Sometimes a man wants to look as ragged and slim as possible. It can be for a competition, a photoshoot, or maybe just a hot date. Whatever the reason, in addition to muscle definition, there are two factors that impact how lean and defined you look: body fat and water retention. Obviously, you can’t look wrecked if you have a layer of fat covering your muscles. But even if your body fat is in the single digits, excess water can make you look less defined and sometimes even bloated. Minimizing excess water weight is what we are going to explore here today.
Aldosterone is one of the hormones that manages the volume of fluid retained in the body, particularly water. And while water retention will not be a daily problem for most men, if you are a competitive bodybuilder or need to look very strong for a photoshoot or special event, retaining even small amounts of excess water can cause you to all the difference in the world.
First, some background on aldosterone, which is released by the adrenal glands. Aldosterone is one of the hormones that helps regulate sodium and potassium levels in the body. This, in turn, helps control blood pressure and fluid and electrolyte balance in the bloodstream. The adrenal glands produce more aldosterone when the body is trying to conserve fluids and salts. This means that high aldosterone levels equate to more fluid retention in the body. When aldosterone levels are low, the body retains less water.
Actually, the whole process is handled by the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system (RAAS). If you’re looking to get super crushed and tough with that contest-ready ‘paper-thin’ skin, then how to manipulate the RAAS is definitely something you want to understand. By learning to manipulate RAAS, you can influence aldosterone levels and affect the amount of water your body holds.
A typical strategy many men use to reduce the amount of water they retain is to decrease their salt intake and reduce the amount of water they drink. Lowering your salt intake is good, but it only helps up to a point. And unfortunately, because the body always strives to maintain a state of homeostasis (also known as the status quo), drinking less water causes the body’s metabolic systems to retain it. This actually causes aldosterone levels to go up, so drinking less water doesn’t have the effect you want and actually causes the body to retain more water.
So with this in mind, we know that we have to look for another strategy. Interestingly, one of the ways you can manipulate RAAS, lower aldosterone levels, and lower the amount of water retained is by drinking more water, not less. This seems contrary to what you want to achieve, but it is not the way the body works. But it is a bit more complicated than drinking liters of water before a competition or event.
Successful manipulation of RAAS to reduce water retention takes time and strategy. Finding the right ‘window of opportunity’ is essential for success. Before you start trying to reduce water retention, you will first need to make sure that you have removed unnecessary body fat. There’s no point going through the hassle of shedding water when there’s a layer of fat underneath. So the first step is to get your body fat percentage low in your teens or even in the single digits. Once you get to that point, you will be in a position to be shredded by reducing the amount of water your body retains.
The next step is to follow a specific protocol that incorporates manipulation of protein and carbohydrate ratios combined with a period of high water intake (hyperhydration) followed by a fast, timed period of limited water intake (dehydration). You will begin the hyperhydration and dehydration phases several days before the competition or another event for which you want to look super smashed.
This strategy works because the hyperhydration phase will cause your adosterone levels to drop, which means that your kidneys are removing most of the water you are drinking, which also causes you to urinate a lot. The target dehydration period will allow you to quickly lose the water weight, leaving you super shredded and ultra-lean. But because you’re doing it for such a short period of time, the inevitable spike in aldosterone levels and the accompanying spike in water retention won’t happen until after the competition or the big event.
Unfortunately, getting rid of unwanted fat is much more complicated than simply cutting calories and adding a few extra sessions of cardio each week. The problem is that our genetic programming gets in the way, making shedding fat much more complicated than we’d like. When we start cutting calories and burning more energy, our bodies believe that we are facing a shortage of food. In response, it unleashes a flood of hormonal responses that are designed to conserve energy and ensure that we have fat stores to take advantage of the next ‘famine’.
These hormonal responses are what get in the way of our fat loss goals. There are three in particular that inhibit fat loss: estrogen, insulin, and cortisol. When we do the things we do to eliminate unwanted fat, the release of these hormones is triggered. And when released, each of these tells the body to increase residual fat storage, especially around the waist area. However, the good news is that we can ‘fight hormones with hormones’ and manipulate our metabolic systems to overcome these obstacles to fat loss.
The secret to this strategy is to identify the nemesis of each “bad” hormone, or in other words, the “good” hormone that does the opposite of what the “bad” hormone does. For example, testosterone is the “opposite” of estrogen. Testosterone is the male sex hormone and estrogen is the female sex hormone. To combat the fat storage effects of estrogen, we want to increase the amount of testosterone our body releases.
There are several ways to naturally increase the amount of testosterone your body releases. One of the best ways to do this is by lifting weights. In particular, increasing the density of training has proven to be an excellent technique for stimulating testosterone production. Training density refers to the amount of work you do within a given period of time. You can increase the density of your workout by lifting more weights, doing more reps, or reducing rest periods between sets.
To combat stubborn fat around your midsection, you can actually increase your training density through a modified circuit training technique. A key difference between this and other types of circuit training is that here, instead of concentrating on doing a certain number of reps, you do as many reps as you can within a certain amount of time for the first set. Then, you increase both the weight and the number of repetitions you do for the second set.
Similarly, there are training techniques you can employ to combat insulin and its impact on body fat storage. Here, training techniques focus on increasing insulin sensitivity and enhancing insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), which counteracts the effects of insulin. Dynamic training, which is based on combined movements, is particularly effective in increasing the amount of IGF-1 in the bloodstream. Higher amounts of IGF-1 nullify insulin resistance and increase the body’s ability to burn fat.
We can also combat the effects of cortisol on fat gain by increasing the amount of growth hormone (GH) our body produces. GH is the most effective compound your body produces to affect both fat loss and muscle gain. The more GH the body produces, the more fat it will burn and the more lean muscle mass it will add.
Like the other two fat-fighting hormones, certain training techniques stimulate GH production. Lactic acid training is an especially effective technique. Lactic acid is what causes the “burning” you feel when you train your muscles very hard. As annoying as that feeling may be, it triggers the release of GH that fights cortisol and fat. You can increase the release of lactic acid by lifting very slowly and then quickly (but carefully) returning to the starting position. Another way to increase GH production and decrease cortisol production is by sleeping. Yes, a good night’s rest triggers GH production and decreases cortisol production at the same time.
So there you have it: three fat-fighting training techniques at your disposal. Add them to your training arsenal and you can fight hormones and hormones and win the battle against stubborn fat, once and for all.