This month I’d like to start with a little story. It goes back to my days as a competitive powerlifter. I competed for 12 years in powerlifting, and recall many contests where I had to cut weight. Towards the end of my powerlifting career I was about 196 lbs. I could have competed in the 198 lb. class, but elected to drop down to the 181 lb. class to take a shot at a 500 lb. bench press. There weren’t too many guys in those days who benched 500 lbs. in the 181 lb. weight class so it sounded like a good idea.
For the first year I was going to make this attempt, I had my best training lift of 475 lbs. for 3 repetitions in the gym. That would equate to about 530 lbs. for me. It was the best training session ever, and my contest was the following week. I was super strong, and super ready to go “get the job done.” I only had to drop from 196 lbs. to 181 lbs. and had a week to do it. Worst case scenario, I KNEW I’d finally get my 500 lb. bench press at 181 lbs. of body weight.
I wanted to keep strong, so I waited until Wednesday of that week to start cutting weight, for the Saturday morning weigh-in at 9 am and the powerlifting contest at 12 noon.
I just ate 3 small meals each day, and they were basically sandwiches, and protein shakes. By Friday night I was 189 lbs. I had to lose 8 more lbs. and knew I’d just take off the water weight by the time weigh-ins rolled around. Heck, I’d get a couple of hours to get the water back in, so I could probably compete weighing a full 195-196 lbs. and finally get that 500 bench.
I didn’t drink any water, and sat in my friends’ sauna for a few hours on and off. The weight was coming off. I was tired, and didn’t feel too great, but the weight was coming off. Besides, I could still put the water back in my system and compete feeling strong.
At 9am the following morning, I weighed in at 181lbs. on the nose. After weigh-ins I guzzled Gatorade and water. I tried to eat a bit, but my appetite was mainly for water and Gatorade, not solid food. I also ate a banana to get my potassium level back up. The long and the short of it was that I only bench pressed 470 lbs. that day. It was good enough to win that particular powerlifting contest, but it was a personal disappointment. I knew something was wrong. The next week at the gym, I was comfortably weighing 197 lbs. and my bench press was even better. I hadn’t trained since the contest, but the following Saturday I was pushing weight that would equate to a 535lb. bench press.
What did I learn from this experience?
I learned that if you want to keep your strength, you’d better cut weight correctly. If you’re a wrestler or a powerlifter, your goal is to have your best performance. Wrestlers don’t lift maximum weight to win a match, but it makes sense to assume that if you are at your strongest, you will wrestle at your best!
With all things equal, the stronger wrestler wins!
With this in mind, here are some guidelines for cutting water weight, in order to wrestle at your best:
Use proper weight cutting methods to lose fat first If you don’t have much fat on your body, you either have to trick your body in order to encourage more fat loss, or accept that your body will cannibalize its own muscle for food otherwise. You’ll need to be eating 6 or 7 small protein-centered meals throughout the day.
Be no more than 3 or 4 lbs. over weight class two days before. Listen carefully. There are some basic physiological truths in this world. You cannot cut 10 lbs in one day, and have it come from fat. It has to be dehydration. Dehydrating will make you weaker if severe. I don’t care how tough you are, how good you are at wrestling, who you learned from etc. If you cut too much over night, you might win the match or tournament in spite of poor weight cutting techniques, but you won’t wrestle at YOUR personal best! It won’t matter until you’ve met your match. Be smart with your weight cutting.
Don’t dehydrate. You should begin “restricting” water about 15 hours before you weigh in. That means you will drink 6-8 ounces of water every 3 hours beginning 15 hours before weigh in. If you feel like you can’t drink any water at this point, and try to merely sweat it out the old-fashioned way, you will not keep your strength.
The Super-Saturation meal 36 hours before you weigh in (assuming that you’re at 3-4 lbs. over) you should super-saturate the muscle cells. To do this, you would have a big carbohydrate meal (pasta, rice, yams, baked potatoes, etc.) You eat as much as you can comfortably eat during this meal. You then restrict carbohydrates the rest of that day, and the next day. Don’t worry, although your body will use the stored carbohydrates (now in the muscle cells as glycogen) for energy, you will still have glycogen stored in your liver. Your body will be able to use this stored liver glycogen for energy on wrestling day. After the super-saturation meal, you will eat basically all-protein meals.
Had I known then what I know now, I might have hit my 500 lb. bench press in the 181 lb. class. Instead I came in at a comfortable weight of 193 lbs. later that year and got my 500lb. bench and just missed a 535 lb. attempt. Learn from my mistakes. Cut your weight properly, consistently, and watch your wins increase tremendously!