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Cutting Weight/ Post-Weigh-in Eating and Drinking

by Gary F. Zeolla

I competed in the International Powerlifting Association World Championships on Friday August 8, 2003, in Harrisburg, PA. I competed in the 114-pound weight class in the men’s amateur, open and masters (40-44) divisions.

I weighed 118.8 pounds on Wednesday July 30. Weigh-ins were Thursday, August 7, starting at 4:00 pm. The class limit is 114.5 pounds (due to be converted from 52 kilograms). I weighed-in at 113.7 pounds, 0.8 pounds under the limit. I wanted to cut it as close as I could so as not to lose any unnecessary strength. As it turned out, I didn’t feel like I lost any strength cutting 5.1 pounds in seven days. So in this article I will discuss how I went about losing the weight and then eating and re-hydrating after weigh-ins.

Final Workouts

I put in my last heavy workouts the week of July 28: deadlifts on Monday, benches on Wednesday, and squats on Friday. I had planned on not starting to cut weight until after these workouts so I would have the energy to put in good final workouts. I then planned on putting in a light bench workout on Monday, and that would be it until the contest Friday.

So I planned on starting to cut weight on Saturday August 2. However, after weighing 118.8 on Wednesday I was already down to 117.8 on Saturday. I think I must have subconsciously starting cutting back on eating due to being worried about making weight. But whatever the case, I didn’t feel any lack of energy in my last squat and bench workouts, so it wasn’t a problem. And it left me with only 3.3 more pounds to lose in five days.

Cutting Carbs and Fat

What I did at this point was to cut back on carbs and fat. However, I made sure I kept my protein intake the same as always. My reasoning for this was that keeping protein at normal levels would prevent me from losing muscle--the last thing a lifter wants the week before a contest!

But since I wasn’t going to be putting in another heavy workout until the contest, I didn’t need the carbs for energy. And since fats are the most concentrated source of calories there is (9 calories/ gram vs. 4 for carbs and protein), it makes sense to cut down on fat.

So my primary food intake from this point on was low fat protein sources, specifically tuna fish packed in water, chicken breast, turkey breast, non-fatty fish like cod and haddock, and protein powders. I also ate LOTS of vegetables. The reason for this is that vegetables provide lots of nutrients with very few calories. And again, a lifter does not want to cut back on nutrients the week before a contest.

I also ate a couple pieces of fruit a day. Fruit is the second most concreted source of nutrients there is next to veggies. However, they can be somewhat high in carbs, so if I had had much more weight to lose than I did, I probably wouldn’t have eaten any fruit. Similarly, I ate a small amount of cereal for breakfast. But again, if I had had more weight to lose, I would have eliminated this as well.

The first couple of days I didn’t lose much weight. I was only down to 117.4 on Monday morning. However, I wasn’t worried. I figured I see a big drop after my bench workout that day. It was only a very light workout. I just did the warm-up sets I planned on doing at the contest, and that was it as far as lifting went. But I also did my normal warm-up on the treadmill of walking 1/4 mile at 3.0 mph. I then cut my post-workout aerobics in half, from my normal 1/2 mile to again 1/4 mile at 3.0 mph. I then did some light stretching.

But I figured that this light workout would be sufficient to deplete my remaining glycogen stores. And since glycogen holds three times its weight in water, depleting glycogen would cause a drop in bodyweight. And in fact, on Tuesday morning I was down to 116.0. I knew then I’d have no problems making weight.

Cutting Sodium and Water and Stopping Creatine

I did get a little worried on Wednesday when my weight didn’t change. I normally follow a rather low sodium diet. But with my weight not dropping, I now made even more sure to not consume anything with added salt.

The tuna I had been eating was the more expensive kind without added salt. So that didn’t need to change. But I had been dipping the chicken and turkey in barbeque sauce, eating the cod or haddock with ketchup, and using a natural salad dressing on my salads. These all contain significant amounts of sodium, so they needed to be eliminated. I switched to using lemon juice on the fish and salad and nothing on the poultry.

Also, I usually take three grams of creatine after my workouts. And I have found that creatine tends to cause me to hold a little water, about 1-2 pounds worth. I used creatine after my last heavy workout on Friday but not after my light bench workout Monday. And I wouldn’t take it again until after weigh-ins.

At this point, I was hoping that the water loss from the reduction of sodium and not having used creatine in several days would be enough to make weight. So I didn’t start restricting my water intake just yet. But if I had been more overweight the day before weigh-ins I probably would have starting cutting back on liquids that day.

Day of Weigh-ins

On Thursday morning, the day of weigh-ins, I weighed 115.2 pounds. So I was still 0.7 pounds overweight. But this was at about 7:00 am and weigh-ins didn’t start until 4:00 pm. So I went ahead and ate a small breakfast, and a little later I drank a small amount of water. I ate a piece of fruit about 9:30 am. I then again drank a small amount of water right before leaving for the contest at 10:00 am.

