Today’s post is written by Quest Athletics lifter/coach Brooks Conway. He routinely cuts over six pounds of body weight for his meets and has developed a method based on wrestling experience, advice from fighters, and what he’s learned from a world-class coach. I’ve gotten weight-cutting advice from Brooks in the past for my lifters, and I thought you all would benefit from his advice.
by Brooks Conway
It’s not always necessary to cut weight. For example, if you’re doing your first meet, there’s absolutely no reason to cut weight. Go have fun; you don’t need to add any stress to the process. However, if you want to be competitive, it’s time to consider what weight class you’re going to be strongest. If you’re 170 pounds and beginning to post some pretty big numbers, it’s worth it to cut the 5 pounds rather than lift with the 181s and have mediocre results. The question always comes down to: do the benefits of cutting the weight (being the biggest in the weight class) outweight the costs (possible loss of strength and mental strain)? Consult a doctor before beginning any diet or a weight cutting program concocted by a math major.
The most important aspect of cutting weight is the smart manipulation of water. I put emphasis on the word smart because any idiot can wear a sauna suit, run around in circles for 3 hours, and sweat off 6 pounds. But the aforementioned idiot certainly won’t be able to lift to his full potential two hours later. I use a simple water loading/depleting template a buddy of mine who fights on the amateur level gave me. Six days out until three days out, drink 1.5 to 2 gallons of water. Two days out, drink 1 gallon. Day before, drink half a gallon (all of it before 4pm if you have a 7am weigh in, spread it out through the full day if you have a 2pm weigh in). One thing to consider when doing this is that drinking excessive amounts of water is liable to flush out a lot of important vitamins and minerals from your body. I typically have a Powerade Zero as 32oz of my daily water allowance to get some electrolytes in. I also take extra amounts of our Ultra MEGA-4 Mineral Complex because minerals are just as likely to get flushed out of your system as electrolytes. Water loading/depleting works because if your body isn’t receiving ample amounts of water, it holds on to every ounce you put in because it’s in survival mode and doesn’t know when the next time it will receive water. If your body is receiving plenty of water, it readily excretes it, knowing more is on the way. Your body doesn’t adjust very quickly though. For example, the first day of consuming 1.5-2 gallons of water you may not piss as much as you expect, but on day 6 (the day before the meet) you will continue to piss almost as much as you were the previous few days because your body thinks more water is on the way.
There’s a few other things to consider that are going to determine how much water your body is holding onto. Sodium is the most important thing to take into account. Six days out, you DO NOT want to limit your sodium. Don’t go out of your way to consume extra sodium either, but if you begin to limit your sodium for a full week, while consuming 2 gallons of water for four days of that week, bad things will happen (Editor’s Note: low sodium concentrations, AKA hyponatremia, means that the body’s cells swell with too much water and can cause mild symptoms like diarrhea, headaches, and fatigue, but can also cause more serious problems like heart, kidney, and brain problems).
Beginning two days out, keep your sodium to a bare minimum. You can’t, nor would you want to, cut sodium out entirely. I would aim to consume under 500mg/day the two days before the meet. The next thing to consider is creatine consumption. I no longer take creatine monohydrate, I take our Jacked Stack which has Kre-Alkalyn which seems to make me hold on to a little less water weight while still giving me the strength gains (I’m not going out of my way to promote our supplements, but I legitimately do live on quest products). If you’re taking creatine monohydrate, after your last heavy squat workout, cut your dosage down to 3mg/day (under 200lbs BW) or 5mg/day(over 200lbs BW) to maintain the stores
in your system. On the Kre-Alkalyn I take 3-4.5mg/day while training and cut it down to 1.5mg/day while cutting. If you are a jabroni and take creatine year round, do not alter anything. Lastly, consume extra B-vitamins, as these seem to help with the excretion of water. I take Kroger brand B-complex, and typically take about 9 tablets the last two days before the meet. Also, if you drink coffee, make your first drink of the day 8oz more than you typically drink on the day before the meet. Caffeine is a natural diuretic.
