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Spilled or flat: How to carb load for a physique show

A how-to guide for perfectly full and defined muscles at ultra-lean body fat levels. The final touches to getting your muscles to look spot-on for the stage.



1. Overview

2. Pick the photo

3. What the hell happened?

4. The science and research

5. Dive deeper

6. Finding your sweet spot

7. Learnings

8. References

The gist

  • Carbs are stored in muscle fibers with water which gives them the look physique competitors are striving for.

  • However, once the inside of the muscle is full, water will begin to be stored on the outside of the muscle.

  • Not enough carbs is termed flat and is described as stringy and soft.

  • Too much carbs is termed spilled and is described as soft and bloated.

  • Just enough carbs is termed full and is described as hard, striated and defined.

  • There are certain signs you can look and feel for to tell whether you are flat, spilled or full, such as by poking contracted muscles and by assessing your ability to get a "pump".

  • Prevent walking on stage flat or spilled by starting your carb load at least 2 days out—take pictures frequently and adjust as you get closer to show time.

  • If you spill, do periodic light exercise and consume little to no carbs until back in the full range.

  • Keep calm—a spill can be corrected and the show is meant to be fun. Remind yourself that you're learning something fascinating about your body.

This post is inspired by a learning experience I had at one of my physique competitions. I didn't know what I was looking for at the time until the morning of the pre-judging where I had spilled over to a bloated and soft state rather than full and hard. I wish I knew this information then, so I hope this manual will help you look your best after the months of hard work you've put in leading up to your event. — Coach Eric