So, one thing I'm always trying to impart on people is that fitness models don't just "wake up like this", to quote queen B. We don't walk around day in and day out looking like our best pictures. But if we're good at what we do and walk the talk we're mostly not too far from top shape. But it takes a lot of work and dedication. The below summary is how I generally prepare for any shoot or competition. We like to call this final countdown to showtime "peak week". I knew about a week in advance that the shoot was happening. It wasn't much time to prepare but I'm usually never too far away from being in photo shoot condition. I was a little concerned though as over the last 6 months my stable weight went from 135 to 140. I knew my body fat was slightly up but I also knew I was packing a bit more muscle. I don't closely monitor my body fat or weight: I prefer to go by how I look and feel. But I was also excited to see how a slightly bigger me looked. Sometimes when I look at some of my earliest fitness photos I think "how skinny!" The shoot came about when a local photographer approached me to do this shoot. He wanted pictures for his portfolio and I always enjoy shooting. In a way I love having shoots and competitions to work towards. It's during these times I work the hardest at the gym and on my nutrition. 1 week out: I swore off all cheats and treats and committed my self to 1500 calories daily. I was previously taking in about 2000. I also limited starchy carbs to only after my workout, which was usually lunch. I love getting my workouts in after breakfast. I wanted my workouts to be particularly hardcore this week so I took a pre-work a couple of times and increased my L-carnatine dose from 2mg to 3mg. I also increased my cardio - meaning I actually did some. 3 days out: I always drink a lot of water but this week I'm drinking more than usual. We do this to ensure we don't retain water . It's a funny thing: when the body knows there's no shortage of water coming it doesn't feel the need to retain any. I'm drinking at least 3 liters a day a peeing like a racehorse. At 3 days out I'm also being strict about sodium -- I'm avoiding any trace of it. Many fitness models avoid salt completely all year round or during their whole prep period. I think this is a mistake (a mistake I used to be guilty of, too). Salt does cause water retention - but only in the immediate short-term. Cut it out and you lose the water bloat almost immediately too. [caption id="attachment_69908" align="aligncenter" width="190"] My meats get seasoned by a non-sodium seasoning such as this one.[/caption] 2 days out: I stop exercising. After working out so hard all week and consuming limited carbs my glycogen stores are low - and it shows. I'm definitely leaner and lighter but I look "flat", as we say. My muscles are smooth and small and the definition poor. By stopping the work outs I allow the stores to recover and the so does the next strategy.... 1 day out: Carb up! Woot woot! It almost sounds contradictory to stop working out and start feasting on carbs the day before the shoot but it's a tried and proven method for getting the full-muscle look. After a period of carb depletion an all-access pass to carbohydrate buffet feels earned. Also at about noon today, I stop drinking water. I'm beginning a controlled dehydration. My body is used to getting about 3 liters or more daily and it doesn't quite yet realize there won't be more coming for the next 24 hours so it's still in the process of water elimination. I take small sips when needed. Add a glass of red wine, asparagus and cup of dandelion tea (all natural diuretics) and I'm well on the way to getting " dry". The aim to be all skin and muscles without any extra water floating around between the two. Done right, and by listening to my body, it's completely safe. I was hesitant to talk about drying-out, as I worry about the few people who might think dehydrating is a viable, quick weight-loss option. It's not. It only works if you're already very lean and if you know what you're doing. And its effects are very short term. It can be very harmful if abused. I have steak and potato for dinner (with afore-mentioned glass of red wine). This is my own personal tradition. I always have this exact meal the night before a competition or shoot. Everyone looks better with a tan. It makes one look leaner, tighter and increases definition. I apply a coat of ProTan 2 Minute Tan. I love this stuff for a natural looking tan. Fool-proof to apply, non-streaky and not orange. For competitions I use a combination of Pro Tan Overnight Competition Color and Pro Tan Bikini Bronze Instant Competition Color -- professional bodybuilding products which gets you much, much darker. The kind of dark that looks absolutely foolish on a white person but great on stage under harsh lights. The Day: Today's the day and I'm feeling pumped and ready! My preparations have gone according to plan - I'm 2.5 pounds lighter, my muscles are pumped, I'm dry and shredded and I've got a nice little tan. I eat bread and eggs for breakfast with a cup of coffee (for more drying, and for sanity). I pack several changes of clothes, do my hair and make-up and arrive a full hour early to the shoot -- as I've forgotten daylight saving's starts today. To the shoot I bring dried fruit to snack on (simple carbs for energy and muscle pump and a great treat that I never have at any other time). I realise I've run out of ProTan's Muscle Juice Competition Posing Oil, the stuff I usually use to gloss up. I bring the next best thing. Pam! I've never used Pam as a body oil before, but the male bodybuilder's love the stuff. Sure enough, it works like a charm. [caption id="attachment_69911" align="aligncenter" width="73"] Oh yes I did![/caption] The shoot: The shoot goes great. The photographer and I have a connection and similar ideas about what we want to do. We shoot at the gym where I work out of and try a few different set-ups. It's nothing too complicated or over-done. I purposely didn't want it to be overly glamorous or sexy. I wanted it to be real and natural. I still haven't seen many of the shots but I've included below a few tests that are largely untouched and unedited. They are very raw. In the end, I wish I had a bit more time to tighten up but I'm very happy with the shots and look forward to shooting more.