Cutting for Powerlifting: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

I’ve been powerlifting for about 4 years now, and in that time I’ve competed 7 times. I compete in the 114 weight class, which means my weight has to be somewhere between 106 and 114.5. I’m proud to say I’ve always made weight, but I’m not proud of some of the ways I’ve had to get to weight. 

Over the years I’ve had to cut weight for meets and I used various tactics to try to find what would work best for me. I finally figured it out during my prep for my last meet (#7), and I actually didn’t have to “cut” at all! Here are three of the tactics I used that stood out among other ones. The two worst, and the one that worked. I’m writing about this to give you a peek into what a lot of powerlifters go through to get ready for a meet. I also know there are far worse things that have been done (I’ve witnessed many). And I also want to show you that you do not need to do any of these things, if you prepare the right way.

I would like to make one thing clear: I am by no means and expert on this and I would not advise anyone to do what I’m about to discuss. And, most importantly, this is an opinion piece.

Let’s get started!

The Ugly

Meet #6, December 2014. Location: Long Island. My weight was stuck at 119 until I was 10 days out. I had to water load, which was the one thing I had been actively trying to avoid. I had never done this before, so I did hefty research. I ended up using Caitlyn Trout’s protocol, which she has done many times. My coach at the time also thought that was the best one to do. Basically, you drink a ton of water then slowly decrease the amount so as to lose all your water weight. You also cut dairy and carbs. It was brutal. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Here’s what the week of the meet looked like for me:

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Some snapshots from the first day of this cut. That bottle is a 1/2 gallon!

 

Monday and Tuesday: 2 gallons of water throughout the day. Breakfast was 2 eggs whites, lunch and dinner were 2 pieces of chicken and broccoli. I think I had a handful of almonds as a snack once each day and my other snack was sliced cucumber and 10 baby carrots.

Wednesday: decrease water to 1 gallon throughout the day. All other meals stayed the same.

Thursday (day before weigh-ins): 1/2 gallon of water, which had to be finished by 6pm. Breakfast and lunch were the same. I had nothing after 6pm. No food. No water. I think I chewed sugar-free gum to stay sane (more on this in a minute)

Friday: after weigh-ins I drank 2 bottles of pedialyte over the course of 2 hours. I then ate a Clif bar, and had a big breakfast/lunch (it was around 1pm I believe) that consisted of eggs, bacon, toast, and homefries. I had a huge Italian dinner of pasta, meatballs, and mozzarella sticks. I was snacking throughout the day. I remember feeling ok at weigh-ins and for the rest of the day, especially after I re-hydrated. Looking back, it’s a bit of a haze.

Luckily this worked and I weighed-in at 113 pounds. However, that’s the heaviest I’ve ever weighed-in for the 114 class. The hardest part of this whole process was the drive down to Long Island on Thursday afternoon. I left Boston around 2, and I didn’t get in until close to midnight. The traffic was out of control. I was dehydrated and depleted. I was literally falling asleep at the wheel from lack of nutrients. That’s why I ended up chewing gum during the drive. I had to keep myself awake somehow! After this meet I swore I would never cut weight again. So far, I’ve stuck to that promise!

The Bad

Meet #3, August 2013. Location: Newark, NJ (I was living in Paramus, NJ at the time). This was a USAPL meet, so we had 2-hour weigh-ins instead of 24-hour weigh-ins. I think that’s the only reason why this cut sucked so bad. I was sitting at around 117 pounds throughout my entire prep for this meet. 2 weeks before, I was still stuck there. I was still pretty new to the sport at this point, so I decided to take extreme measures. I cut all carbs and dairy 2 weeks before the meet. The problem? I quit them completely cold turkey. With water loading, I had been anticipating the carb and dairy cut, so I had been lowering them strategically for about a month prior to water loading. I also did a 12 hour fast. I was completely miserable going into this meet. I felt awful.  I stopped eating after 8pm the night before weigh-ins. We (my ex and I) drove down to Newark the Friday night before the meet. The scale was already set-up, so we checked our weights to see where we were at. I was at 112, so I happily went to bed (though I still didn’t eat or drink anything). I woke up and was one of the first in line to weigh-in. I weighed in at 110. Perfect! I had 2 hours to rehydrate and fuel up for the meet. This is where everything went wrong. I drank a Gatorade and had a Clif bar (these used to be my go-tos for meets). I was still starving, so I went down to the continental breakfast at the hotel and grabbed a bagel. I stuffed it in my face about an hour before the meet. I was feeling a lot better when I went into warm-ups. I was eating gummy bears in between warm-up sets (also a meet must have for me). All of a sudden I had to poop. Really. Really. Bad. Then the cramps came. Not menstrual ones, gassy ones. I knew I was in trouble. I was in the first flight, so I had no choice but to try to squat. I hit my first, ran to the bathroom, then went back out for my second. I missed depth on my second squat, because I thought if I went any lower I would have pooped right there on the platform. I was in bad shape. This happened because I suddenly shocked my system with carbs-something I hadn’t touched in 2 weeks! Luckily the worst of it passed after squats, but I was still bloaty, gassy, and crampy for the rest of the day. Believe me, I learned my lesson from this!

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Third attempt from this meet. Luckily I hit depth without any accidents 😉

 

The Good

I saved the best for last! Meet #7, October 2015. Location: Everett, MA. I didn’t actually do a weight cut for this meet. I had learned a lot between meets 6 and 7. I took the Precision Nutrition Level 1 course. I also had a lot of health issues and was eventually diagnosed with IBS, which led me to completely change my diet. I honestly believe that helped with this prep a lot. I was eating much healthier, and really watching what I put into my body. I was making almost all my meals at home, and I was meal-prepping every single week. About a month out from this meet, I saw 114 on the scale. I decided to lower my calorie and carb intake just SLIGHTLY for 3 weeks, to be safe. This basically meant my weekend pizza was out. I also stopped all dairy, although the only dairy I really ever ate was on my pizza. The last thing I did was to stop drinking alcohol the month leading up to the meet. The scale continued to drop, until I was pretty steadily staying at 112 for about 2 weeks. The week of the meet, I didn’t have my pre-workout peanut butter sandwich (because I wasn’t working out), and I also ate my daily raw veggies snack without hummus. I weighed-in at 108 lbs.

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Typical grocery store haul for me

 

This meet was different for a lot of reasons. It was the first time I was competing in my home state. It was the first time I could sleep in my own bed, rather than hotel beds/couches/other people’s beds, the night before the meet. It was the first time I could wake up and actually make a healthy and filling breakfast before the meet. That made all the difference. Traveling to meets is really stressful on the body. Take into account all the other stress you put on the body doing a weight cut. I was stuck in a rut of having really terrible meets and feeling so bad the week leading up the them. This time, I felt great. I never felt dehydrated. I never felt starved. I never felt depleted. And it was one of my best meets!

I’ve pretty much stuck to the same diet ever since. And my weight has stayed at around 116-118.

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This is what I look like now!

 

Since I know now what I need to do to prepare for a weigh-in, I know I’ll never do a crazy weight cut again. Although….I think I’ll always have that fear that I might not make weight!

I’ll be writing an article soon about whether or not you SHOULD cut weight, so stay tuned for that in the future!!

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