I ate and drank this limited amount of food and water so as to give me a little bit of energy and to keep me from getting light-headed during the four-hour drive from the Pittsburgh, PA area where I live to the contest location.

During the drive, I kept an insulated water bottle with some ice water within reach. I took a few small sips along the way just to try to keep me from getting too thirsty. It is important to be sure the water is ice cold. Cold water quenches thirst better than lukewarm water does. So small sips were sufficient.

I arrived at the contest site about 2:00 pm. I was hoping I would be able to weigh-in early as the drive really left me thirsty. But I had to wait until 4:00. So after unpacking, I rested in my hotel room until weigh-ins.

I went to the weigh-in site a few minutes before 4:00 pm and weighed-in at exactly 4:00 pm. And, as indicated above, I weighed-in at 113.7. So I had lost 1.5 pounds the day of weigh-ins. That was 0.8 pounds more than I needed to, but it was nice to know for future reference.

I could have lost more that day if I had needed to by not eating or drinking anything during the day. But that would have made the drive out more difficult. So I had planned it so that I could eat and drink something that day.

Immediate Post-Weigh-in Eating and Drinking

Went I left my hotel room for weigh-ins I took a bottle with me that contained what was basically my normal post-workout drink: 12 ounces of orange juice, a scoop of Jarrow Formulas whey protein, and a scoop (six grams) of Jarrow’s creatine.

I wanted to get some protein into me as quickly as possible as I hadn’t eaten much protein all day. Again, I didn’t want to risk losing any muscle at this point. The O.J. provided some fast absorbed carbs to begin restoring my depleted glycogen stores. It also contains potassium, vitamin C, and other nutrients, which would help to restore depleted levels of electrolytes and other nutrients. And the O.J. would also start the re-hydrating process.

I also wanted to get my creatine levels back up. Creatine helps to increase creatine phosphate levels, which provides needed ATP for high-intensity activity, like doing max squats, benches, and deadlifts. Also, as Indicated, creatine causes me to retain water, which would help to re-hydrate me and to put some weight back on. And since it had been a week since I had used creatine, I used double the amount that I normally use in my post-workout drink.

I also ate an Parillo Energy Bar at this time. This provided additional protein and a mixture of fast, moderate, and slow digesting carbs. This would also help the process of restoring my glycogen stores.

Now some would think that using all high glycemic carbs would be best at this time. But the competition did not start until 9:00 am the next day. And 19 hours would be more than enough time for slow glycemic carbs to digest. It simply was not necessary to send my insulin levels on a roller coaster ride by consuming a bunch of sugar. The amount of high glycemic carbs in the O.J. would suffice to start the process of restoring glycogen stores and the primarily lower glycemic carbs in the Parillo Bar would continue the process.

When I got back to my room I drank a couple of glasses of water. I then waited about half an hour to eat anything else. I waited as it simply is not good to eat and drink a lot at the same time. Doing so will hinder digestion. So I gave time for the water time to be processed before eating.

Subsequent Post-Weigh-in Eating and Drinking

Most lifters will go to a restaurant after weigh-ins. But I packed all of the food I was planning on eating up until contest time. My reason for this is several-fold.

First off, I had a problem with food allergies in the past. I am now okay with most any food as a result of the NAET treatments I underwent (an alternative form of allergy treatments). But still, I didn’t want to risk eating something that might cause me some kind of problem. One can never be sure exactly what is in restaurant food.

Second, I wanted to control exactly what I ate. And again, one can never be sure exactly what is in restaurant food.

So my plan for the rest of the day was to eat low-fat protein and carbs. The protein was again to be sure no muscle would be lost overnight, and the carbs were for restoring glycogen stores. I kept fat to a minimum as it simply would not serve any purpose at this point. It would also fill me up, which would keep me from being able to eat sufficient carbs. And this is another reason to avoid restaurant food. It tends to be rather high in fat.

So about 5:00 pm I opened up a can of tuna fish (having been be sure to pack a can opener!). This again was packed in water so as not to have any fat, It was also the kind without added salt. Since I had cut back on sodium it was important to consume some sodium. But I discovered at my previous contest that there was simply too much sodium in a can of regular tuna. It left me excessively thirsty. And this is yet another reason to avoid restaurant food. It generally has too much salt. But without added salt, there is still a good bit of sodium in tuna.

I used four slices of bread to make two tuna fish sandwiches. The bread was Ezekiel bread. This it can be purchased in a health food store in the freezer section. It is very dense. A 1 loaf is smaller than a one pound loaf of white or even whole wheat bread. So it is very low glycemic. And in my opinion, it is the healthiest and best tasting bread available.

