Home ResourcesNutrition It’s Weightlifting, Not Weight-making: Why We Should Focus on Building Strength Before Cutting Weight

It’s Weightlifting, Not Weight-making: Why We Should Focus on Building Strength Before Cutting Weight

by Katrina Borg

Katrina Smith // Married to My Macros

We all know that athlete, in fact for most of us who have been in the sport awhile it’s likely we’ve even been that athlete, the one going into their first, second, or even third competition stressing and worrying and feeling all-out consumed with their weight cut.

Yes, cutting is a significant aspect of any weight-class based sport. And yes, there are times when it’s going to be unavoidable. But after years of experience as an athlete, coach, and nutritionist, if there were one piece of advice I could give newer lifters it would be this: focus first on the weights you are putting overhead, then get consumed with the weight underneath the bar.

This might seem counter-intuitive, and as the lead nutritionist at Married to My Macros, many would consider that our foremost message would be “weight loss,” “fat loss,” and “long-term health”  – and you certainly wouldn’t be wrong. Long-term health and wellness (both physically and mentally) is our number one priority and that’s why an over-emphasis on cutting isn’t always the optimal focus. 

Both fat loss and long-term health require appropriate fuelling and an understanding of your body’s needs. Weightlifting, generally speaking, tends to increase people’s nutritional needs. And when we cut – especially early and often – we create damaging metabolic environments which can make it harder to cut fat down the road and results in long-term health problems.  Instead, what athletes should focus on is perfecting their technique, slowly and intentionally progressively overloading to create strong support tissues (not just muscles) and feeding themselves enough to recover and get back into the gym for their next session.

So where to start? While each athlete is unique, a pretty good rule of thumb is to eat a variety of whole foods at each meal, keeping your pre- and post-workout meals carb dominant and low in fat. 

2.2 grams of protein / kg bodyweight is a good starting place, although some individuals will require more or less dependent on their body response, training cycle, goals, and medical history.  Whole foods provide much more benefit than supplements, so should form the basis of your diet, and only when you cannot meet your needs through the real stuff should we turn to the potions. 

High quality carbs – oats, rice, whole grains, potato, sweet potato, fruit and veggies – should be held in high regard by weightlifters, after all, it is a sport dominated by glucose driven energy systems. 

And fats – we need ‘em! They’re what keep our hormones healthy (and we want as much natural testosterone and growth hormone as we can create), so don’t shy away from the avocado, nuts and seeds, olive oils, and fish. 

Only when we fuel ourselves appropriately will the big weights start to show up. Unfortunately, otherwise what we see is this amazing period of newbie gains, followed quickly by stagnation, frustration, and ultimately a loss of love for the sport. Focusing on getting into the next weight class down because a qualifying total is more appealing, or because you think your numbers would fare better is the wrong approach. Weightlifting is not a single season sport, it is blood, sweat and years. So do yourself a favour and don’t shortcut the process. Play the long game. Invest in yourself. And enjoy the journey, because the podium doesn’t feel nearly as good when the journey to get there hasn’t been fun. 

Questions about how to approach your personal nutrition? Check out marriedtomymacros.com or connect with a coach today!

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