by Gage Reid of Nova Strength
Disclaimer: Before attempting any weight cut it's important to underage the risks, potential damage that can occur during extreme weight loss and periods of dehydration. As an athlete it's on you to ensure that you are putting the most important aspects at the top of your priority list; personal health and longevity. No weight cut is worth the potential long term damage that can occur from a poorly executed cut. Ensure that your weight cut is just as well thought out as your training, while also taking your health into account and you will be successful. I'd like to also mention that I am NOT medical professional and the views represented in this article are from years of research, anecdotal evidence, as well as studies done by high level athletes and coaches. Enjoy!
Why do we do water cuts?
In a perfect world athletes would remain in their specific weight classes all year round as to avoid having to cut any weight for competitions. As most of you know this is a very hard thing to do for many reasons that can include, but are not limited to; Hypertrophy phases of training that are dedicated to building more muscle, therefore the caloric demands are higher and many athletes are simply not as dedicated to remaining at a specific bodyweight for long periods of time (especially if you float between two weight classes).
There are many reasons why lifters justify performing extreme weight cuts (cutting up to 10% of your bodyweight for world records or higher placing at big meets) and why lifters will execute reasonable weight cuts (drop a few pounds/kilos so they can fit into their weight class being the most common). The most important thing to remember when cutting weight for a meet is to first understand why YOU are cutting weight, make a well thought out plan and then work to successfully execute the plan.
Cutting weight can be both a benefit and a disaster. If you are thinking about performing a weight cut it's important that you plan it out well and understand the rehydration process so that you can perform on meet day. In my opinion, a weight cut is only successful if you have a strong showing at your meet by hitting your planned attempts. If the weight cut hinders your ability to execute on the platform or hinders your abilities then you may need to take a step back and analyze where your cut (or possibly your training) went wrong.
Two Hour Weigh-Ins vs. Twenty-Four Hour Weigh-Ins
For those of you who compete in the International Powerlifting Federation (IPF) and its affiliates like USA Powerlifting (USAPL) then you will be subject to a 2 hour weigh-in on the day you compete. Unlike the 24 hour weigh-in where you have an entire day to rehydrate and gain all of your lost bodyweight back, you must understand the large amounts of weight loss will severely effect performance on the platform. Although opinions vary on this matter, it's commonly advised that you do not cut more than 5-10% of your Bodyweight for weigh-ins (10% being the absolute limit).
Cutting for a 2 hour weigh-in is a delicate operation that requires a well thought out approach, an understanding of the how's/why's of a successful weight cut and especially PRACTICE. In order to get good at cutting weight for competition you must practice over time and find what works best for you. Some people are able to drop 10+ pounds of water over the course of a week, successfully rehydrate on meet day and go perform at a high level, while others struggle with having a solid performance following a small weight cut.
It is commonly preached by top lifters and coaches that you should NOT perform any type of weight cut for your first Powerlifting meet because as a new lifter you aren't as aware and experienced enough to warrant any type of weight cut. The goal of your first Powerlifting meet should be to go in and simply perform to the best of your abilities regardless of weight class (and your Wilkes co-efficient should be the least of your priorities as a first time competitor). By limiting the amount of variables in your first meet it allows you to optimize your personal experiences and performance; rather than focusing on a weight cut or on things that don't involve getting stronger leading into the meet.
How To Successfully Perform A Weight Cut
A successful water cut is determined by a few factors that include, sodium manipulation, water loading, carb manipulation and finally the taper leading into the meet.
Sample water load and taper if the meet is on Saturday (there are many different ways and methods to perform a water cut, but this will give you a basic understanding of the process):
Friday: 2L (stop drinking water 12-16 hours before weigh-ins)
Saturday: Weigh-in, Meet Day.
As you can see you start the week out drinking 4L of water a day, then 8L as the peak and as the week progresses you begin to cut the amount of water you consume everyday until you are drinking 0L of water 12-16 hours before your weigh-in. While you are loading the amount of water you're drinking you are also manipulating your sodium due to the increase/decrease of water consumption over the course of the week.
During this week it's also recommended to taper your carbohydrate intake as the week progresses, this will ensure that you can optimize the amount of weight you drop by weigh-ins. This portion of the cut will vastly differ between athletes, as some can simply rely on a water load/cut if they are only dropping 2-3 pounds to fit into their weight class. The more aggressive the weight cut the more factors you will need to take into account.
Wether it's a 24 hour weigh-in or a 2 hour the post-weigh in protocols and needs are similar in many, many ways. First of all, an athletes first priority is Rehydration.
In order to compete and perform at your highest level possible, successful rehydration must be done. Rehydration starts immediately after weigh-ins where the athlete should look to consume a drink high in sodium, glucose, potassium and carbohydrates. An excellent option for this is Pedialyte, as I believe it is more effective than other "sports drinks".
Another option, or even possible addition to a "post weigh-in drink" is sodium tablets mixed with water or with Pedialyte. This is typically done for a more aggressive 24 hour water cut that involves a higher percentage of bodyweight loss through the cut.
A long with the rehydration protocol it is important to also ensure you consume an appropriate amount of food after weigh-ins; and this is where 2 hours vs. 24 hour weigh-ins vastly differ.
If you are performing a 24 hour weigh-in then you will be able to consume a larger amount of food due to the length in which you have before you compete. As a lifter who has a 2 hour weigh-in it's important to pick foods that you are accustomed to (don't drastically change your diet on meet day) and that will not decrease your performance. For example, I would not recommend a 5,000 calorie meal right before you compete. Although both protocols are extremely different, they both have one thing in common: the goal is cut weight, then gain it back while also performing at the highest level possible; to put it simple, "Carb Drinks Hydrate Better than Water"
In conclusion, it's crucial to not only understand how to do a water cut, but also WHY you're doing it. By understanding those aspects you will ensure that you are both successful in your cut (meeting your target weight, performing at a high level on meet day) and remain healthy.
One of the biggest recommendations that I can make is this:
Find a coach or fellow lifter who is well experienced in both cutting weight for competition and who understands the rehydration process. By learning from an experienced individual and following their guidance it will both raise the likelihood of success, while also limiting the variables that you have to deal with heading into the meet. As a lifter it's vital that you manage all aspects of training, diet and recovery heading into the meet, so by having someone coach you on your weight cut it allows you to focus on training.
As always if you have any questions or comments leave them in the comments section on Facebook. In this particular article it would be great to hear from individuals about their personal weight cutting experience, both good and bad. Cutting weight is the more misunderstood aspect of the sport and it's important to show the newer lifters the proper ways to do it.
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