cut as much water weight as possible and look shredded on stage. It’s known as “hell week” and is one of the most grueling moments for any pro bodybuilder. While cutting before a show is vital in bringing in a perfect physique – there’s one key factor that might actually be making the muscle look flat by the time the pros get on stage. In our latest GI Exclusive interview, Jerry Brainum uses science to explain the big mistake bodybuilders make that’s making their muscle look flat.

Bodybuilders traditionally go through a cycle each year during competition season. First they bulk up to build as much muscle as possible. Then they cut down to trim the extra fat they obtained, dry out the skin, and show a shredded physique of their new built muscle. The final week before a competition is a delicate moment. One wrong move can take a once masterful physique and make it look off. This destroys a competitor’s chances at earning the first place trophy. It also destroys a year of hard work.

Fans of the sport have seen it before. Their favorite athlete looking dangerous a week before the competition – only for them to show up on stage either looking soft or flat. If they look soft, it’s likely because they weren’t able to flush out all their water weight. If they look flat – it’s most likely because they actually flushed too much water.

Jerry Brainum points out that muscle tissue is made of 72% water. So when bodybuilders deplete themselves in the final “hell week” before a show, if they go too far they actually lose the fullness of their muscle. Even furthermore, some competitive bodybuilders don’t even realize that drinking water is in itself a diuretic. Water flushes out a lot of extra minerals in your body the more you drink it. Thinks like sodium. Too much sodium can make you retain more water – which is a big problem for bodybuilders.

So the biggest mistake that bodybuilders make is by often drinking too much water, not drinking any at all, or taking too many diuretics in the final week before the show. With one fell swoop, it can destroy a year’s worth of work. The hard part of course, is to know how much is too much. Each body is different – but the key is for athletes to recognize this is part of the problem first. Then they can start learning their body and how to fix it.

It’s a delicate balance. It’s what makes this sport so challenging. It’s what makes the legends that much more impressive. Never underestimate “hell week” and start taking depletion seriously in order to present the best bodybuilding physique on stage.

You can watch Jerry Brainum explain the science in more detail by watching our latest GI Exclusive interview segment above!