Snapshot of Takeaway Points
- This plan takes the guesswork and stress out of the process
- You should always wake up within spitting distance (pun intended!) of your target weight
- Contingencies, like a sauna, are available but should ideally be avoided
This can be a stressful time for some people, at a point when you want to mitigate the stress hormone cortisol, the most. Much of the stress from what I’ve seen is down to misinformation and poor preparation. The athlete simply hasn’t planned anything out and then left things to the last minute, with no contingencies set in place.
So, here are some steps to consider giving you clarity on the process with contingencies and recommendations should things go awry. This shouldn’t be a dangerous process but it is prudent to consult healthcare practitioner before embarking on a weight cut.
Set your walk around weight
Set a walk around weight and achieve this walk around weight within a set period. Sometimes it’s all too easy without set dates to be blasé about the situation and continue putting it off. I recommend having someone hold you accountable for this.
My recommendation for your walk around weight would be anything up to and a maximum of 10% over your weigh in weight. It’s a general percentage as the lighter the weight category the lower this percentage is.
I like a step-based progression based on experience. If this is your first weigh-in then don’t aim for 10%. Firstly, your body is not used to it. Secondly neither is your mind. Seeing yourself at 6kg over your weigh in target 3 days before can be quite disconcerting if you’ve never done it before! Increasing the amount that you cut competition to competition is a better way of doing things.
If you are in a weight category it goes without saying that you want to maximise muscle mass for the weight allowed. This means that excess body fat needs to be stripped to make space for the muscle tissue that will a difference in your performance level. Most importantly, someone who is leaner will find it much easier to get the water out and then back in to the muscle afterwards. Considering a maximum set point of body fat to walk around at is also highly recommended. Making recommendations on exact percentages is difficult due to the variance in tests used.
Water Load & Drop
10-14 days before the weigh in is when you should increase your general water intake by 10-15% above baseline. Baseline for my clients is 37.5ml per kg of bodyweight. 7 days before weigh in is when we get a little more serious with the increase though!
From 7 days from weigh in we are going to increase daily water intake drastically. I like to recommend a ramped-up approach as it’s less stressful on the body and the mind set of the athlete. Aim for double your recommended intake from this point and increase by 0.5 litres to a 1 litre a day. For example, a 90kg athlete would do:
- 7 days out: 6.5 litres
- 6 days out: 7.5 litres
- 5 days out: 8.5 litres
- 4 days out: 9 litres
- 3 days out: 9.5 litres
- 2 days out: 10 litres
- 24 hours before weigh in time: reduce water intake to zero
By removing water 24 hours before the weigh in, you will harness two hormones, aldosterone and vasopressin and be able to pee your way to making weight. Aldosterone affects how your body controls sodium. Vasopressin controls how much water your body gets rid of. Loading your body with water the two weeks before as indicated minimises vasopressin and therefore the body’s ability to hold on to water.
Food intake for the two weeks leading up should be lower carbohydrate intake and therefore higher fat intake. The week of the weigh in you can considerably reduce your carbohydrate intake to ensure your muscles have less glycogen and therefore water to hold on to. There is around 13g of glycogen per kg of muscle and 1g of glycogen holds 3g of water.
Keep salt intake normal until 48-72 hours before the weigh in. Reducing it too early will alter aldosterone levels to make your body hold on to more water. You only need 24-48 hours of supramaximal fluid intake to flush sodium out.
24 hours before weigh-in, when you have reduced water intake, you can though have some fruit this day, which you should have been avoiding the past 7-14 days. This is because there is no water for the glycogen to hold onto. It will give you a little more energy and brain fuel to get through the weight cut.
A sauna is not actually recommended as part of the making weight process. It is simply there as a contingency. It’s not even the first contingency. As always, you want to achieve the cut without any but sometimes shit happens. If done properly, you should wake up bang on or within a kilogram of your target weight on the weigh in day.
Your first contingency is chewing gum and spitting. The advantages of this over the sauna is it less stressful to the body. Get 3-5 different flavours as you can develop taste fatigue very quickly, and a pint glass and spit away.
Your second contingency is a hot bath. Again this is less stressful than a sauna. You can even add Epsom salts. The third and last option is the sauna. If you’re at this point and you’re still over weight then using Albolene will really open the pours and get you sweating. Apply it to your whole body and use short periods of sweating with rest (E.g. 10-15 minutes sauna, 5-10 minutes rest).
Rehydration & replenishment
The main goals are to replenish glycogen and water. Aim for 2-3 shakes and 5-6 meals, starting as soon as you step off the scales. Here’s the timeline:
- 1 minute after weigh-in: Shake
In this shake you will have a 4g carb to 1g protein ratio, salt, potassium and glutamine. I also recommend taking digestive enzymes with every shake and meal throughout this part of the process. Drink normally and slowly. If you neck/chug it, you could well end up with an explosive situation at the other end of your body.
- 15 minutes after weigh-in: Fruit, BCAA/EAA/Electrolyte drink & caffeine
A small portion of fruit is indicated to slowly introduce food back into your system. It might have been anything from 12-24 hours since your last decent sized meal. Adding in caffeine will not only fuel your mood but it useful for helping replenish glycogen stores quicker than without.
Make a BCAA/EAA/Electrolyte drink you can continue to sip on throughout the day. Your body is really only going to be able to process 1-1.5 litres of fluid per hour so be slow and sure instead of gung ho in your approach will pay dividends.
- 30 minutes after weigh-in: Shake (Same as the first shake)
A third shake could be indicated if the cut was horrendous. Sometimes you can be sipping on the shake for more than the ideal time and that’s fine. It’s still better than trying to down it in one attempt. From here on though you want to get your first solid meal in, aiming for high carbohydrate, low protein and low fat initially. Increase the protein gradually throughout the day whilst keeping carbohydrates high and fats low. Don’t forget to add salt to the meal.
Nutrition the day of the competition should be the same as you’ve been using for regular training days. Time it so you have a larger meal 4-5 hours before competition to give you plenty of nutrients but also ample time to digest everything before you compete.
So there is my system overview for making weight. The difference between a 3 hour and 24 hour weight in time is in the first step. If you have only 3 hours then you don’t want to cut as much as you have less time to replenish and rehydrate. Start low with how much you plan to cut and increase each time you compete. You’ll have likely increased muscle mass competition to competition to this will happen anyway.