Weight Cutting for Powerlifting
When weight cutting for powerlifting, the goal is to be able to cut the desired amount of bodyweight without losing strength or having to take drastic measures. I personally I am not experienced or knowledgeable enough to comment or give advice on more drastic weight cutting measures. But the below protocol easily takes care of about a 3-5% drop in body weight, which for the vast majority of competitors should be the top end of how much they should cut for a meet. Optimally if you are under a 2 hour weigh-in process, it would be best to not really have to cut at all, but if the time calls for a cut I have a fairly easy go-to plan that has worked for many. The below article in my opinion is probably the best there is on weight cutting, but it is fairly detailed an all encompassing. I instead want to give a simplified version for the very specific approach of a 3-5% body weight loss, as well as add some information gained from other sources and that has worked extremely well through experience. Also if you want the full detailed version, below is a link the YouTube video I made on weight cutting that is more encompassing.
So if you look at that article, one of the first charts is the water loading process, which is the same for 24 hour and 2 hour weigh-ins for the most part. The weight cut I use is a combination of this water loading process and a gut cut, emphasis on the gut cut. When all that is needed is a 3% or less body weight loss, many times I will only do a gut cut only, as that is where most of the weight loss comes from. What is a gut cut? Basically it is getting rid of all the “poop” that is in your intestines. Gut weight does not have any effect on strength, so if we can limit the amount of built up food in your intestines, then we can achieve a fairly high amount of weight loss (2-3% of body weight) with no impact on your performance. If we need more than a 2-3% loss, then I will also add the water loading process. The scientific detail of the exact physiological processes of why a water load works is beyond my scope of knowledge, but if you are interested in the actual mechanics of it, take a listen to The Strength Athlete Podcast Episode 15, where Reid Reale goes into detail about that (TSA Podcast Episode 15). Basically you drink water in excess of what you need, which then tells your body to start to urinate more, and then once you cut water back you continue urinating at the same rate, yet your aren’t drinking as much water. So since we’ve got the details of what is happening physiologically, let’s lay out the actual plan.
|3 Days Out||3/5ths of your calories from Protein Shakes and Almonds (split these evenly, half and half of those allotted calories), and 2/5ths from very calorically dense foods and zero fiber foods (most likely high sugar foods with low weight). Maintain your normal caloric intake. For example if your intake is 3,000 calories, what you will do is account for 1,800 calories, or 3/5ths, to come from protein shakes and almonds, and the other 1,200 calories to come from sugary/zero fiber foods.|
|2 Days Out||3/5ths of your calories from Protein Shakes and Almonds, and 2/5ths from very calorically dense foods and zero fiber foods.|
|1 Day Out||3/5ths of your calories from Protein Shakes and Almonds, and 2/5ths from very calorically dense foods and zero fiber foods.|
|Water Load (adjust numbers as needed to your average intake)|
|2 Weeks Out||1 Gallon a day for a minimum of a week prior to the water load.|
|4 Days Out||2 Gallons|
|3 Days Out||2 Gallons|
|2 Days Out||1 Gallon|
|1 Days Out||.5 Gallons|
The protein shakes and the almonds are the key to the gut cut. Protein shakes have basically zero gut weight to them, and almonds are super calorically dense and also are dense in all 3 macro-nutrients. The is no real need to do this for more than 3 days prior to weigh-ins, as longer is not better. If someone only needs to lose 1-2lbs., I may even only have them do this for 2 days instead of 3. But this 3 day gut cut should yield around a 2-3% loss in body weight. I actually have most people used salted almonds, as sodium is still important and if all you are eating is protein shakes, unsalted almonds, and sugary foods you are also accidentally doing a sodium cut as well. In cases where we may have a large weight cut, then I will go unsalted so that we cut down on sodium as well, but otherwise I keep it as salted almonds.
For the water load, it is a must that at least a week prior to starting the load that you consistently consume 1 gallon a day to get yourself acclimated to that intake. 1 gallon is a baseline number, and that will have deviation based on how much you intake on average. If you drink significantly less or more than 1 gallon daily, adjust the numbers as needed. But I will use 1 gallon for the example here. At 4 days out you will start loading with 2 gallons, which by the second day of that you will most likely be urinating non-stop. 2 days out you drop to 1 gallon and then 1 day out is .5 gallons. Make sure this water is accounted for within the protein shakes. That last day you have to be pretty sparing with water, and most likely every drop will be used for your protein shake consumption. These liquid amounts are a generic average though, so if your normal water intake varies greatly from 1 gallon daily, you may need to adjust these numbers up or down.
Now for some caveats to this:
- Make sure to weigh every single morning, with the most important days being 2 days and 1 day out. Based on where you are at, you can adjust. In particular what commonly happens is that 1 day out an athlete has already hit weight, and if that is the case I will increase the water intake to .75 or maybe even 1 gallon so that they do not have to suffer as much.
- The gut cut is the main priority and where the majority of the weight loss will come from. You MUST weigh and track your food. Do not eyeball. The small details are extremely important, and 20 almonds does not necessarily equal 28 grams of almonds. Same goes for water loading. Make sure to measure out every ounce/liter you drink.
For a 200lb. athlete, typically I can expect about a 6-7lb. loss from this protocol, with times where I have seen up to 11lbs. and other times as low as 4lbs. So what that means is try this well before a competition. If you have never cut before, don’t let your first time be the week of the competition. Typically I will have new athletes practice this during a deload week a couple months out just to see how their body responds. If done correctly and with precision, this is a very effective protocol that is much easier on the body and strength levels than subjecting yourself to a sauna for hours on end.