A Woman’s Guide to Cutting Weight For Meets

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Article written by Lindsey Craft for LiftBigEatBig.com

Meet preparation can make you or break you, so have your sh*t together. Don’t have your sh*t together? Read this for tips on dieting, and making weight for your meet and recovering from your cut.
         
          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 glycogen weight than women.
          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).
 

Fat, like all lipids, is hydrophobic (meaning it repels water). So an increase in body fat decreases the amount of mass that will be affected by a water cut.

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#)
Dieting for a meet
          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.


Up to 8 weeks out daily calories can be reduced (by ~250kc) and you can remove all carbohydrate sources (sugars, grains, and starches). Rebel carbohydrates from vegetables, nuts and diary are fine, but the staple of the diet is lean protein and unsaturated fats. Lots of fat and even more of protein!


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.

Now things get a little ugly, not to mention unpleasant.
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.

For a 2 hr weigh in: drink a 50/50 mix of water and Gatorade or other electrolyte drink with carbohydrates. Eat a meal with lean protein and simple carbohydrates. After the meet don’t be in a rush to put all the weight back on.

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!


Lindsey Craft: Master 105 & 114 powerlifter, Elite 123, 2010 105lb AWPC World Champion and best female lifter in open division.
23 World Records and 31 National Records.

B.S. Health Fitness Specialist
NSCA-CPT

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

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  • I know it is not the norm for this forum but, how might you adjust the nutritional aspects of the long, slow cut for a strict vegetarian (ovo/lacto)? Thanks.

    • Did you ever get a response to this? i’d also like to know

  • Anonymous

    Thank you so much for this article. The coach I am working with would like me to drop a few pounds, but I wasn’t feeling like I could do so safely. I still struggle with the Eat Big part of LiftBigEatBig and have some issues with food and diet. I’m getting better, but old habits die hard.

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  • Anonymous

    Question: would saturated fat sourced from quality meats be problematic? You mention in your article lots of lean meats and unsaturated fats, but I would sooner pick a fattier thwak of protein and skip the avocado/olives/nuts etc to enjoy with the leafy greens. Would this approach of a higher saturated than unsaturated fat diet affect desired results?

  • Excellent! I like this post very much. Health is wealth but over health called fat. Fat is not good. I am fat. Now I am looking for slime. But I can’t control it. Please give me suggestion how can I control it?
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  • You can even freeze vegetables, try freezing bell peppers cut into strips or chunks, onions, carrots, or even potatoes. Then just toss them into your meals when you are cooking. It saves time. Thanks.

  • Anonymous

    I was intrigued until you mentioned “Protein is necessary to repair and remodel damaged muscle tissue, make peptides, and keep the animal population under control” You realize the meat you eat is specifically bred, grown a slaughtered for you to eat. NO impact on population control.

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  • cordeliajane

    This is exactly what I needed! Thank you so much for addressing women’s issues in making weight!

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  • Hello!
    I’ve used this once, successfully – thank you! I’m re-reading and see drop protein to 1.5g/lb body weight 1-2 weeks out. What’s the protein recommendation in the earlier weeks of the 2 months?
    Thanks!