Managing your training weight should be complementary to your weightlifting program and long term goals. Like all things weightlifting, cutting weight is a skill in itself and is very individualized. At California Strength, we practice individualized but simple weight cutting techniques that have been fool proof for our athletes time and time again.
First, we absolutely recommend discussing a healthy weight class with your coach. Ideally, you want to be in a weight class where you can perform and function safely while maintaining the lowest risk for injury while still making progress. We often see both injuries or a cease in progress occur when an athlete is training at too light of a body weight or with dangerously low body fat. It is very important to make sure that you are training and competing at a body weight that is safe, but also effective in producing the strongest training and competition numbers that you are capable of hitting.
Assuming that you are in the Realization Phase (Competition Prep) of your training and are preparing your body for a competition, we suggest no more than a 3% body weight cut the week of your competition.
For example, I train at approximately 49.5 kilograms in the Realization Phase leading up to a competition. A 3% weight cut from 49.5 would be around 1.5 kilograms, putting me in a great position to hit my target of 48kg for the competition. A weight cut greater than 3% of your body weight has high potential for a loss of strength and as a result, a loss of performance on the platform.
Managing The Weight Cut
To make weight, we rely largely on water manipulation the week of a competition. The idea behind this method is not to starve yourself and to eat regularly (relatively), then feel good by the time your weigh-in arrives. Here are just a couple techniques that we use:
Assuming you are about 3% over, we start hyper hydrating about 4 days before weigh-ins. The process of hyper hydrating is simple. Drink about 1.5 to 2 gallons of water a day while maintaining a decreased sodium intake.
The excessive water intake will result in a decreased production of vasopressin, an antidiuretic hormone that regulates the water in your cells. Your body will want to get rid of any water through frequent urination and sweating. To avoid electrolyte imbalances, we pace ourselves throughout the day by drinking about 1 liter every 2 hours
12 Hour Water Fast
About 12 hours from weigh-in, we cut the water and only drink small sips until weigh-ins. The 12 hour fast begins the dehydration phase of our weight cutting strategies. Some people on our team start the water fast the night before, depending on what time they lift the next day.
Passive Weight Cutting Strategies
We prefer to save these strategies for as late as possible in an effort to prevent dehydration before your big moment. The idea behind a strategic weight cut (one that is stress free) is to lose weight while keeping off your feet!
- HOT bath - As hot as you can stand for about 15 minutes. After the bath, wrap up and keep sweating. Because I typically weigh-in in the morning, I do this before bed until I’m about 1 kilogram over my competition weight.
- A sauna or steam room - Great strategies but can be unreliable especially when traveling. They may not be available or may not get hot enough AND I personally cannot stand the idea of being trapped in a tiny room of hot death.
- Spitting - I save this strategy for about 3 hours out. I typically sleep off around 0.5 kilograms which means that I wake up at about 48.5 kilograms. I have found that I can chew gum and spit that last 0.5 kilograms out in less than 2 hours. Personally I use a sour gum to induce salivation, this method is disgusting and far from lady like but it works. Depending on what time weigh-ins are, I can eat a light breakfast even though I’m still over.
Here are a couple of things to think about when you’re cutting weight...
Don’t OVER-cut! Now that the body weight advantage has been axed in Olympic weightlifting, there is no point to weighing in light.
- Are you a sweater or a glistener? How much time will you need?
- How much do you sleep off at night? How much weight are you comfortable cutting the day of your competition?
- Are your expecting your period? If so, will you be bloated?
- What time are weigh-ins? Will you need a meal before weigh-ins?
A timeline of my weight cut assuming that I have a Saturday morning weigh-in.
- Monday - Weight of 49.5 kilograms after practice on Monday night.
- Tuesday Morning - Begin hyper hydrating with 1 liter of water every 2 hours.
- Friday Afternoon - Begin my water fast.
- Friday Night - Consume a low c arb dinner, hot bath and sweat under a few blankets in bed while watching a Disney movie until my weight reaches 49 kilograms.
- Saturday Morning - Wake up weighing approximately 48.5 kilograms and start spitting approximately 2 hours before weigh ins.
- Weigh-in, replenish, and kick butt on the platform.
Pretty simple, right?
These are general guidelines that have worked for the California Strength team, but took me about a year to perfect the system and how it works for my body. Managing your weight for a competition is sometimes the most difficult part of competing and it shouldn't be if you're responsible and accountable to yourself in the weeks leading up to your competition. To perfect your own weight cutting process, it takes practice and you will develop PERSONAL success strategies. It’s also important to have a replenishment plan that includes plenty of electrolyte based fluids and a small snack with the nutrients you need to feel ready to lift. Good luck!