Cutting Weight for Powerlifting? Avoid These 3 Beginner Mistakes

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*Note: this article covers the topic of cutting weight to make a weight class for strength sports. This is not an article about fat loss or sustainable weight loss. Cutting weight can be very dangerous and you should consult with your physician before engaging in a cut.*

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Cutting weight for strength sports like powerlifting is not a fun endeavor. It’s physically draining and mentally stressful. There can be a lot of panic and worry surrounding those 30 seconds on the scale, especially if you’ve never cut weight before. I won’t get in to when it is advisable for athletes to cut weight or how much is appropriate, because that would be an entirely separate article. Spoiler alert: the vast majority of people do not need to make drastic cuts or cut any weight when competing in strength sports.  

However, if you find yourself in a position where you’re about to cut (an appropriate) amount of weight for the first time, check out the tips below to help you have a successful cut! 

  1. Starting too soon: If you’ve cut out your carbs and salt 3 weeks out from weigh ins....you’re gonna have a bad time. Manipulation of variables like water, salt, and carbohydrates are all tools in the toolbox when it comes to cutting weight. Removing those tools early on leaves you with limited resources to use as you’re close to your weigh in day. A cut based on water manipulation (and subsequent losing of excess water in the body) should start anywhere from 5-7 days out, depending on the athlete and the situation. Don’t limit your resources by trying to cut everything out too soon! 
  2. Doing too much: Much like starting too soon, doing too much can negatively impact your cut and more importantly, your meet day performance. If you’re only 1-2lbs over (and not a very light weight athlete) you likely do not need to manipulate your water and cut carbs and be super dehydrated for days on end. You want to minimize the amount of time that you are depleted and dehydrated for optimal performance on your meet day. Being at weight 4 days out, if you're cutting, is definitely not required or recommended.
  3. Panicking and not trusting the process: When you are cutting weight for the first time, it is important that you have realistic expectations about what the process will be like and what to expect day to day.  For example, when loading water and salt, it's fairly  normal to gain a few pounds on the scale for a day or two. This is totally fine! It is part of the process! But, if no one has set your expectations for you, this can cause you to panic and start taking drastic and often unnecessary measures. Remember, you only need to be at weight for about 10 minutes on weigh in day. Trust the process you or your coach has laid out for you and try to chill out as much as possible.

Again, cutting weight is not something that most people should be doing. It is not a long term fat loss solution or a health booster. It is something done to make a weight class to be competitive in a sport. If you've never cut weight before, I highly suggest hiring a coach to help you through the process. There is quite a  bit of science that goes into constructing an effective, safe cut and rehydration/refeed process that sets you up for a solid performance. It is much easier to have someone else take the reigns in this realm so that you can focus on getting ready for your big event. 

Got more questions on cutting weight? Leave them below!