Cutting Bodyweight & Losing Bodyweight for Weightlifting and Other Sports
Greg Everett

I said I would follow up on this topic a couple weeks ago, so I'm going to do it today before I forget and someone gets mad at me.

I think of the weight dropping issue as two different processes: losing weight and cutting weight. Losing weight is a long term process to permanently or semi-permanent lower your bodyweight. Cutting weight is a short-term process to temporarily reduce bodyweight in order to make weight for competition. Accordingly, the approach for each is different.

Losing Weight: Obviously this is a huge topic and I'm not going to discuss it in great depth. I also don't feel like doing the quantity vs. quality debate (hint: you need to take care of both). Really this amounts to 1) Ensuring your diet is constructed on quality animal source protein, quality fats, and varied vegetable matter and then 2) Ensuring that you reduce your overall intake, with #1 considered, enough to cause a change in weight.

The first point is pretty simple. If you don't get it, I'm not sure what to tell you. Get that squared away, and on that foundation, build up the rest of what you need. Each of you will have to find the optimal macronutrient balance--be careful of restricting anything too severely relative to the other macros. If you've been living on Carl's Junior and Taco Bell, fixing the food quality will automatically reduce your caloric intake. However, if you've already been eating well, you'll have to actually pay attention to reducing caloric intake. Reductions should be as small as necessary to get the weight moving on schedule, and then reduced repeatedly in stair-step fashion every couple weeks as bodyweight lowers. Dramatic caloric reductions tend to simply make you feel terrible, train worse, and even sometimes lose less weight; and what you do lose will not stay off as well.

Depending on your sport, you may be able to modify your training somewhat to assist in the weight loss. For power and strength athletes, I'm not a big fan of adding conditioning work for weight loss. Get it done with nutrition and keep your training appropriate for your performance. If you have a lot to lose, try rowing or walking--it will be the least detrimental to your performance.

If you're looking for a permanent weight change, you need to get down to your target weight and maintain it for a period of time to reset your body. The more slowly you drop, the easier it will be to maintain. A serious consideration is how losing weight will affect your training. If you drop a lot of weight in a short period of time, your training will suffer without a doubt. This can be mitigated, again, by slowing the process as much as is allowed by your competition schedule. Plan ahead and get it done. Don't be the guy who emails me asking what the best way to lose 12 lbs by next Thursday is (but without any performance impact, of course), especially if you've known you had to do it for the last 6 months. This brings us to:

Cutting Weight: If you for whatever reason have to lose a good chunk of weight in a short period of time, you won't be able to simply rely on nutritional changes. In this case, you'll be relying on dropping water weight.

The tradition method of losing water weight is of course sweating it out. Depending on how it's done, this can be extremely taxing or somewhat taxing. The less active the process, the better, i.e. relaxing in a sauna is better than running laps in a rubber suit. But even sitting in a sauna can be physically draining.

Better is tricking your body into dropping water without having to force it out with sweat. The following process is something I learned from Robb Wolf and a few of my lifters have used it successfully. The basic idea is to drink way more water than you need and then systematically reduce your water intake. Your body will keep flushing what it thinks is excess water even as your intake is reduced, dehydrating you enough to create some pretty significant weight loss. 5-7 days out from weigh-ins, drink 5-7 liters of water. Reduce it by about a liter a day until you're one day out - on that day, drink as little water as you can manage, and continue that until your weigh-ins. This protocol can easily drop 2-3 kg without any real effort, and athletes will not feel so drained.

The key to any dehydration weight cutting is that you MUST rehydrate before competition! The best time to start is the moment you get off the scale: the sooner the better. You're going to find yourself making a lot of trips to the restroom during this time even though you're dehydrated, so plan on drinking more water than you actually need. One lifter or 35 ounces (liquid) of water weighs a kilogram, so plan on replacing 1 L  of water for every kilo you've lost, plus extra you'll flush (literally).

Also replace electrolytes with your water. The classic way is to drink Gatorade or Pedialyte. Another way is to add a half-teaspoon of salt and a half-teaspoon of potassium chloride (salt substitute) to every liter of water you drink. This will take care of any lost electrolytes, and also make an isotonic solution that will be absorbed better.

Free Snatch Learning Manual

When you subscribe to our newsletter for exclusive training tips from Greg Everett & more.

Greg Everett is the owner of Catalyst Athletics, head coach of the USA Weightlifting National Champion team Catalyst Athletics, author of the books Olympic Weightlifting: A Complete Guide for Athletes & Coaches and Olympic Weightlifting for Sports, director/writer/producer/editor/everything of the documentary American Weightlifting, co-host of the Weightlifting Life Podcast, publisher of The Performance Menu journal, fifth-place finisher at the USAW National Championships, masters national champion, masters American Open champion, masters American record holder in the clean & jerk, and Olympic Trials coach. Follow him on Facebook here and and sign up for his free newsletter here.

Read more by Greg Everett


lifting 2015-05-17
Thanks for this article - Just to clarify: Day 7, 6, or 5 before weigh in day, drink 5-7 liters of water. Then each day after until Day 1 (before weigh in), drink 1 liter each day. Then day of, little as possible. Or Days 7-2, drink 5-7 liters each day, then day 1, drink 1 liter, then day of, as little as possible.
Steve Pan 2015-05-18
Lifting -

Start with 5-7liters 5-7 days out and reduce the total by 1 liter per day. So if you start 7 days out, drink 7 liters on day 1, 6 liters on day 2, 5 liters on day 3, etc... The last day before weigh in you will drink as little as possible leading up to the weigh-in.
Jessica 2016-11-09
Thanks for this article! It is recommended to cut foods also and to reduce carb and salt intake during the week before the weigh in?
Thanks in advance!
Depends on how much weight you have to lose and how you're going to do it. Cutting food out is the worst thing you can do, so you want to exhaust all other options first, e.g. hyperhydration which is the least-detrimental way to cut weight. Reducing salt intake can help with any water cut.

Greg Everett
Janyce 2017-04-06
I've been looking into this topic for a few days, and was wondering about the amount of water recommended. Is this usually for the average male or as a 120# female, should I also drink 5-7 liters?
Stick w 5-7

Greg Everett
Free Snatch Manual
When you join our newsletter!

Weightlifting Movement Assessment & Correction by Quinn Henoch, DPT

Subscribe to the Performance Menu Magazine