Article written by Matt Mills
First thing I have to say in regards to the plan I’m going to outline, is that this is not a safe way to lose body fat. Cutting weight this fast is not healthy, and not something I recommend doing more than once a year. If you are able to compete in the weight class you normally walk around at then this is where you should compete to be the strongest. This rule is especially true if you are a powerlifter. Every competition I have done for powerlifting I had no idea who I was competing against, and my only goal was to beat my own previous numbers. In my last two meets I competed in the 275lb open class but only weighing 255-260. I could have easily cut down to 242 weight class, but to me this wouldn’t make sense, unless you are going for a record, which I will explain in further detail. I mean a real record, not some federation world record that doesn’t mean shit, that you can go brag to your friends about that don’t know any better.
The only records that matter are the all-time records. Now that my rant is out of the way, it does make sense to do a weight cut for the sport of strong(wo)man. The reason being, there are set weights you must do. In Powerlifting you can choose what your weights are, regardless of your weight class. You might be above 231lbs, putting you into the heavyweight category but you may not be able to handle the weights. You have two choices: one of them is to simply get stronger, if the weights are still out of your range then you will have to cut weight to make the next class. 5 weeks ago I competed in a Powerlifting meet and weighed in at 260lbs. This past weekend I competed in Mid America’s Strongest Man in the Lightweight Pro division. The cut off is 231.4 lbs to be exact and I weighed in at 230.1 losing 30lbs in 5 weeks.
The picture on the right I weighed 235lbs and this was the day before I had to step on the scale to make weight.
First I have to say that I eat A LOT all day long. I didn’t get to be a part of Lift Big Eat Big without living it. My calorie intake was 5500 per day, which can honestly be done fairly easy if you want to eat sugary processed food, but staying strong and lean is no easy task. My protein sources consisted of a lot of red meat, ground bison, and whole eggs. I would also have 2 very big protein shakes a day with 3 scoops of protein powder. I have always been big on keeping fats high in people’s diets as they support hormone function, and dropping your fat intake below 30% has been shown to decrease testosterone. My fats came from cooking oils such as coconut oil, macadamia nut oil, and red palm oil. These oils are not only great for you and loaded with nutrients, but they are also safe to cook in higher heats with. My other fats came from coconut milk that I would add to my shakes, olive oil for salads, and lots of nut butters.
I’m sure many of you can understand how easy it is to eat a whole jar of cashew butter, or almond butter. I will add this caveat: avocados are also a great source, and one that I always add when designing a meal plan, but unfortunately for me I don’t digest them well (I know, sucks to be me). My carb sources were typically body building foods as I wanted to gain as much muscle as possible while minimizing fat gain. As any of you have tried, this is very tough to do. My go to carbs were oatmeal, Ezekiel bread, sweet potatos, brown rice, white rice, and I would use Karboload during my training from www.TrueNutrition.com.
I have cut weight plenty of times before this, but I always allowed myself 8 weeks to have enough time to bring the weight down slowly, so I recommend you do the same. Coming from the powerlifting meet I didn’t give myself much time, but I knew it was doable. My first step was to lower my carb intake, so I cut it down to roughly 200 grams a day while keeping 100 grams of the Karboload through my training followed by carbs in my post workout meal. The rest of the day was all protein, lots of vegetables, and good fats. On my off days of training, I would have no carb sources at all. One thing I will say about cutting weight is that you need to eat a lot of vegetables. The hardest part of making weight is the mental aspect of being around food, and not being able to eat it. All of a sudden you see everyone on Facebook post their “epic” meals and immediately start to hate them, because you can’t do the same. The vegetables will keep you fuller longer, and provide you with plenty of micronutrients your body will need as you will no doubt be training harder than ever leading up to the competition.
During the first week of dropping my carbs, I weighed in at 252lbs so 8lbs in one week. I do know that when I have a lot of carbs my body holds onto a lot of water weight, so this is mainly what I lost. The start of the second week I lowered my carb intake during training to 75 grams of karboload and would generally have a sweet potato, or rice following my training. I kept my protein, and fats about the same through the week. I would even take spoons of coconut oil twice a day just to keep my fats high. At this point my training was also getting very heavy, as well as increasing volume so I needed to make sure I could stay recovered while lowering my calories. Recovery should always be a priority when a competition is approaching fast. Sleep is such a crucial part of your training, and drastically lowering carbs while not sleeping enough is a recipe for disaster and an injury. Make sure you get plenty of sleep. I know I need at least 7 hours and preferably 9 if I can. At the end of week 4 I was down to 248 so just a 4lb loss but that was to be expected as I had already shed most of my water weight the first week.
