Making weight is something I am consulted about frequently, especially by women. After 11+ powerlifting meets I have only ever missed one weight cut, and in over a year of advising athletes none of them has ever missed a weight cut and all my athletes have walked away with a best lifter award.
Some people may say “this is LBEB, why would you want to LOSE hard-gained weight?” Well, it’s because I’m a competitive asshole and you should be too. Cutting weight for a meet allows you to be more competitive with in a weight class and more competitive over-all. You should want to be as competitive as humanly possible. Take every advantage that you can get. Cutting weight can also give you the opportunity to put weight back on leaner than before, when done properly (more on that later).
There are also less noble reasons for cutting weight. If you get it stuck in your head to compete at a certain weight class, it will only make you a mental basket case and hinder your strength gains. If you get hung up on weight because of body-image, just give it up. No-one looks good in a singlet. We all look like sausages. And skinny doesn’t look as good as being strong feels.
Weight cuts aren’t all good, and they shouldn’t be done willy-nilly. Take caution and be aware of the potential consequences. If a weight cut goes awry you could weigh in heavy, it could suppress your performance, cause muscle cramps, and even increase the risk of injury (usually muscle tears or ligament injuries from dehydration).
Cutting weight is different for women than men
Making weight for women is very different and much more difficult than making weight for men. Men can do bigger cuts in a shorter period of time than women and get very predictable results, because their hormone levels are stable and they can deplete themselves of more water and
Women typically have a lower bodyweight than men (which limits the total amount of weight that women can lose), a higher % of body fat (limiting the relative amount of water weight that women can lose) and less muscle mass (once again limiting the relative amount of weight that can be lost from glycogen, which is stored with-in the muscle and liver).
Women’s hormones (such as estrogen and progesterone) fluctuate, and these hormones affect water retention and energy metabolism, making a cut (especially a water cut) more unpredictable than a man’s.
Because of this I recommend a long slow cut for women. It provides sufficient time for weight loss and any necessary dietary adjustments, retains muscle mass and strength, and relieves a lot of stress compared to a sodium and water manipulation.
During my last meet prep, I took of pictures of myself pre-diet, during every phase of my diet, and post meet. There are also some meal pictures.
|Before dieting (130#)|
|1st phase (127#)|
|2nd phase (124#)|
|3rd Phase (118#)|
|10 weeks post meet (130#)|
The most important thing to remember as a woman cutting weight is that your body is horribly efficient; it doesn’t want to change, and it will do the least amount of work possible. Don’t expect to do a big 20-40lb weight cut like a 250lb man, most women should not exceed a 10% weight cut. So if you are clocking in at 150# and want to make 132# may want to start dieting early or go up a weight class.
Protein is necessary to repair and remodel damaged muscle tissue, make peptides, and keep the animal population under control. Fats are required to make hormones and cell membranes. And both fats and protein can be used as an energy source!
Carbohydrates are the body’s first choice, and the most efficient macronutrient for energy. So we are going to take it away and make your body work harder, whether it wants to or not.
In the 2nd phase of the diet, the body is running off of fat and protein, both of which are inefficient fuel sources compared to carbohydrates. And since fat is easier to convert to an energy substrate than protein, the body becomes more dependent on dietary and body fat as fuel sources. The level protein is maintained to provide a sufficient amount of amino acids to build peptides and repair tissues.
At 1-2 weeks out protein can be dropped to as low as 1.5g/lb and all fat is removed; leaving only lean protein, leafy greens and lots of water (at least 2 gallons/day).
The hardest part of training is over. There isn’t much to recover from and there won’t be any noticeable strength or muscle gains occurring from now until the meet. So neither protein or fats needs are very high. This also assists in depleting glycogen from the muscle cells (minimal, but even a 1/4lb helps).
Increasing water intake is important, especially in the last week; it helps decrease anti-diuretic hormone so as much water weight as possible can be lost, without a risky sodium load.
For a 24 hr weigh in: The day before weigh ins, eat up until noon and drink until 2 pm then cease all water and food intake until after weigh ins. This allows for plenty of time to empty yourself out of any remaining food and water.
For a morning of weigh in: stop water intake the night before weigh ins and don’t eat breakfast until after weigh ins
Recovering from a 24 hr weigh in: drink a 50/50 mix of water and Gatorade or other electrolyte drink with carbohydrates. Eat lean protein and lots of carbs….or a bag of dicks, your choice.
Long term Recovery
After the meet, daily calories should be increased ~100-250kc each week for up to 6 weeks. Increase protein and fats first, slowly adding carbs back into the diet (pre and post work-out first, then add carbs into morning meals as well) and you’ll put the weight back on even leaner!
23 World Records and 31 National Records.
B.S. Health Fitness Specialist
2 years of experience training NCAA Div-1 athletes.
Sources:-Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, National Strength andConditioning Association, Baechle and Earle 2008
-The Ketogenic Diet: A Complete Guide for Dieter and Practitioner, McDonald 1998
-Essentials of Sports Nutrition and Supplements, International Society of SportsNutrition, Antonio et al 2008
-Afterburn 2 : The Body Furnace Program, Cosgrove 2006
-Advanced Sports Nutrition, Benerdot 2006
-The New Rules of Weightlifting for Women, Cosgrove 2007
-Warp Speed Fat Loss 2.0, Cosgrove 2009