By Jordan Feigenbaum MS, CSCS, HFS, USAW Club Coach
Weight class sports, by definition, offer advantages to those who are at the top of their weight class and punishes those who are well under the upper limits. A lifter who wants to compete in the 198lb (90kg) weight class should weigh in at 198.9lbs to maximize his potential to lift weights. If he weighed 203lbs he would be forces into the 220 weight class where the lifters are stronger still, so the advantage lies in “being at the top” of your weight class.
Many have advocated slowly losing body weight for a meet to be the best method, which is useful for competitions that force you to weigh in shortly before the competition starts (i.e. the morning of). On the other hand, if your competition allows a 24-hour weigh in then you’d be foolish to lose the weight and not worry about cutting water because people are typically stronger at slightly heavier body weights. By having a slightly higher training weight, about 3% over your competition weight, you can train harder, heavier, and recover better from your training since you aren’t running too lean. Competitions that require same-day weigh ins are a little bit tougher on programming and nutrition for this reason. I mean have any of you traveled from St. Louis to Killeen, TX without drinking any water? It’s not fun, but if you want to squeeze into a weight class you’ll do what you have to do. If you get to weigh in the night before you can binge after the weigh in, rehydrate, and replenish electrolytes before you go to bed. This makes the morning of the meet much, much easier.
In this protocol we’ll be manipulating water, salt, protein, carbohydrate, and fat intake over the course of the week leading up to the competition. It’s important during the weeks preceding your “peak weak” that you’re including salt in your meals and drinking a lot of fluid. This gets the body used to processing, filtering, and excreting salt and water, whereas if you just introduced salt to your diet you might require an adaptation period where your body normalizes it’s secretion of the solute. This usually doesn’t take longer than a few days, but it’s not something you want to mess with the week leading up for a meet. We will basically have a lot of water and salt to kick off the week to upregulate the body’s filtering and elimination of salt and water. Later on in the week we’ll titrate the water and salt intake down. The body still processes the water and salt like it did before when intake levels were high, and thus a significant amount of water is shed.
During this period of time we’ll also be manipulating carbohydrate intake, which is stored as glycogen in the skeletal muscle and liver. One gram of glycogen requires 4g of water to store it and depending on how muscular and big a person is there may be 400-800g+ of glycogen stored in the body at maximum capacity. In short, this also requires a lot of water to be retained. So by manipulating carbohydrate intake down we can slowly shed water throughout the week. Additionally, this primes the body to be very efficient at restoring glycogen stores upon the intake of carbohydrates after the weigh in. Carbohydrates require salt for absorption, so the combination of salt and carbohydrate depletion sensitizes the body’s tissues to these two molecules. When salt, carbohydrates, and water are reintroduced after the weigh in we see an almost immediate shuttling of these nutrients into the muscles and livers (if these stores were empty). This is a very critical step for ultimate meet performance and should not be overlooked (even if you don’t cut water or salt, make sure you’re glycogen stores are full)!
So what would “peak week” look like for a 210lb guy trying to make it into the 198lb weight class?
7/6 Days Out- 2 gallons of water/ 7g of salt/ 230g pro/110g CHO/ 45g Fat
5 Days Out- 2 gallons of water/ 5g of salt/ 200g pro/410g CHO/55g fat
4 Days Out- 2 gallons of water/5g of salt- 215g pro/310g CHO/50g fat
3 Days Out- 2 gallons of water/ 5g of salt- 230g pro/ 210g CHO/45g fat
2 Days Out- 1 gallon of water/ 2g of salt- 245g pro/110g CHO/ 35g fat
1 Days Out- 1/2 gallon of water/ 1g of salt- 260g Pro/ minimal CHO and minimal fat
Day of Weigh in for PM weigh in- sips of water/coffee only until weigh in. No salt and food as weight tolerates. If you’re on the borderline don’t eat until you are under the cut off, then a few egg whites or couple ounces of chicken will tie you over until the weigh in. Use hot showers and/or a sauna as necessary.
After the weigh in make sure to replenish your electrolytes by using a full-strength Gatorade (with sugar) and consuming half of the Gatorade’s volume in pure water. Pedialyte works two if you cut it 50/50 with water, but I don’t like pedialyte because it tastes awful and is more expensive.
Load up on the carbohydrates and proteins you’re used to eating and salt everything. Fat can be included into the meals too but limit it to 20g or so per meal as too much fat will slow down the rate of transit and absorption velocity too much.
Well, now you’re armed with how to cut water for a meet! Post any questions to the comments section and good luck!