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Making Weight
 3/20/2011  by  Glenn Pendlay

One of the things that can have the largest immediate effect on your performance in a competition is your ability to make weight without affecting your strength or physical capacities.  Done incorrectly, making weight can even affect you mentally, leaving you miserable and with no confidence in your abilities.  It can also just plain take the fun out of competing!

The two biggest mistakes made are leaving too much weight loss for the day before and day of the competition and ending up spending hours in the sauna sapping your strength before you lift, or, making weight too early through dehydration, then maintaining your weight and dehydrated state for too long before lifting.  You should not be in a sauna for hours and hours directly before competing, and you should not be in one at all the day before or two days before competing!  The biggest trick to making weight is timing it right, and the following outline will tell you how to do that.

There are 4 parts to successfully making weight.  Part 1 is the weight you lose, hopefully mostly bodyfat, leading up to the last week before competition.  Part two is the water weight you lose by carb depletion and the weight you lose by not having a full digestion tract during the last 3 days before the competition, and part 3 is the weight you lose via dehydration via perspiration directly before weigh-in.  Part 4 is what you do immedietly after making weight, to replenish yourself for the competition.

I believe the best way to illustrate this is through example, so I will use a hypothetical model that largely mirrors a situation that I have found myself in many times as a coach.

Let us imagine a 105kg lifter who trains most of the year at or around 110kg.  This athlete does not have to really diet to stay at 110kg, but still has to watch what he eats, eating anything and everything he wanted would probably put him at 115kg in a month or so.  Just keep in mind that this is all by percentages, so if you are coaching an athlete weighing 52kg, the actual weights lost will be about ½ of what is calculated for a 105kg lifter

For this105kg ,athlete, making weight would start 3 to 4 weeks out from competition, with the goal of attaining  a weight of 108kg via gentle dieting that doesn’t affect strength or energy, and attain this weight 5-7 days out from competition.  Generally for a hard training athlete of this size to lose 2kg over a 2-3 week period requires nothing more than a tightening up of the diet, cutting out the sugar, the junk food, etc.  This amount of weight loss can be accomplished without it negatively affecting strength or training energy.  This is an individual process, but, we want to start the last week before competition  2-3% overweight, instead of 5% overweight.

Four days out, Tuesday of the competition week assuming competition is on Saturday, the athlete will begin to deplete carbs and make sure that the digestion is moving quickly so that they will end up weighing in with as close to an empty digestive track as possible.  Pay attention to drinking plenty of distilled water, not so much as to be uncomfortable, but more than would be normal, and, without cutting down on the total amount of food eaten,  start to favor protein and fat over carbohydrate sources.  Tuna, chicken breast, sardines and salmon, or lean cuts of red meat along with vegatables and salads with olive oil and lemon juice dressing work very well at this point.  A couple of eggs for breakfast work fine.  No breads, fruit juices, rice, potatoes, or other foods rich in starch or sugar.  On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, 30 minute very leisurely walks should be taken in the evening.  Aim not to be hungry, but don’t over-eat either, although over-eating on the diet as described is hard.  If the athlete competes in the morning, you want to go to bed the night before (Friday night) .5 to .7kg overweight, and if the athlete competes in the afternoon, you want to go to bed a full kilo over the night before

It is very common for a 3 day carb reduction like this to take the athlete from 108kg, or 3kg over on Tuesday to 106kg on Friday without ever having to feel hungry or deprived, and with no loss of energy. If the weight is coming off too fast, eat more and eat a higher proportion of red meat, if the weight is not coming off fast enough, eat a higher proportion of chicken breast and eat less.   Control fluid intake on Friday to make sure you are the desired weight by the time you go to bed Friday night.   Do not restrict fluid before Friday at noon.

If you go to bed Friday night the recommended amount over weight (.5 to .7kg over if you weigh in in the morning, 1 full kilo over if you weigh in in the afternoon) you will likely wake up on weight or close to it for morning weigh-ins and within .2 to .3kg for afternoon weigh-ins.  For a morning weigh-in, you should definitely not wake up more than .2 or .3 kilos over.  In this case, recognize the fact that because of nerves, if you got up and weighed at 8am, and weigh in at 12am, you just might burn off that .2kg with no further action on your part.  Be ready to jump in a sauna at about 1130 though (or 30 minutes before whenever weigh-ins start), just in case you have a tenth or so left to go at that time.  If you wake up on weight or below it, eggs are excellent…  with no fluid intake if you are right on.  Any weight gain from a couple of eggs at 8am will be gone by a 10am weigh-in if you wake up on weight, and if you wake up below, two eggs plus enough liquid to get you back up to weight are just the ticket. 

If you compete in the afternoon, and went to bed 1kg over, it’s likely that you will wake up roughly  .3  over.  Assuming you wake up at 8am, and weigh in at 3pm, and wake up at say .3 or even .4 over, then go ahead and eat two eggs, or a bit of chicken breast, with no fluid intake, then wait it out.  By 2pm, with no further fluid or food intake, you should be on or below weight.  If at any time you find yourself below, eat to get back to exactly on weight, if you find yourself still slightly over at 2pm, locate the sauna and be prepared to jump in at 2:30 to lose the last tenth or two.