But it does normally need to be kept frozen, so I waited until the last minute to take I out of the freezer before leaving home. I didn’t bother with putting it in a cooler since I knew I’d be eating it that day just a few hours later. But if it had been a longer time period then a cooler would have been necessary.

In any case, the bread would provide the carbs needed to replenish glycogen stores. It would also add more sodium. And the tuna and bread together would provide sufficient sodium without being excessive.

After eating the sandwiches, I waited about an hour, and then drank a couple more glasses of water, and then some more water half an hour later. I then waited another half hour and then ate again at about 7:30 pm. Once again, I opened up a can of tuna fish and made two sandwiches.

I only drank a small amount of water the rest of evening so as not to disturb my sleep by having to get up to go to the bathroom. But I did eat a small bowl of cereal before I went to bed, at about 10:00 pm. I used re-hydrated HDT's Pro Blend (a blended protein powder) for this purpose. The cereal and protein powder supplied yet more carbs and protein. I was also planning on eating another Parillo Bar at bedtime, but frankly I was rather stuffed and didn’t bother. I guess my stomach “shrunk” some from cutting weight.

It was for this reason that I didn’t eat any fruits or vegetables on this day other than the O.J.. As indicated above, fruits and veggeis are the healthiest foods you can eat. But at this time what I needed more than anything else were calories. And with being rather low calorie and bulky foods, fruit and veggies would fill me up too much. So the day of weigh-ins is probably about the only time that I do not eat several servings of fruits and veggies in a given day.

Contest Day

The contest was scheduled to start at 9:00 am. I was in the second flight, so I didn’t need to start warming-up until after 8:30. But come 6:00 am I was wide awake and getting anxious. So I got up. When I did, I drank a glass of water.

I waited a few minutes and then ate a bowl of cereal, specifically Barbara’s Bakery’s Shredded Oats (again, purchased at a health food store). This is a rather dense cereal, so it is rather low glycemic for a cold cereal. I also added a small amount of raisins (~2 Tbs). These naturally sweeten the cereal and provide some high glycemic carbs. As such, they get into the system quickly and help me to get “started.”

I also added a small amount of almonds (~1/4 cup). These add a little bit of fat, which would help to keep me from getting hungry during the contest. But I was careful not to add too many almonds or they would feel like they were “sitting” in my stomach come contest time. An hour later, I drank a couple of more glasses of water. I then ate another Parillo Bar right before leaving for the contest a little before 8:00 am.

I took a bottle of iced tea with me to the contest. This was made with Wisdom of the Ancients Green Instant Tea. I drank a third of the bottle right before I started warming up for squats, a third right before warming up for benches, and the rest right before warming up of deadlifts.

During the break between squats and benches, I ate half of an Parillo Bar. I then ate the other half during the break between benches and deadlifts. And with this pattern of eating, I never felt hungry during the contest, which lasted about six hours. I also took a jug of water with me and took sips all day long to keep from becoming dehydrated.

I had put a bottle with the same dry ingredients I had used post-weigh in (i.e. whey protein and creatine) into my gym bag, along with a 12 ounce bottle of O.J.. Immediately after the contest I re-hydrated the powdered items with the O.J. and drank it. This would begin the recovery process from the grueling day.

But now it was time to relax the food restrictions. So after resting in my room for a while, I went to a restaurant. I was planning on having a steak and potato, but it was too expensive. So I ordered a grilled chicken sandwich. It was still rather expensive, but very good.


Unlike many, in the days following the contest, I didn’t go “nuts’ and eat a bunch of junk. I ate a few things I normally wouldn’t, but for the most part I simply ate as I normally do, a basically healthy diet.

The next time I weighed myself was the following Wednesday (8/13). This would be my first day back to the gym post-contest. I weighed 116.4 pounds. So I hadn’t gained that much since the day of weigh-ins.

But this was good. Now I can gradually gain a couple of pounds. I felt best and my lifting went the best when I weighed between 118 and 119. So I want to get my weight back up to around there, and by adding it slowly I should be able to add mostly muscle not fat.

But I don’t want to gain too much. I lost 5.1 pounds this time without any loss of strength. So if I can keep my weight below 119.5, I should have no problem staying at 114s.

To summarize, my weight progression went as follows:
7/30 - 118.8
8/2  -  117.8
8/3  -  117.6
8/4  -  117.4
8/5  -  116.0
8/6  -  116.0
8/7  -  115.2 (7:00 am)
8/7  -  113.7 (4:00 pm)
8/13 - 116.4

Cutting Weight/ Post-Weigh-in Eating and Drinking. Copyright 2003 by Gary F. Zeolla.

The above article was posted on this site August 14, 2003.
It was updated October 26, 2003.

Powerlifting and Strength Training
Powerlifting and Strength Training: My Diet/ Eating Plan

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