There are a number of factors that can influence how you perform at a powerlifting meet. However, if you want to perform well, you must first make it into your target weight division.
By being too heavy, you will end up being placed in a heavier division. If this occurs, you are likely to be one of the lighter lifters in this division and will consequently be at a huge disadvantage.
This article will provide 6 effective weight cutting methods that can be used to help you avoid this and ensure that you are best prepared for your weigh-in.
Powerlifting Weight Classes
Powerlifting is a strength sport in which weight classes are used in order to divide athletes into different divisions.
This is done to ensure that competitions are as fair as possible. Without weight classes, those who carry a greater amount of weight would outperform the lighter lifters.
Lifters are separated into different weight classes to compete against lifters of a similar size.
Each class has a maximum and minimum weight requirement and whichever class you fall into, you must compete in. You cannot compete in any other weight class.
In the table below you will find both men’s and women’s weight classes for International Powerlifting Federation (IPF) events.
Be aware that not all powerlifting federations use this class system. Therefore, you need to check the weight classes used by your powerlifting federation.
International Powerlifting Federation Weight Classes
|59 kg / 130 lbs||47 kg / 104 lbs|
|66 kg / 145 lbs||52 kg / 115 lbs|
|74 kg / 163 lbs||57 kg / 127 lbs|
|83 kg / 183 lbs||63 kg / 139 lbs|
|93 kg / 205 lbs||72 kg / 159 lbs|
|105 kg / 231 lbs||84 kg / 185 lbs|
|120 kg / 265 lbs||> 84 kg / > 185 lbs|
|> 120 kg / > 265 lbs||–|
Read more, understanding Powerlifting Weight Classes.
Why Do Powerlifters Need To Cut Weight?
As the competition nears, most powerlifters will cut weight in preparation for weigh-ins.
Cutting weight is done to ensure that the lifter makes the weight required to qualify for a specific weight class.
The majority of advanced athletes will prepare for months above their weight class and wait until the very last minute before shedding weight.
Because most weigh-ins occur twenty-four hours before competition, weight can be cut rapidly in time for the weigh-in and then regained before the competition.
This gives the lifter a potential advantage over other competitors as carrying a greater amount of weight may allow them to perform heavier lifts.
That said, some federations require weigh-ins two hours before competition. This makes it much more challenging to rapidly gain weight in time for the event.
That said, some weight cutting methods, such as water and carb restriction, may lead to something known as supercompensation (1).
This is where the body compensates for the lack of water and carbs, and consequently retains additional fluids and blood glucose. This compensation may boost strength and performance.
Therefore, even for powerlifters who must weigh-in two hours pre-event, weight cutting strategies may be useful.
Methods For Cutting Weight
This section will cover six methods that you can apply to facilitate rapid weight loss and allow you to make weight.
Ideally, you should use as few of these methods as possible to help you achieve weight and optimize performance. The more of these methods you apply, the more likely it is that your performance will suffer.
1) Water Intake
One of the most influential factors of body weight is fluid intake and balance. By reducing fluid intake and balance, it is possible to drop a great amount of weight.
However, while you will want to reduce water intake in the lead up to the weigh-in, you should begin by actually increasing water intake.
Water loading involves drastically increasing water intake to the point that you are overhydrated. This causes the body to react and consequently, it will begin to excrete fluid at a faster rate.
Once you’ve reached this point, you want to then reduce water consumption. During this period, you will be expelling a lot of water despite not drinking much.
As a result, water weight will reduce significantly which will impact your total bodyweight.
Be aware that you must have maintained good hydration levels well before beginning water loading for this method to be effective.
Also check Daily Water Intake Calculator.
Water Loading Recommendations For Weigh-Ins
For both twenty-four and two hour weigh-ins, the following water loading protocol is recommended:
|Days Before Competition||Water Consumption|
|1 (Weigh In)||32 oz post-weigh-in|
- Avoid drinking water for twelve hours before the weigh-in
- Post-weigh-in, drink 32 ounces of a mix of water and Gatorade
- This drink is recommended all the way up to competition
- Avoid drinking too quickly
- Drink as much as you require once the weigh-in is completed
Staying on the topic of hydration and fluid balance, dehydration is a tactic that is commonly used to help lifters hit a specific weight. This is done to cause a significant reduction in water weight.
