Ask The Macro Manager: What Should I Eat Before A Photo Shoot?

Peaking is a combination of art and science. To look your best on film, you need to make specific tweaks to your diet!

This is my first shoot. How should I manage carbohydrates on photo day? Is it worth messing with sodium? I want to look my best, but I don't want to mess anything up. Please help!

Congrats on your first photo shoot and persevering through all the diet and training it takes to get there! I'm going to give you some guidelines to follow, but know that the manipulations you make this last week are basically "fine tuning." If you aren't lean enough to start out, these things won't help. If you're really lean and ready to rock the camera, these tips will help take you to the next level.

Nay, Na!

I don't recommend that you mess around with your sodium intake too much. Keep it consistent rather than going too low. Instead of cutting salt from your diet entirely, eat unprocessed foods and only use a pinch of salt to season your food to taste.

Carb Bomb

"Studies show that increasing carbohydrate intake for 2-to-4 days is enough to super-saturate your muscle glycogen stores."

There are some specific things you can do with your carbs prior to your photoshoot. Studies show us that increasing our carbohydrate intake for 2-to-4 days is enough to super-saturate your muscle glycogen stores, leaving your muscles large and full. I like to back this off one day from your peak day (e.g. contest, meet, shoot, etc.) so if something goes wrong, you still have some time to run damage control. I do this because peaking is a combination of art and science. Since this is your first shoot, you are going to learn a lot about your body.

Carbohydrate intake is relative, so you're going to take whatever you use as your base carbohydrate intake and cut it in half for 2 days. After those 2 days, double the original amount for 2 days.

During this time, drink plenty of water, especially on the lower-carb days, but don't go from drinking 1 gallon per day to 3 gallons per day, which will just mess up your electrolyte balance.

So far, your carbohydrate schedule should look like this:

  • Monday: 1/2 normal carb intake
  • Tuesday: 1/2 normal carb intake
  • Wednesday: 2x normal carb intake
  • Thursday: 2x normal carb intake
  • Friday: Variable/Fine-Tuning Day
  • Saturday: Shoot Day

When you wake up Friday, you'll have some decisions to make. If you are looking flat, stick with the 2x carbohydrate plan. If your muscles are full, but your definition is blurry, move back down to your normal carbohydrate intake.

Protein Peak

Throughout the week, you'll want to keep your protein intake steady and adjust your fat intake based on your carbohydrate intake. On the lower carb days, you'll need more fat to balance the calorie deficit left by cutting your carbohydrate intake.

The Shoot

On the day of your shoot, your meal schedule will depend on when the camera clicks. You'll want to have ~40-to-50 grams of carbs (adjusted higher or lower based on body size) and sip on water depending on your level of thirst. Choose low-impact, moderate-fiber carbohydrates such as yams, oats, apples, bananas, etc.

Avoid high-fiber, bulky carbs like broccoli, cabbage, etc. since they sit in your digestive system for longer periods of time. You're looking to maintain your condition, so keep an eye on your body as you eat and the day goes on. Most importantly, enjoy the day! You worked hard to get there and if you don't take time to celebrate your victories - what's the point? Best of luck!