Katrina Smith // Married to My Macros
Over our last few articles we’ve discussed building strength before cutting, the basics of nutrition for strength athletes, and the idea that it’s ok to shift weight classes as you progress in the sport. As much as we always want to prioritize long-term health and athletic development, the reality is that we do compete is a weight-class based sport and as such there are going to be times when we need to cut. So what can we do and what should be avoided at all costs?
- Map it out
A good cut is one which is pre-planned. The best cuts are the one’s which are scheduled. The best possible scenario is that you sit down with your coach (or coaches) to map out your competition schedule for the year and determine how many, how often, and what the most important events will be. At Married to My Macros we like to be a part of this conversation with our clients. Mapping out a schedule allows for re-building back to daily expenditure and time spent at maintenance, meaning that subsequent cuts are more likely to be successful and dare we say…enjoyable even?
2.Start Early & Have a schedule
Obviously the more you have to lose the earlier you need to start (sometimes months in advance). As a rule of thumb anything in excess of 1kg for individuals under 75kg or 2kg over 75kg should be at the least planned for one month prior to competition. This allows for hormonal fluctuations in women, unforeseen changes to training or life, and late weigh-ins. Weight management should be a year-long endeavour for advanced athletes, and for those who are either newer to the sport or cutting, should be planned for so as to induce minimal stress, allowing you to focus on your training. You may not need to start your cut a full month in advance but should at least have a plan in place.
Water-loads can be a great tool in your toolkit for that last one or two kilos (as long as you aren’t driving an extended period to your competition venue or have a late weigh in). They do need to be carefully managed though with an emphasis on appropriate consumption for size and sodium needs. Your first water-load should always be a trial run and should not be relied on for major competitions on the first round. Stress increases cortisol, which in turn increases fluid retention (negating the intention of the load), and there’s nothing more stressful than wondering if your approach is going to work.
4.Talk to your coach(es)
This cannot be over-emphasized! Having a coach who can help you through this process is key. Things like sleep, stress, illness, and hormonal cycles can all affect response to a cut, so talking early and often about any challenges that have come up can help ultimately keep you on schedule.
5. Have a cut-off
Sometimes things come up that means a cut is no longer feasible. Having a cut-off point to evaluate whether you have the capacity to hit your target is smart. If for some reason you are unlikely to make it, having time to re-feed into the higher weight class is the next best-case scenario.
- Last minute efforts
Spitting. Handstands. Garbage-bag cardio. All can contribute to a drop of a few hundred grams, but at what cost? Don’t get me wrong, if it has to be done it has to be done, but the amount of stress it adds to the day is significant and is best avoided by planning ahead.
Severe caloric deficits, often made necessary by late starts to cuts can leave you feeling drained, depleted, and scratch kilos off your total. Avoid by starting early or considering a water-load. When planning your cut, if it requires a severe deficit, keep in mind that making weight only matters if you can total well also.
Just as we can create a deficit with caloric-restriction so too can a one be created through additional conditioning. And while great for our cardiovascular health, excessive cardio can hurt our training by taking away time, energy, and effort from your designated programming. A moderate amount of extra cardio early on is fine but avoid significant periods of rugged up rowing at the expense of your usual programming.
Weightlifting is not fighting. We don’t have 24 hours between weigh in and competition to re-fuel, rehydrate, and recover. The problem with saunas is that they can impact energy, blood pressure, and hydration for hours to a day after you step out. You also cannot control or predict how much sweat you’ll lose. The result: over-cutting and exhaustion leading to sub-optimal performances or crashes between the snatch and clean and jerk. An only slightly better alternative are magnesium salt baths the day prior, but these can cause dangerous levels of dehydration and are not recommended as a strategy by Married to My Macros.
There isn’t much I dislike more as a coach than seeing a fellow competitor at weigh in talking about how hungry they are, how long it’s been since they’ve eaten and then seeing them weigh in a kilo under. Over-cutting is just un-necessary. There is a lot that can be done the day of to manage your weight within 100g of goal and maximizing your intake should always be the goal. Play around with your scales, weigh your food, and of course, leave a buffer, but stay close to the cut.
Hopefully that gives you a little insight into the consideration that should go into a proper cut, both for your performance on the day and long-term athletic management.
Still have questions or want help with weight management? Check out marriedtomymacros.com or connect with a coach today!