Sometimes you need to look ripped…real quick (first date, impromptu beach trip with your girlfriend, etc.), but there’s only so much you can do to change your physique at the last minute, right? Wrong. We went straight to the pros—bodybuilders who know what it takes drop the last couple layers of fat before a competition—for some of their personal, pre-event toning tricks. Here are a few solid ways to make your body appear stronger in no time.
Drink water-then stop.
“When I was competing I would up my intake of water a week before the show (or photo shoot), and then start cutting it back two days beforehand,” says Anthony Catanzaro, a former INBF Natural NYC Middle Weight Champion and male fitness model. “This creates what we like to call ‘drying out.’ You want to try and eliminate all the water you are holding underneath your skin in order to see all your well-earned muscle definition.” Just be sure you watch for these 5 signs you might be too dehydrated.
“You want to avoid consuming any unwanted sodium on the days leading up to your event [it will make you retain water and cause bloating], so don’t eat processed foods or dine at restaurants in the days leading up to a big night. Instead, stick with unsalted grilled chicken and plain baked potatoes or steamed rice,” recommends Lee Labrada, a former Mr. Olympia and founder of Labrada Nutrition.
Do some light cardio.
“Simply pumping your blood and body fluids around (through cardio) will help reduce your chances of having an unwanted accumulation of fluids in the subcutaneous space between your muscles and skin, thereby making you look sharper,” says Labrada. Thirty to 45 minutes pedaling at a moderate pace on an exercise bike should do it.
Suck in your gut.
“I do this exercise called ‘vacuums,’ which essentially pulls your stomach in, and helps make it look smaller,” says Catanzaro. “All you have to do is take a deep breath, and then when you breathe out, suck your stomach in as far as you can without taking another breath for at least 10 seconds.”
Cut down on carbs.
“Reduce your carbohydrate intake 48 hours before your big event to make you look and feel as lean as possible,” says Labrada. Why? Consuming large amounts of carbs raises your blood sugar which triggers an insulin release that, in turn, makes you store calories as fat. This will temporarily improve your definition (But remember that it is just a Band-Aid!),” says Labrada.
“Drinking green tea with lemon once a day will help flush out any toxins that your body is holding on to, because it acts like a natural diuretic,” says Catanzaro. It can also help you lose weight long-term, so make this one a regular habit!
Forget about fiber.
“Stay away from foods that can cause bloating, such as vegetables and beans, during those pivotal 48 hours leading up to an event,” says Labrada. Cook veggies to reduce their fiber content and fill up on protein sources like fish, tofu, and ground meat.
Flex your muscles.
“Right before you head out, perform some light upper body resistance exercises using elastic bands (biceps curls, rows, etc.) and do some squats for your lower body—both will help circulate blood in those muscle groups without overly taxing them. The increased blood flow can remove unwanted fluids, while potentially maximizing glycogen deposition (you want water inside muscles, but not under your skin where it can mar definition),” says Labrada. “Usually right before a show we are pumping up back stage, using dumbbells and resistance bands. But what I would do more than anything is go through my posing routine over and over. Flexing is a great way to get maximum blood flow to your muscles,” adds Catanzaro.
Go the old-fashioned route.
“There is no substitute for consistency when it comes to diet and exercise, and an effective training program is necessary to get lean and stay lean,” notes Labrada.