Let me preface this entire post by saying that cutting weight is not fun, can be dangerous, and is definitely NOT required for anyone. If it is your first time competing in a sport with weight classes, I highly recommend not cutting weight - you don’t need to deal with the additional stress of cutting weight. If you have a history of disordered eating, disordered thoughts regarding weight, etc. I also recommend NOT cutting weight. Cutting weight through water manipulation is not a fun process and it’s pretty mentally stressful so if you’re not prepared to deal with that aspect of it, I say that it’s not worth it.
[cutting weight isn't fun]
Water manipulation works on the notion that if you are over-hydrating, your body begins to excrete extra water because it anticipate that more water is coming. When you cut off your water or drastically reduce your intake, your body still continues to excrete excess water because it hasn’t quite “caught up” to the fact that more water is not on the way. Here is a great article outlining how that works. (And if you're asking "why cut weight?" the answer is because my sport has weight classes. In strongman it goes from 140 & under to 140-180 so being smaller in the middleweight class is a pretty decent disadvantage).
I usually cut about 4-6lbs the week before any competition since I tend to walk around about 5lbs above my weight class. The general recommendation is that you do not try to cut more than 3-5% of your bodyweight through water manipulation - if you need to cut more weight to reach your weight class, you need to start earlier and use more sustainable methods (like smart dieting). Also, the leaner and smaller you are, the more difficult it can be to cut weight (although there may be some evidence to suggest that being leaner can help you cut weight). If you’re a woman who walks around with sub 20% bodyfat, cutting weight can be fairly difficult. As someone who walks around at 17% bodyfat and 145lbs, I can easily cut from 145-139 in 5 days using water manipulation and some minor tweaks to my food intake while minimizing my miserableness. I also have 12 hour weigh ins most times. And here is how I do that.
[how I feel until Thursday]
Saturday and Sunday: I gradually up my intake of water to 1 gallon on Saturday and 1.5 gallons on Sunday. My diet stays the same however I cut out any processed foods and am a little more diligent with my food intake.
Monday: I drink 2 gallons of water, including 32oz of a Powerade Zero or pedialyte powder for extra electrolytes. I keep my carbs at normalish amounts (~200g) but eat fairly “paleo” (no grains, no dairy) - I eat a higher carb diet (200-300g most days) most of the time so I can reduce my carbs a small amount and still be eating a decent amount of carbs. I also cut off my creatine intake.
Tuesday: I drink another 2 gallons of water, including 32oz of Powerade Zero or pedialyte powder. Carbs still stay normal and my salt intake is a little higher than usual. By Tuesday, I basically just live in the bathroom.
Wednesday: I drink another 2 gallons of water, including 32oz of Powerade Zero or pedialyte powder. My carbs usually come down a little (~100g) and my salt is still a bit higher than normal.
Thursday: I cut my water down to ½ gallon and try to finish it before 6pm. I eat normally but low carb (~50g) and also stop food around 6pm. I do minimal salt on this day, too. If I’m still weighing in a little heavy, I will usually take a very hot epsom salt bath (10 minutes in, 20 minutes out for a few rounds) until I’m within 2lbs of my weight class.
Friday: No food or water until weigh ins. I usually have a few shots of espresso and a spoonful or two of coconut butter but cut that off around 10am if I have a 5pm weigh in time. This day is certainly the most miserable. While drinking a ton of water makes you feel a little weird, having to not eat or drink anything is definitely not fun. If you can come in a little under and have some room to
[post weigh in essentials]
After I weigh in, I start eating and rehydrating immediately. I immediately start sipping a Pedialyte and usually have a salty snack like gluten-free pretzels. While it’s totally tempting to just shovel food and water down your throat, don’t do it. Your stomach will NOT like it very much. I usually continuing eating and hydrating via water and pedialyte until I weigh what I weighed on Monday. I don’t want my leverages to change too much as a result of being dehydrated and 5lbs lighter, so food is my BFF. As fun as that sounds, it really is difficult to try and gain 5lbs in a few hours. I don’t stuff myself but just continually eat for hours until I go to sleep. Rehydrating and refeeding yourself adequately is extremely important. Again, cutting weight is NOT something that should be taken lightly since it is dangerous.
[p.s. a contest recap is coming soon, I promise!]