You made weight. Congrats. The next two hours are far more important than everything you did the previous week (Editor’s Note: USAPL and USAW weigh-ins begin two hours prior to the start of the lifting session). The second you get off the scale, begin drinking a Pedialyte. Don’t chug it because it will probably make you sick, but also don’t sip too slowly because you only have two hours until the meet starts. Pedialyte will help to get the electrolytes back in your system. Aim to finish the bottle in fifteen minutes. Next consume the saltiest thing you can stomach. Sometimes Sherman, the owner and head coach at Quest Athletics, has me put packets of salt in my Pedialyte. Other times, I’ll have something like a sub sandwhich because of the high sodium content in the lunch meat. Don’t go crazy and eat something your body isn’t used to after dieting for a meet. After this, begin sipping on either another Pedialyte or a Gatorade. If you cut less than 4-5 pounds, do half Pedialyte and half water (Gatorade can also be used here, though it’s not as effective at Pedialyte). Consume at a little slower pace than the first pedialyte, because you’re likely to begin feeling full at this point. Assuming you’re warming up 45 minutes out (an hour and fifteen minutes after the weigh in) try to have most of the second pedialyte finished before you begin warming up. Again, after you squat, immediately eat something with a decent amount of sodium, and begin sipping on a Gatorade. Next thing to consider is your creatine. Typically, I begin to re-up my creatine stores the night before weigh-in because it won’t make me hold much water within 12 hours. With the Kre-Alkalyn, I take 6mg the night before, 6mg upon waking the day of weigh-in, then 6mg after squat. This could be overkill, but I want to make sure I’m getting as much back in my system as possible. If I were doing monohydrate, I would do 10mg the night before, 10mg morning of, and 10mg after the squat.
Something else to consider is your bowel movements. I think the myth that John Wayne had 40 pounds of impacted feces in his colon has been debunked at this point, but nonetheless, if you have waste waiting to be passed, that’s just dead weight. Primarily, the extra water should be enough to ensure you’re going once or twice a day. If you’re not, and especially if you’re going less than once a day, consider either a fiber supplement or a mild stool softener/laxative (emphasis on mild, no one wants to shit their singlet.. seen it happen). A pharmacist once told me miralax is the mildest. I was taking Green Vibrance before the meet and that helped keep me pretty damn regular. It’s the green powder made of barley grass, broccoli powder, spirulina, and probably the CEO’s grass clippings from the lawn of his million dollar mansion because that stuff is expensive.
What’s a good weight to train at or begin this water depletion at? If you have 48 hour weigh ins, you can take all of this to a much more extreme level. But with a two hour weigh in you have to be realistic. Sherman says 4%, or in extreme cases 5%, over the weight class is the most you want to train at more than a month out. For 183 thats 190-192. For 205 thats 213-215. To use this template to cut weight I would suggest being within 2.5% of the weight class, for 183 thats 187.5 (almost exactly what I weighed the day before the arnold). If you have more weight than that to cut, you need to look at your diet farther out than a week or consider moving up a weight class. Remember: the goal is to make the weight class while retaining all your strength, not just to make a weight class for the hell of it. My old roommate is a natural bodybuilder and he did my macros for 12 weeks before the Arnold becuase I was creeping up in the mid 190s after an enjoyable Christmas break. I ate within the confines of what I thought was good for my body (grass-fed beef, brown rice, steel cut oats, etc.), but he adjusted the carb/fat/protein amounts I consumed per day as my weight changed. This was extremely effective as opposed to just guessing portions, but also made me go out of my mind some days when I din’t feel like weighing a chicken breast. He offers this service at a price for anyone interested. Lastly, don’t gain a whole bunch of extra weight in the offseason just for the sake of it. I only recommend this if you are gaining weight slowly and methodically through proper nutrition, but your current weight happens to not match up with your weight class. You can bet if they had a 188 weight class, I wouldn’t cut to 181/183 just for the hell of it.
The more times you go through this, the better you will be able to adjust the finer details to fit your body. This is just what has worked best for me with the limited knowledge I’ve rounded up in my 3 years of powerlifting and during high school wrestling.
Quest Nutrition and Athletics
Brooks works for Quest Nutrition and Athletics in Duluth, GA and is a recent grad of UGA. He has been powerlifting for three years under multi-time USA head coach Sherman Ledford. He’s a two time collegiate national medalist, North American Champion, and recently received best junior lifter at the Arnold. His best numbers are 672 squat, 451 bench, and 655 DL with a 1769 total and 538 wilkes. And for the gear haters, he pulled 600 raw at 181 as a teenager.
Video of Brooks at 2011 Collegiates (where he cut over 6 pounds).