Cutting Weight For Powerlifting Competitions: 24 Hour Weigh-Ins
Disclaimer: I DO NOT RECOMMEND CUTTING WEIGHT FOR POWERLIFTING MEETS. This article is for educational purposes only and details how I have successfully cut weight for all my competitions. Unless you have prior experience with weight cutting and are going for an all-time record, cutting weight is not worth the risk. Weight cutting can take quite the toll on the body.
Why Cut Weight for a Powerlifting Meet ?
I mentioned it above, but it deserves reinforcement because I don’t want anyone to get hurt. You should only be cutting weight for powerlifting competitions like this if you are closing in on an all-time open record, NOT a federation record and/or record based on age classifications. If you have ten pounds of weight to lose, this method will work, but it’s rather unnecessary.
Why Not ?
You should NOT cut weight if you are not an elite level powerlifter. Powerlifting is already scary without the addition of weight cutting. A muscle, ligament or tendon can tear at any second and you can bet that cutting weight isn’t going to help. To cut weight for a powerlifting competition, you need to know your body in a way that can only come from years of experience and learning built on the platform.
I understand the desire to be competitive and to do your best, but cutting weight isn’t safe. Not only can it be dangerous, but it isn’t fun either. For those who love their carbs, even a short cut like this can be hellish. Water deprivation, even for a day, can take a huge toll on the body under certain circumstances.
If the weight cut is large enough or shoddily implemented, performance can also be negatively affected. The last thing you want to do, is to show up to your first meet, bomb out because of a poorly performed weight cut in front of friends and family and tarnish what could have been one of the best days of your life. With this in mind, if you are dead-set on cutting weight for a competition, I suggest you try it out weeks prior to your meet to see how you react. You may find that it’s a breeze for you, which is great. On the other hand, you may feel terrible, your numbers plummet and you bail early. It’s best to know which individual you are prior to the real deal.
For the purposes of a weight cut for a powerlifting competition, we want to lose the weight as quickly as possible (safely), so that we spend the least amount of time possible in a weakened state. In order to do this, we manipulate water, salt and carbohydrate intake starting about a week prior to weigh-ins.
For the first few days, water intake is moderate and sodium intake is high in an effort to become hyper-hydrated. Each day, I drink a gallon and a half of water, consume foods high in sodium, add extra salt to my foods and add nuun tablets to my water.
Nuun tablets are an effervescent electrolyte-based hydration tablet that I had great success with after a friend of mine, who totals 1700+ @198 raw with sleeves, recommended them to me. Not only do they help hydrate, but I enjoy the flavor they add to the water, which is a particularly big deal later on in the cut when good-tasting foods and drinks are cut out. My favorite flavors are orange and citrus fruit, although I have tried and liked them all.
Once three days out from weigh-ins, one last effort is made to hydrate ourselves to the fullest extent possible. This is done by increasing water intake to two gallons for the day. You may be asking, “Why are you trying to put so much water weight on if you’re trying to cut?” and that’s a fair question. While putting on a few pounds of water when trying to cut weight for a powerlifting meet may seem counterproductive, it actually helps us drop more pounds when the time comes to completely eliminate water, carbs and sodium.
When we increase our fluid intake, our body up-regulates urine frequency and volume in an attempt to establish homeostasis; however, large doses of sodium and carbs prevent this from happening by increasing fluid retention. This means that large quantities of the fluids we drink are being stored as body-weight. When sodium and carbs are suddenly cut, our body’s response is delayed. For a short time, we will continue to have large urine movements, so long as fluid intake remains high, but our body no longer is in a favorable state to carry extra water since sodium and carbs have been restricted. This results in a massive drop in weight as we expel much more water than consumed.
Two days before weigh-ins, water is increased to 2.5 gallons, but nuun tablets are no longer used and sodium and carbs are cut in half. Water weight should begin to fall off, now that carbs and sodium are no longer present in high amounts. If it’s a large cut, I take magnesium citrate as a laxative a few hours before bed on this day. In order to work properly, magnesium citrate must be introduced as late as possible, but when water is still in the stomach. If you add magnesium citrate once you have already cut off water, the magnesium won’t work until you begin re-hydrating after weigh-ins. This is far too late and will have you losing weight on the toilet when you need to be putting weight back on. I do not recommend using magnesium citrate. It is rarely required and crapping your brains out is never pleasant.
On the final day of the cut, I limit myself to a half-gallon of water in the morning and attempt to keep carbs and sodium as close to zero as possible. I may take dandelion root and caffeine, two mild and relatively safe diuretics, in the morning with my water if I am more than five pounds over still and worried about making weight. For more information on the numerous uses caffeine has in powerlifting, check out my “Best Powerlifting Supplements Stacks” article.
Food choices become fairly difficult on the last day of the cut. It’s incredibly hard to find food that is low in both carbs and sodium. Almost all processed foods are out of consideration. Plain chicken that you cooked along with vegetables such as asparagus, which is a natural diuretic, are your best bet. I am pretty picky at this time and typically just drink a big protein shake throughout the morning.
If I am still five pounds over or more come night-time, I will start taking hot baths. I prefer ten to fifteen minutes submerged in water as hot as I can stand, followed by an equally long rest period under some thick blankets. While resting, I hold a bag of ice or an ice pack to the back of my head to prevent overheating. I repeat this cycle until I am within three to four pounds of my goal weight. Around this time, my morale is the lowest, so I reward myself by chewing on ice or gum after each bath. Hot baths are the most risky part of any weight cut, so I implore you to be conservative and avoid them at all costs.
Once you are within a few pounds of your goal weight, it’s time to go to sleep. Try to sleep in a cold room to allow your body temperature to fall. This will help you if you need to sweat off that final pound in the morning, although you should be pretty close after you pee. An easy to follow layout is provided below.
Saturday: 1.5 gallons of water + 8 nuun tablets, salt food
Sunday: 1.5 gallons of water + 8 nuun tablets, salt food
Monday: 1.5 gallons of water + 8 nuun tablets, salt food
Tuesday: 2 gallons of water + 8 nuun tablets, salt food
Wednesday: 2.5 gallons of water, cut sodium and carbs in half
Optional: Magnesium Citrate at night
Thursday: 0.5 gallons of water in a.m, 0 carbs, 0 sodium
Optional: Dandelion Root in the morning
Optional: Hot Baths
Friday: Morning weigh-ins
If done correctly, cutting weight can be done efficiently with hardly anything to worry about safety wise. If done wrong; however, cutting weight for a powerlifting competition can be dangerous. If you are set on cutting weight for a meet, read this and other credible sources multiple times so you know what you are getting into. Those who prepare, prevail.
If interested in more, check out Chris Duffin’s article on Cutting Weight for Powerlifting, Strongman and Olympic Lifting. Duffin is one of the best lifters in the world; you can’t get advice from someone much better than that. Powerlifting To Win also has an excellent article that covers weight cuts for 24 and 2 Hour weigh-ins. If you feel like you have the cutting weight part down, it’s time time to move onto the second part of a successful weight cut — putting the weight back on before your competition. To learn how to do this in the most effective way possible, click here.