The Several Stages of Cutting Weight
My first 100% Raw Powerlifting meet of the 2016 season was on May 14th in Vernon, British Columbia. It was a great weekend all around, and a wrap up of the meet itself and everything that went down is available here. One thing I wanted to touch on separately though was the water cut I did to prep for the meet – I get a lot of questions about cutting weight and what I did and why I did it, so I figured I’d address some of that here.
Seriously, the number of confused looks I get about this would blow you away.
Powerlifting is one of the many sports that are divided into weight classes. Since your score is the sum of your heaviest squat, bench press, and deadlift, and strength is proportional to size (in a very general rule of thumb type of way), this makes sense to divvy people up into weight classes to even the respective playing fields. Powerlifting has what’s referred to as an 18 hour weigh in, meaning the weigh ins start 18 hours before the competition itself starts. This time gap allows athletes to do a water cut to get their weight down for the weigh in, and then re-fuel their bodies in time for competition. Since I’m dropping a weight class this season, from 67.5kg to 60kg, I needed to water cut from my usual 140-142lbs down to the at least the cutoff of 132lbs.
Now, to do this as a normal weight loss regime, I’d have to restrict my caloric intake for quite a bit of time. I’d have to make sure I was running at a caloric deficit, but not too much of a deficit as I still need to fuel my body for all the training I do. This ~10lb drop would take quite a while, and would most likely take a toll (or at least have some kind of impact) on my training. That’s where a water cut comes in. By controlling the amount of water, carbohydrates, and sodium you take in during the week leading up to your weigh in, you’re able to reduce the total amount of water and glycogen your body carries, and therefore your overall weight. Translation: you’re really thirsty and you pee a lot for a week. The benefit of this is water, carbs, and sodium are absorbed very quickly by our bodies, so it’s really easy to quickly refuel your body back to it’s previous state after a weigh in.
This is all super generalized, but more often than not, if athletes are cutting weight for a weigh in, they’ll follow a program somewhat similar to this one. Oh, and I can’t stress this enough: a program like this is only meant to temporarily cut weight, for a weigh-in type situation. Weight loss in this way is not sustainable, and following a plan like this long-term to reach a weight loss goal is not a good idea. If anything, Just read on and have a laugh at my struggle during the week leading up to my meet.
Stage One: Hyperhydration and All the Salt
About a week out, you typically start with a couple days where you double your normal water intake. I normally average about 3L of water a day, so I was up to 6L of water each day. You also need to add extra sodium to your diet, so pretty much every meal gets a good sprinkling of salt.
These first couple days involve a lot of peeing all the time, and fathoming over the fact hat 6L is a lot of water. I at least did a bit better this time around since my water intake leading up to this was pretty steady. Once when I competed last year, my water intake was a bit all over the place and this sudden spike in water really threw my stomach for a loop. Do not recommend. Keep your water intake consistent, people.
Stage Two: Starting the Water Cut
I’d probably also refer to these couple of days as the ‘denial phase’. The key to water cutting is reducing your carbohydrate and sodium intake as much as possible, and reducing your daily water intake by 50% day over day. The first couple days of this isn’t too bad, as you’re still drinking a decent amount of water, and I personally was just excited about the amount of raw almond butter I was allowed to eat.
This excitement starts to fade as you’re allowed to drink less and less water. The day before my weigh in I was down to 450mL for my entire day – you gotta ration that $#!% man! I felt like I was on Naked and Afraid! Except, you know, a lot less naked.
Stage Three: The Final Days and Weigh Ins
Or rather as I refer to it, the ‘human raisin’ stage. In the last couple days leading up to weigh ins, there’s some time spent in the sauna, a lot of weight checks, and a lot of wishing that I was allowed to drink more water. Though the last couple days of this wasn’t quite as bad as I anticipated – this meet was definitely my most aggressive weight cut to date so I was expecting it to hurt – it definitely sucked. I was definitely grateful to have my training partners and very understanding friends to vent to via text message as I sat in my hotel room in Vernon.
This was definitely the leanest I’ve ever been, and the lightest I’ve been in a long time. When I still skated competitively I usually sat at 135lbs so dropping down to 131lbs was a big step for me. When I picked my Mum up from the airport after my weigh in, the first thing out of her mouth was ‘YOU’RE TOO SKINNY, WHAT HAVE YOU DONE’. I think the consensus is that this isn’t a good long-term look for me.
Stage Four: Post Weigh-In Refuel
Stepping on the scale at weigh ins and knowing you’ve officially made weight is one of the best freaking feelings out there. You know what’s even better? Getting to cram food into your face with reckless abandon immediately after! Though the general rule of thumb for after your weigh in is roughly ‘eat all the things’, I made a point of focusing on hydration as much as food. I had a total of 2 Skratch Labs Rescue Mix packets over the course of the evening, some bananas, and LOTS of water. Along with making sure my caloric intake was sufficiently high, keeping this hydration component in mind made a huge difference as well. Let this be your daily reminder that hydration is just as important as your nutrition!
I can’t emphasize enough that this is a very sport-specific type of program for a very temporary type of weight loss. That being said, I hope this helps shed some light on the whole weight-cutting process. If nothing else, maybe I might get one less weird look when I’m trying to explain to someone my weird pre-competition meals of plain chicken breast and almond butter. Maybe…