*Disclaimer: Before trying any sort of weight cutting method, please remember that this can be dangerous, individual responses vary, and to proceed with caution. I am not a medical professional and am giving my anecdotal experience from water loading and cutting. *
Written by Sarah Strong
This month, I competed at the USPA Drug Tested North American Championships. After the pandemic shutdowns and excess eating due to stress, I started this prep at my heaviest around 145lb. I compete at the 132lb or the 60kg weight class. This meet had qualifying totals, so making weight was essential. Ideally, you should compete at whatever weight class you sit in naturally. Doing any sort of water cutting WILL impact strength to some degree. I generally don’t advise doing a water cut; but, I know athletes will do so anyway, so I am providing details of what has worked for me.
My first step in making weight was to put myself in a small caloric deficit throughout the prep to lose weight. I was able to go from 145 to 137 through dietary changes, and I weighed 137 at the start of my water loading phase. This is important-- you should not water cut more than 10% of your body weight. Some experts say that women shouldn’t cut more than 8%. And the smaller and leaner you are, the more difficult it is to water cut. So for my starting point at the water load to making weight, I was aiming to lose about 3.5-4%, which was manageable for me and not too extreme.
Okay, so now the information you came for-- how to water load and cut. There are numerous methods you can find online, but I will share what I did and the results I achieved. Before beginning the loading process, make sure you are consuming 1 gallon of water per day. This process is detailed for meets with a 24-hour weigh-in. I like to start the water loading process 4 days out from weigh-in day.
4 days out: 2 gallons of water (256oz)
3 days out: 2 gallons of water (256oz)
2 days out: 1 gallon of water (128oz)
1 day out: half gallon of water (64oz)
Day of weigh ins: no water until after weigh-in. Sip small amounts of water and Pedialyte immediately after. Then follow the re-hydrating plan.
As mentioned, people can respond differently to water loading and cutting. For some people, this alone can yield the desired results. However, others might need additional help. Other tools that can help you shed water weight:
Diurectics: Note that if you are lifting in a tested federation that you cannot take diuretics on the federation’s banned list. Caffeine pills or dandelion root are both natural options that work well. I would implement adding diuretics starting 2 days out from weigh-ins.
Sauna or hot baths. If you have access to a sauna the night before/morning of weigh-ins, it’s a great way to sweat out extra water. If you don’t have access to a sauna, you can draw a bath as hot as you can stand it. You will want to submerge as much of your body into the water for as long as you can. Towel off, rest, and repeat. You can do this the night before weigh-in and want to get to no more than 1lb over the desired weight that night before. You can also add Epsom salt or a mouthwash with alcohol. These are known to help you lose weight in the tub.
Spitting. If you wake up still overweight by just an ounce or two, you can try to spit it out. I have used chewing cinnamon gum to draw out more saliva. I don’t like to do cardio while so depleted, so I prefer this. But, some athletes may jump rope or jog the morning of to try to lose the last little bit.
Re-hydrating and refueling after weigh-in are vital to your performance on meet day. As mentioned, a water cut will affect strength to some degree. So to minimize that effect, you want to gain back as much weight as you can over the next 24 hours. Immediately after weigh-ins, I sip on some Pedialyte. You can also you Gatorade or other sports drinks. I just prefer Pedialyte (I know, might be weird to some of you). About 30 minutes after weighing in, I already start to feel back to normal. I then go and eat a meal with a good amount of carbs and sodium. The sodium will help you retain the water that you will consume throughout the day. After peeing/sweating everything out during the cut, your body needs that electrolyte manipulation to get back on track. My go-to meal after weigh-in is pancakes, bacon, and eggs.
Leading up to the meet and throughout the competition, you should continue to drink plenty of water. On weigh-in day, I like to finish off two bottles of Pedialyte as well as lots of water. I weighed in at 131.3lb and was back up to 137lb that night.
Some competitors like to do an IV after weigh-ins. If you make a drastic cut and have this option available, it’s a great way to replenish quickly. Personally, I have never done this. But I have spoken with athletes who have and they have had great results.
On the day of the meet, you will want to continue to drink plenty of water and consume meals with some sodium. It’s also a great idea to have some Immodium handy in case of the sudden influx in food after the cut sends you running to the bathroom.
As mentioned, results can vary greatly with water loading and cutting. As a coach, I generally only advise a cut if the athlete is close to the designated weight and there is either a qualifying weight class that has to be met or if there is a record or prize money within reach. If you are cutting and at any time pass out, start peeing blood, or feel any other severe symptoms of dehydration, please stop the cut. It is 100% not worth it. Always have someone with you to monitor you in the last days of the cut. Be as safe and as smart as you can in this so you succeed and don’t get hurt.