After you weigh in, what you do next is just as important as what you did to make weight.  All too often an athlete will “reward” themselves with food they don’t usually eat, or very heavy and high fat food, or even with sugary junk, none of which will put you in the best state to compete up to your ability.  Athletes also often want to focus on eating directly after weigh-in, instead of drinking, which is also a mistake.  

The combination I have found to be the most successful for replenishing an athlete who has made weight via this method is a drink like Gatorade, oranges, and a sandwich or two.  Why this combination?  Well, Gatorade both replenishes some carbs as well as fluid,  everyone likes oranges and they give you sugar and calories without causing an insulin spike, and everyone eats and is used to sandwiches, it’s not a new or “strange” food for almost anyone, and, with bread, turkey, ham or chicken, a slice of cheese, and maybe a little mayo, they have a macro nutrient profile that fills you up and sticks with you over hours of competition without being “heavy” in your stomach.

I recommend the following.  Have on hand at least two 1 liter bottles of Gatorade, 3 oranges, and 3 sandwiches made with bread, chicken, turkey, or ham, one slice of cheese per sandwich, and a small amount of mayo if desired.  Immedietly after weigh-in, drink as much Gatorade as possible without feeling bloated.  Now, just to waste time, get your gear together, make sure you have everything you need, tape, your shoes, etc.  Waste 15 minutes or so before you put anything else in your mouth besides that Gatorade.  We do this because fluid absorbs quickest from an empty stomach, and we need that fluid at this point worse than we need the food.  After 15-20 minutes of Gatorade only, eat an orange, then unwrap a sandwich and start to nibble on it.  I say nibble, because if there was ever a time to eat slow and chew thouroughly, this is it.  The slower you eat and the better you chew, the quicker it will digest, and we want it to digest FAST…  we want those calories and nutrients in your bloodstream replenishing what you have depleted the last few days, not sitting around in your stomach being useless!  How much can be eaten depends on the individual, but avoid a full or bloated feeling while eating as much as you can and still feeling ready to lift.  Even the smallest athlete or the one with the worst appetite should be able to eat 1 sandwich, most will eat two, and some will polish off all 3, but 3 will be rare, and limited to larger men that are used to large amounts of food to keep their bodyweight up.  In the last 30 to 45 minutes before you start to warm up in the snatch, keep sipping the Gatorade, and its perfectly fine to eat another half of an orange, or even a few bites of a sandwich if you feel “hungry” or feel like you can do it without feeling full.  Just don’t overdo it.

Follow this advice and you will go into your snatches with energy and strength, and without a heavy or upset stomach…  but it doesn’t end there.  Another big mistake people often make is not eating or drinking between snatch and clean and jerk.  Remember that if you have just lost 3% of your bodyweight in 4 or 5 days, you will have replenished your body to the point of letting it perform at its best before the snatch, but you have certainly built no reserves!!!  All too often, an athlete will feel no immediate need to eat or drink right after snatch, but the half hour of rest, clean and jerk warm-ups, nerves, and first attempt will all conspire to drain the athlete and let them really “hit the wall” sometime around the second or third attempt clean and jerk.  I have seen this a hundred times.  A PR total lost because an athlete that looked great in the snatches feels fatigued, listless, even sleepy by the time the last clean and jerk rolls around.  Avoid this by, drinking at least 12 oz of Gatorade and eating  ½ or a whole orange immedietly after you drop your third snatch, even if you don’t feel like it.  You will be glad you did when the third attempt clean and jerk weight is on the bar.

Should you not have a full 5% of your bodyweight to lose, simply start the process wherever you happen to fit.  For example, if you are training at 108kg, or about 3kg over, then do no 2-3 weeks of dieting, but jump on the described program the Tuesday before the competition and carry on from their as described.

Say you are 1kg or less over at your normal walking around weight and weighing in in the morning…  skipping supper, taking a 30 minute walk before bed, then checking your weight 30 min before weigh-ins start and being ready to sauna if necessary is the ticket.  If weighing in in the afternoon, then simply adjust your diet and fluid intake the day before to make sure you are no more than 1kg over at bedtime, then, after two eggs in the morning adjust the rest of your fluid and food intake to be at or almost at weight 30 minutes before weigh-in and be ready to sauna off the last .1 or .2 kilos if necessary.

I have indeed saved the biggest secret of successfully making weight for last.  The real key is KEEPING RECORDS.  Even if you are in your first year of lifting, and ready to go to your first National competition, you have no doubt made weight at 2-3 local meets before you get on that plane and fly to Junior Nationals or Schoolage or the American open.  Use those local meets a practice sessions, write down and keep track of how much you were over or how much you weighed a week out, a day out, the evening before, etc.  Keep track of what you eat, how much you lose overnight, etc.  By the time you get to Nationals, you should know how much you are gonna lose overnight in several different situations.  You should know how much you are gonna weigh at 2pm if you wake up at 8am and eat only 2 eggs between 8 and 2.  The more times you make weight, and the better records you keep, the easier it will be for you to adjust my rough guide to a very precise plan that works perfecty every time for you and your individual  and unique metabolism.  Also keep in mind that the weights listed are for the 105kg lifter used in the example, adjust them as appropriate for you, for instance, 3kg is about 3% for a 105kg lifter, but for a 69kg lifter 2kg is about 3%.

This is a plan that has worked, with small individual adjustments, very well for me literally hundreds of times.  Try it out, and I hope it helps you to perform up to your very best abilities in your next competition.

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