Now, before going further, you must be aware that this method is unsafe as it often involves combining extreme temperatures and restrictions on water intake.
Therefore, if undertaking this method, you must be supervised and take the necessary precautions. You should not attempt this alone or without having the necessary support.
Make no mistake, this method is unpleasant. There are a number of different ways of inducing dehydration – including exercise, hot baths, steam rooms, saunas, and wrapping up.
Anything that causes the body to sweat and expel water will eventually lead to dehydration, providing water intake is restricted.
Recommendations For Two and Twenty-Four Hour Weigh-Ins
For those who have a two-hour weigh-in, dehydration tactics are not recommended at all as you only have a short window to regain water weight.
Going into your meet while still in a dehydrated state is not recommended and inevitably your performance is going to be poor.
Studies have shown that even slight hypohydration can impair performance (2). Therefore, this is simply a risk that is not worth taking.
Although this method is generally not recommended, it can be more effectively used by those with twenty-four hour weigh-ins.
That said, there is a right and wrong way to do this.
You should avoid performing exercise while dehydrated as this may lead to muscle loss and consequently impair how you perform the next day.
One of the best tools that you can use to help you shed water weight is the sauna. It requires no effort and is unlikely to have a negative impact on your powerlifting performance.
So, when should you begin to use the sauna, and for how long?
A useful recommendation is to use the sauna during the early evening, the day before your weigh-in.
The reason for this is that, by this stage, you should already be close to your target weight. You should be weighing yourself fairly regularly and have a good idea of how much weight you still have to lose.
This means that you do not have to over-rely on the sauna or other dehydration methods to ensure you make weight. Additionally, it will reduce the amount of time that you spend dehydrated.
Make sure that you avoid going to the sauna too late in the evening as the hot temperatures may interfere with your ability to fall asleep.
Do not spend extremely long periods of time in the sauna. This is simply not safe.
Instead, focus on fifteen-minute stints ensuring that you take five-minute breaks between each stint as an absolute minimum.
You should be regularly checking your weight and logging progress throughout to ensure that you are on track to make weight while also not losing too much.
3) Sodium Intake
In a similar fashion to water loading, you can manipulate sodium intake to allow you to rapidly cut weight.
The amount of salt that you consume has an impact on water retention (3). By initially increasing sodium intake, water retention will increase.
As with water loading, you want to significantly increase salt intake initially. Once this has been done, you should then cut your intake right down.
Doing this will allow you to drop a great amount of water weight thus reducing total bodyweight.
Sodium Recommendations For Weigh-Ins
In order to get the greatest benefit from sodium manipulation, you should be adding sodium to your foods well before your weigh-in.
The following table provides a general recommendation for sodium loading:
|Days Before Competition||Sodium Consumption|
|1 (Weigh-In)||24 hr: 500mg – 1 gram
2 hr: 1 gram
When it comes to the day of the meet, it is also recommended that you consume salty snacks. This can boost water retention and positively impact performance.
4) Carbohydrate Intake
Although the mechanisms of water and sodium loading that cause weight loss are similar, carbohydrate manipulation works in a totally different way.
Let’s begin by considering glycogen, which is a form of glucose that the body stores within the muscle.
The amount of glycogen that your body can store is entirely dependent on your body size. However, a useful guide is somewhere between four and eight hundred grams.
In order to store glycogen, the body requires approximately three to four grams of water (4).
By using these values, it can be determined that anything between four to nine pounds of body weight is made up of glycogen and water.
Therefore, substantially restricting carb intake will reduce levels of glycogen within the body and consequently influence body weight.
Also try our Carb Cycling Calculator.
Carbohydrate Recommendations For Weigh-Ins
If you have a twenty-four hour weigh-in, you can safely deplete glycogen stores without having to worry about its impact on performance.
Twenty-four hours gives you plenty of time to replenish glycogen stores before you compete.
If you wish to utilize this weight cutting method, follow the recommendations in the following table:
|Days Before Competition||Carb Consumption|
|4||50% of Normal Carb Intake
(Maximum of 200g)
|1 (Weigh-In)||100 – 150g every 2-3 hours|
For those with two-hour weigh-ins, it is not recommended to reduce carbohydrate intake in the lead up to the meet.
