How To Safely Weight Cut

The dreaded weight cuts. Something that causes any athlete more stress than what’s needed the week coming into a competition if done incorrectly. So before pursuing this article I want you to reflect on your last prep and ask yourself if you have done everything in your power to improve quality nutrition and safely drop some unneeded body fat? If you haven’t done that then you have already got the next step of improvement in your next phase.

The next thing I want you to ask yourself is why are you weight cutting in the first place? Are you looking at being extremely competitive in a high level competition or are you looking at setting a new all time record?
Even with these in mind how much impact to your performance are you willing to sacrifice to make weight? This may mean, not even putting up a total. I can almost guarantee you will never perform at your best and are now opening yourself to much greater injury risk.

In my honest opinion, most weight cuts are used as a crutch for bad nutrition, people use this as an easy way out to being lazy for the last 12 weeks of their prep.

Thankfully, the more educated the higher level lifters become the more this information is fed down to novice level lifters. Along with this we have the difference between 2hr and 24hr weigh ins. So let us start here.

2 Hour Vs. 24 Hour Weigh Ins:
We have all seen that guy at weigh in, looking like he is about to pass out, feeling crook and sitting with a gallon of electrolytes, salt tablets and food ready to step on the scales. What is commonly missed, is that your used to training around a certain body weight. You have a fullness of fluid around your joints, and in your muscles that is often depleted after a weight cut. This leads to your lifts feeling a little different or in most cases heavier, the equipment you’re using may not mold and fit you the same way causing more stress for you to deal with on the day.

Personally at Nexus Performance we are advocates of the 2 hour weigh in. It minimises the stupidity of decision making on the lifters behalf when it comes to these events. Unfortunately a lot of the time athletes still get away with making extreme weight cuts and putting up a respectable total. I can almost assure you however, their recovery post comp is drastically slower than the others who have competed.

24 hour weigh ins open up the opportunity for larger weight cuts and horrible rehydration methods to take place. I understand it’s out of your control how the federation is conducting their weigh ins, but it is your responsibility as an athlete or coach to make the safest and smartest option for the best possible performance. No one remembers how much you weighed when you competed, they ask how much you deadlifted or totaled. 

Starting Better:
If you plan on competing in the upcoming months or weeks, our first piece of advice is to ensure you monitor your weight, monitor your nutrition and manage your stress and recovery in advance. There are a few simple things you can do to enhance your performance and recovery potential throughout a prep and allow for better comp day experience. 

Powerlifting has forever been recognised as the fat mans sport. However, if you look at the winning athletes among many of the weight classes and you will see that the quality of conditioning of these men and women are vastly improving.

The methods we outline in this article will help you effectively drop 3-5% of your body weight in the lead up to your competition. We do not suggest you take the hardcore option and suffer any more than what is needed. There is no added benefit to this except looking like a fool who bombed their comp.

If you need help managing your weight leading into a competition I recommend you seek help in advance, don’t contact someone last minute because you realise you have stuffed up, causing more stress on your coach or yourself then necessary.

If you have done the right thing throughout your prep and come into final week with few kilograms to lose below are some acute methods you can implement to drop a little bit of body water and gut contents.

The Process:
Let’s set a scenario to help make this more digestible. Your comp is on a Sunday from 10am, this competition is a 2 hour weigh in which means minimal room for error. Making weight on a 2 hour process can be done in many different alternatives and rehydrating is equally as important.

One of the safest ways to reduce weight is to initially manipulate water without adjusting any form of calories or macros. I always recommend from 3-4 weeks out we restrict any eating out to better manage weight fluctuations and sodium intake.

From one week out you can start by calculating you current fluid intake and doubling it. Say 3 litres to 6 litres. I generally do not recommend exceeding diuresis much past this. So we continue with 6 litres for 5-6 days before your competition. By manipulating fluid in this effect you will see a wooshing effect where weight may increase slight after 1-2 days due to this increase but a larger loss of bloat, retention and can result in around 2% weight loss. 24 hours out from competition we drop the fluid back to maintenance or slightly below, 2-3 litres. This allows the athlete to remain significantly hydrated however the body hasn’t quite caught up with the drop off yet so you will continue to urinate for the next 24hrs.

In addition to manipulating fluid if you are at a higher end of the weight range we can introduce a reduction of gut weight. This can be achieved by a way of means from reducing fiber intake earlier on in the week to reducing the food volume. Fiber is great for a health gut, however it also slows down the rate of digestion leaving more food in your digestive tract.
Generally we achieve this from implementing a low residue food diet. This is accomplished by opting for higher calorie dense foods. For example replacing mince, vegetables and potato meal with lollies, chocolate and protein powder. 

Spending 2-4 days with reduced fiber and food volume will reduce content in your stomach. By limiting the amount of food you’re eating can also lead to a drop in body weight by an additional 1-2%. You may think of eating chocolate and lollies as unhealthy but for a short controlled period of time you will see minimal if any health impacts as your calories remain the same. 

Another healthy and low stress alternative is increasing your daily movement throughout the week, this can be done by increased daily steps, implementing pool sessions or low impact cardio. By slightly increasing your daily movement you will keep joints happy and healthy leading into your competition alongside better energy expenditure.

Finally we have fasting and sweat sessions. These are the final stages of your week if the desired outcome hasn’t quite been reached. 24 hours out from competition and we are still sitting around 1-2kg overweight we can then look into wearing a jumper and tracksuit from the moment of wake up and throughout the entire day before your weigh in. By naturally introducing perspiration over the forced sauna or hot bath alternative limits the amount hot air inhaled that creates internal dehydration and discomfort.

Depending on the amount of weight you have got to lose, the amount of fluid you have reduced to and the drop in food volume you have created we can finally create a fasting time slot from 12-18hrs before weigh in. So if you weigh in is at 8am cutting everything off at 8pm is the easiest alternative, but can be extended to 4pm the day before this will still limit the amount of dehydration and glycogen depletion that may occur. Fasting also allows for those who may be weighing in later in the afternoon.

To cap this off I want to suggest a few DO NOTS.

Do not, use diuretics or laxatives.
Do not, cut out all carbohydrates.
Do not, cut all fluid.

I only suggest you use saunas or hot bath alternatives as an absolute last measure the morning of your weigh in for no longer than 20 minutes. If you’re using these, the night before your weigh in your opening the window for dehydration and potential illness.

Results may vary from each individual and depending on the weight that is needed to be lost. If you would like assistance cutting weight coming into your next competition you would be pleased to know we also offer once off consultations that can help you through this process. But the easiest and safest alternative is looking into ongoing nutrition coaching and optimising your body composition and setting realistic body weight goals.


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