3 weeks out from the contest and the last heavy week of training I kept my carbs the same on training days, while having zero on non-training days. I was training 4 days a week while doing 2 conditioning days that I outlined here. With this being the last week of heavy training I kept my diet exactly the same as I didn’t want to sacrifice recovery. At the end of the week I was very pleased to be 245lbs with only 2 weeks to go and 14lbs to lose.
The second week out is when I start my deload so this is when I completely drop my carbs out. During training I would just drink plenty of water and BCAA’s to make sure I am able to recover. Again plenty of veggies to keep me feeling full, and to boost my energy levels. It’s not uncommon to feel a little foggy and out of it when you completely cut carbs out, but your body will get used to it within a few days. My deload was at 65% of my usual weights, so this was a very easy week of training, just working on technique and speed. Nothing should be overly taxing as your body will need the full 2 weeks to deload if you were training hard enough previously. Sunday morning I woke up at 239.5lbs, and was right on track.
The last week is where the real magic happens as you have to be extremely careful with what you put in your body. There can be no slip ups, no binges, nothing! You have to stick to the plan as this is the most crucial week where everything you put in your mouth will make a difference. The last thing you want is to starve yourself all week and get on that scale dehydrated and see that you are a pound over because you had some cookies.
The competition was Saturday so what I’m outlining here is to make weight the day before. Do not follow this protocol if you have to weigh in the day of. It took me the full 24 hours to come back to my normal strength.
Sunday through Tuesday: Drink 3 gallons of water with salt added, also add salt to all other food you eat. My diet was only 4 meals compared to my usual 8 before I started the cut.
Meal 1: 3 egg omelet, spinach, chopped peppers.
Meal 2: 2 scoop protein shake, 1tbsp peanut butter.
Meal 3 Spinach salad 2 hard-boiled eggs, 2oz steak, olive oil & vinegar.
Meal 4: 6oz steak, asparagus.
Monday: 3 gallons of water, add salt to everything.
Wednesday: 1 gallon of distilled water, no salt at all.
4 meals of only 4oz chicken breast, and asparagus –this will suck.
Thursday: 3 meals of only 2oz chicken breast, and asparagus. Only sip some distilled water to swallow –this will suck even more.
Friday: Nothing until you weigh in, yes you will be completely miserable.
Throughout the week I weighed myself every day to make sure things were going where they should. Throughout the salt and water load, don’t be alarmed if you gain weight. I was up to 241 by Wednesday morning, and it’s totally fine. The purpose of the salt and water load is to trick your body into thinking it is getting too much, so it will start to flush it out of your system. Once you switch to distilled water and only one gallon you will lose an incredibly amount of water weight. By Thursday I woke up at 235.5 and by the time I went to sleep I was 233lbs.
The reason I recommend doing a slower cut is that you don’t want the stress of having to make weight so drastically. When I have a big contest coming up I like to relax and focus on what I need to do. Any added stress will only tire you out, not to mention big water cuts WILL affect your performance the next day. I would not recommend cutting more then 3-4% of your weight in one week as I have seen too many competitors try and are completely drained to compete.
Once I arrived for weigh-ins I stepped right on the scale to see 230.1 just as planned. I will also add that it is important to be a little under, because you never know how someone else’s scale will be. For any wrestlers out there you will know exactly what I’m talking about. To this day I have never had to use a sauna, or a sweat suit and I never plan on it. If you start with enough time and stick to the plan, you will have no issues making weight, so you can focus on what you came to do.
I won’t get into too much detail on what to do once you make weight, as that could be a whole different article. I drink two bottles of pedialyte, as it has plenty of electrolytes to bring you back to life. Just be careful and don’t chug them too fast, as your stomach probably shrunk considerably. Go slow and take your time. You will want to get plenty of carbs back in, but again, do it slowly. No matter what, you will most likely get a slight stomach ache, so don’t hit up the local Chinese buffet, because you won’t have a good time when the competition comes. Make sure you eat foods that you know your body can tolerate. When you go out to eat, have plenty of bread, potatoes, and good protein. Personally I like to have a nice big steak, sweet potato, and snack on bread and butter. Also add salt to everything as your body will be craving it from flushing it all out.
I will finish with this, everyone’s body is different so I would recommend testing this out to see how your body reacts. I know some competitors that drop 20lbs in a week salt loading with soy sauce, and bouillon cubes but that is something I choose to stay away from. The slower you make the cut the less strength, if at all, you will lose. Drop a comment below, or on the Facebook page if you have any tips that you like to use to make weight or questions.