You will simply not have enough time to fully replenish glycogen stores and, therefore, your performance in competition will be impaired.
That said, if you are finding it difficult to make weight, you may have no other choice but to restrict carb intake.
5) Food Weight
A commonly overlooked factor that can cause weight to increase in the short term is the weight of food.
Consuming solid foods prior to the weigh-in is inevitably going to add a few pounds to your total body weight.
If overlooked, it can easily end up being the defining factor that determines whether you make your weight class or not.
The simplest way of managing food weight is to utilize liquid meals. Not only do they provide your body with all of the nutrients required for athletic performance, but they also do not add significant weight.
Food Weight Recommendations For Weigh-Ins
It’s important to note that not all of your meals have to be liquid from the outset as highlighted by the following table:
|Days Before Competition||Carb Consumption|
|5||1 liquid meal|
|4||1 liquid meal|
|3||2 liquid meals|
|2||All liquid meals|
|1 (Weigh-In)||Return to solid foods post-weigh-in|
- You should avoid eating anything twelve hours before your weigh-in
- Only return to eating solid foods once your weigh-in has been completed
Try our Protein Intake Calculator.
There are a number of dietary supplements you can take that can contribute to weight loss.
Diuretics are substances that promote urine production and allow the body to get rid of water and salts.
While there are a number of substances that can be considered diuretics, one of the most commonly used is caffeine.
By increasing the consumption of diuretics like caffeine, more water will be excreted from the body thus reducing body weight.
You can also take diuretic supplements, commonly known as water pills, that are made specifically to cause water loss.
Laxatives are a more extreme option that can contribute to rapid weight loss. These substances act on the body to loosen stools and increase bowel movements.
Evidently, increasing the regularity of bathroom breaks will remove waste at a quicker rate and contribute towards cutting weight.
While there are a number of different laxatives, something like magnesium citrate will do the job. However, these substances must be taken with care and under supervision.
If you are utilizing liquid meals, it’s recommended to take laxatives after your last solid meal. This will provide you with plenty of time to ensure that your system is “cleared out” prior to the weigh-in.
If you are really struggling to cut weight, a common last-ditch attempt to shed weight is to spit more frequently. While it may only have a negligible impact, you may have no other options.
Therefore, you may want to have sour candies or cinnamon products to hand in case of an emergency as these foods will help to increase the amount of saliva you produce.
Pre Weigh-In Supplement Plan
This simple plan will ensure that you utilize supplements most effectively, allowing you to cut significant weight in time for your weigh-in.
|Days Before Competition||Supplements|
|3||Water Pill / Caffeine, Laxative|
|2||Water Pill / Caffeine|
|1 (Weigh-In)||Sour Candy / Cinnamon|
If you want to have a serious chance of success in powerlifting competitions, it’s imperative that you make your weight class. Being too heavy will place you in the category above and pitch you against bigger lifters.
Therefore, it may be worthwhile implementing a number of these outlined weight cutting methods to ensure that you hit the required weight.
1- Roedde, S.; MacDougall, J. D.; Sutton, J. R.; Green, H. J. (1986-03). “Supercompensation of muscle glycogen in trained and untrained subjects”. Canadian Journal of Applied Sport Sciences. Journal Canadien Des Sciences Appliquees Au Sport. 11 [source]
2- Roedde, S.; MacDougall, J. D.; Sutton, J. R.; Green, H. J. (1986-03). “Supercompensation of muscle glycogen in trained and untrained subjects”. Canadian Journal of Applied Sport Sciences. Journal Canadien Des Sciences Appliquees Au Sport. [source]
3- Sims, Stacy T.; van Vliet, Linda; Cotter, James D.; Rehrer, Nancy J. (2007-01). “Sodium loading aids fluid balance and reduces physiological strain of trained men exercising in the heat”. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise [source]
4- Fernández-Elías, Valentín E.; Ortega, Juan F.; Nelson, Rachael K.; Mora-Rodriguez, Ricardo (2015-09). “Relationship between muscle water and glycogen recovery after prolonged exercise in the heat in humans”. European Journal of Applied Physiology [source]