How I Water Cut 35LBS IN 5 Days
I like being heavy. My walking around weight tends to run between 245 and 260 depending on the time of year and my emotional state. At 5'10", I can bloat up to 270+ via Mt Dew and Pop-tarts and be an effective heavyweight, or I can drop weight and be even more competitive in the 231 and under class.
Many make the mistake of trying to make weight by sticking to a caloric deficit several weeks out. It's sound reasoning: keep the body fat as low as possible and you will be able to optimize your performance at a given weight. But this is an off season tactic. If you are excessively fat and want to compete down a class, this process needs to be completed before actual contest prep starts. The name of the game when it comes to cutting weight is getting where you need to be while coming in AS STRONG AS POSSIBLE. A caloric deficit in the weeks of your taper will hinder the recovery that is so important for a proper peak and guarantee that your lifts will suffer.
By the time you are gearing up for competition day, dieting the excess weight off is no longer an option. So instead we look to a water cut. Used by boxers, wrestlers, powerlifters, and a host of other weight class competitors, water cutting is the easiest and most proven method of getting weight off without suffering a drop in performance.
There's 2 main parts to this process: loading and cutting. The loading phase involves keeping your body saturated with salt and water, forcing you to bloat more than normal. The cutting phase involves eliminating water from your body, by dropping water, salt, and carb intake and by sweating.
Basic water load for a Friday weigh in:
Sunday - 1 gallons
Monday - 1.5 gallons
Tuesday - 2 gallons
Wednesday - 2 gallons - no salt, no carbs
Thursday - no water - no salt, no carbs, preferably fasted
Friday - weigh in, preferably in the AM
I've never needed to salt load, but keeping sodium intake high in the week before the actual water load can help your body super-load water, making the drop more dramatic when salt and water are removed. Also, the increasing volume of water is likely arbitrary. I usually don't keep count, just get a gallon+ in the first few days and make sure to clear 2 gallons on the last day. I had 2 athletes in particular drop 10 and 13lbs respectively to 231 without having to spend any time in a sauna.
The water loading protocol is effective, but I refer to it as the icing on the cake. Have 5% or less to lose? The water loading will likely get you there without much else. But the 10-15% drops in body weight require a lot of extra time sweating.
The key here is to not drag it out. The longer you spend in a depleted state, the more substantial the hit to your performance will be. Nervous competitors usually end up doing silly things like spending time in the sauna earlier in the week. As soon as you drink water, your body pulls it right back in, so doing this during a water load makes no sense whatsoever. The majority of weight loss via sweating should happen within the 36 hours before weigh in, after you've stopped drinking fluids.
I have several methods that are effective for stripping water off the day before weigh ins, and I personally use all of them to break up the monotony. Here they are in order of least to most suck.
1.) Sauna suit with light activity: I like to take my dogs for a walk or use a treadmill or cycle at reduced intensities. Time goes by much faster and the activity will speed up the sweating process. Since the point of all of these is to lose water weight PASSIVELY, it is extremely important to keep the intensity down. Nothing should cause noticable fatigue in your legs or make you feel faint. Most strength athletes stay away from cardio like its the devil anyways, so throwing in a recumbent bike marathon to get the weight off is a pretty bad idea a few days out from a meet. I will suit up with sweats and a hoody and go on a 30-40 minute walk a couple of times in between sauna or hot bath sessions. Its usually good for 2-3lbs a pop and my psyche is better for it.
2.) Actual Sauna: This is as passive as it gets. Take a book, some headphones, or a tablet in a sauna and just hang out. 10-15 minutes in to 10-15 minutes out is a good range. Dry yourself off as soon as you exit and repeat as long as your mind can handle it. A cumulutive hour in the sauna can be good for 2-4lbs, but the downside is that it can take longer for the dry heat to induce sweating in later sessions. Long sauna sprints can be mentally taxing, which is why the intermittent walks in the sauna suit can be a welcome break.
3.) Hot baths: these are the quickest and most effective. The complete humidity of the bath causes sweating instantly, and to a much greater degree than the sauna will. Get the water as hot as you can get it without actually burning yourself and cover your head and exposed limbs with towels soaked in that hot water. 15 minutes in, 15 out (I usually have to stay out for longer). Each bath will get a pound or so off of me. The cost is that it is the most mentally taxing (it basically feels like you are in a hot coffin). An extreme version of this involved covering yourself head to toe in petroleum jelly before getting in the bath and wrapping yourelf in sweats and a blanket immediately after for 15 minutes to prolong sweating. It works.... amazingly well. But it is also a horrible experience. If you have the stomach and want to get 8 or more lbs off in less than an hour.... go for it. But before a contest, I prefer to limit the effect that such torture can have on my psyche.
If I'm set to weight in Friday sometime (preferably morning), I start sweating Thursday morning. I'll wake up early, eat a meager amount of egg whites to keep my energy up, and hit the sauna on 15 minute intervals. I'll look for 5-6lbs in a 2 hour window. Then, I'll leave and kick back for an hour or two. It is very important not to shower during this process. I messed up my last cut bad and had to basically write-off 3 hours of sweating. Between 6am and 8am I was alternating sauna and cold showers and lost 0lbs. Then between 9pm and 1030pm, with 1.5lbs to go, lost another 0lbs because I was using the steam room. Your skin WILL pull the water back in.
After I feel up to it, usually around 11am, I'll go for a 30 minute walk in sweats and a sauna suit. Time goes by quick, I'm able to reflect on my training and think about the meet, and I can get off 3 or so lbs in the process. 30 minutes later, I'm back at home drawing a hot bath. These are where the meat of the weight loss happens. At this point, I'm ideally down 10lbs from the morning (20 or so from where I began the Saturday before), and have 15 to go. My ultimate goal is to get within 5lbs of weigh ins before I go to sleep. 5 or so 15 minute sprints in the baths gets me there, and if I'm starting to struggle, I'll save the last few for another sauna suit walk or even head back to the sauna. I'll go to bed 5lbs over, wake up 3-4lbs over, and give myself a 3 hour cushion to get the last bit off in the baths or in a sauna. The time cushions are important. I've been in a position where I didn't give myself enough time and ended up doing suicides up stairs in full sweats trying to get the last bit off before missing weigh ins. It sucks, so plan ahead.
The most important aspect of recovery is to FEEEEEED like your life depends on it. Don't eat and drink until you're full. Do it until you hate yourself. You want food in your stomach, but you won't replenish a 20lb cut with 20lbs of meat and potatoes. If you lost 20lbs of fluids, try to drink 25lbs. And as much salt and sugar as you can stomach. Fats and proteins take a hard back seat to carbs and salt. Coconut water and pedialyte are both fantastic for rehydration. Luckily, I have the stomach of a goat, so I can indulge in carb dense pastries without shitting myself the next day. Know your body and try not to self-induce diarrhea. 800g of carbs in the 24 hours before the meet, on top of all of the salt and fluids, is the ballpark I shoot for.
I have heard of prescription diuretics being used, but it is something I haven't tried and I damn sure don't recommend anyone reading this article try. Save your money on over the counter diuretics too. Whatever effect they have will probably be muffled by the effects of loading water then getting extremely dehydrated.
This is the long and short of it. Load your water, cut water, carbs and salt, sweat, then rehydrate. It will take a couple of times before you dial in some of your personal preferences and DO NOT attempt a 15% body weight cut on your first try. Give yourself a few runs in the 5% range and you will find it's easy to adjust for bigger weight drops in the future.