For most competitors, it is inevitable that eventually one day you will do one of the following:

A) Look up the records in their weight class
B) Want to cut weight for a meet
C) Both A and B

While the idea of cutting weight is nothing new, the methods it takes to make that wonderful weight cut a reality seem much less available to those of an inquiring mind.

Minus my first meet where I weighed in at 106.5 (in undies) and failed to miss the 105-weight class, I have spent most of my meets lifting at 105 and 97. In my first meet I knew nothing about cuts and it was a wreck. I ate high sodium all the way up until the day of weigh-ins, didn't understand water manipulation, and sat in the sauna for five hours only sweating out one pound (107 to 106 on my scale). By the time I had driven three hours to Tampa, I had lost no additional weight and had to bump up to the 114-weight class. From that day forward, I vowed to learn about cuts and water manipulation so I could save myself the heartbreak that comes with an unsuccessful weight cut.


From 2011 and 2013 I made six weight cuts (24 hour weigh in) to the 105 and 97 classes. The smallest cut was nine pounds (114 to 105) and the biggest was 14 (119 to 105). Along the way I also learned that cuts will always be a hit or a miss, but the more you know about hormones and homeostasis, the better they tend to go. Thus, not wanting another to suffer the horrible heartbreak of missing weight I experienced long ago, I thought it might be best to sum up methods and aspects of weight cuts.

Before we dive, I want to mention the three gold rules for situations where I am HIGHLY against people cutting weight:

1. First Meets. I don't care if someone can break a record; this is a dumb idea. There will be other meets, and you can break them then. First meets are hard enough and no one needs the extra stress of a weight cut on top of that.

2. If your hormones are whack. Wacky hormones can seriously influence a cut (see hormone section) and make it harder than it should be.

3. If you are ALONE the day before weigh-ins. Things can go bad FAST in a weight cut, especially in one that is greater than 10 percent of your bodyweight. You need to have someone around in the event that you need help or medical attention.

OF NOTE: I am not a doctor, this is not medical advice, or advice on things competitors should do.

So, with that said, let's get to talking about aspects that effect weight cuts for a 24-hour weigh-in.

RELATED: Cutting Weight for Strongman: Is It Helping or Hurting You?


1. Progesterone:

This hormone has many roles, but when it comes to weight cuts, having higher levels (naturally) of this hormone can be helpful. However, most females who are athletes have lower levels, making weight-cuts pretty difficult. Progesterone acts as a diuretic and can counterbalance the water-retention effects of estrogen. This is often why males have an easier time dropping weight in the sauna compared to females. With low progesterone levels, some females can find it near impossible to sweat it out in the sauna. For individuals like this, they are left to seek alternative options like hot baths or diuretics (over the counter, prescription, or herbal).


2. Estrogen:

Estrogen acts to hold on to water. I often times hear that a lot of female lifters suffer issues with high estrogen levels. Thus, it's important to know if this includes you. If it does, the sauna will most likely be an ineffective method and you will need to look at hot baths or natural diuretics methods to cut weight. Luckily for the guys, high estrogen is never really a huge weight-cut consideration.

3. Aldosterone:

Aldosterone acts to reabsorb water so sodium can be conservation while potassium is removed. Essentially, this hormone increases water retention and blood pressure. In a weight cut, at some point you will most likely cut out sodium because it holds onto water molecules. When you eliminate sodium from your diet, you drop water weight. However, when you reduce sodium, aldosterone elevates in an attempt to keep sodium in your body. Back in undergrad, I remember looking at a study where at baseline participants had aldosterone levels of 10.4ng/100ml. After one day of sodium depletion, their aldosterone level was up to 11.7 and by day two it was up to 22.5. Accordingly, when you cut your sodium down during a cut becomes something of a science all because of aldosterone.


These methods can be very unsafe since you are combining high temperatures and extreme dehydration. This should never be executed alone and are disadvantageous for those competing in two hour weigh-ins.

1. Sauna

This tends to work great for guys but can be a disaster for girls. Additionally, if your brain temp goes over 102 degrees, central nervous system function can be impaired. With that being said, the sauna method is one of the easiest to set up. Essentially one just sits in a hot sauna and sweats out water weight as the body is attempting to cool down.The best time to get into the sauna is known as ALAP (as late as possible). It should be timed so that it is done on the evening of the day before weigh-ins. It is essential to minimize the amount of time you spend dehydrated if you hope to do well on the platform. For those that don’t have access to a sauna, a bathroom can also be converted into a steam room by blocking the bathroom airways with towels and running the shower as hot as it will go (make sure the drain is clogged so steam can form when the shower drops hit the water that has filled up the tub).


When using either method, some combination of 10-15 minutes in, with a two to five minute break is often utilized. During sauna breaks, all sweat should be wiped off to avoid re-absorption that can occurring during the break cool-down. However, it is important to remember that the rate at which you drop weight when you first start to sauna often slows as you continue to spend time in the sweating it out. That’s the beauty of the body’s ability to adapt.

2. Hot Bath with Epsom Salt and Alcohol

In this method, a bath is filled with hot water and epsom salt. The salts works to increase water’s boiling point, thus, allowing you to get in and sweat at temperature higher than just a hot bath alone. It can also increase the osmolarity of the water, and force the water from under the skin to diffuse into the bath via osmosis. Rubbing alcohol can also be added to help increase/maintain the body’s peripheral vasodilation and increase circulation to enhance the effectiveness of the epsom salt bath.  Of note, epsom salts pull out water from under the skin. This can be beneficial to the sauna method since it selectively pulls out subcutaneous water. The sauna, which pulls out water nonspecifically, can remove organ water and make it difficult to rehydrate. This should be done for ~10 minute sets before breaking and drying off.  Since this method relies on osmosis and diffusion, it can work for many people.

MORE: Cutting Weight for the Pro Am

3. Bowel Excretion

This method can be highly effective since food that is still digesting in your system also has a weight. To clear out the system, an oral solution magnesium citrate will do the trick. It can be purchased at your local target, supermarket, or pharmacy. This is most effective when taken after the last solid meal before weigh-ins. This should be a meal that also occurs when you are still consuming water so the laxative can do its job. If taken without water, it will not nearly be as effective.


4. Water Pills and Diuretics

With this method there are many plus and minuses. Diuretics enhance the rate at which you urinate, thus causing you to excrete water weight. However, those bathroom trips can also result in the loss of some electrolytes. In some cases, that can lead to severe electrolyte imbalances, low blood pressure, hospitalization, or death. Using prescription water pills is extremely dangerous and is not something that should be recommended. However, there are also natural diuretics that trend on the save side of things. Below is an idea of the different types of diuretics lifters use to cut weight.

  • Over the Counter: On the mild side of things, 200mg of caffeine is considered a mild diuretic that should not harm your performance. Similarly, dandelion root is considered fairly safe and effective. Supplements from nutrition stores like Expel can also be purchased; however, they are a bit stronger. These types of methods are generally safe and will cause you to pee out excess water. On the downside, they do not work for a long period of time. Once you start to dehydrate, they really aren't strong enough to push the water out continuously.
  • Strong Prescription Diuretics (Lasix, hydrochlorothiazide, Aldactone, etc ):

Hydrochlorothiazide is a prescription diuretic that acts by attempting to stop the kidneys' ability to retain water. The result is a decrease in the volume of the blood and blood pressure. Similar to Lasix, it also effects potassium levels, but to a lesser extent.

Lasix (furosemide) is a diuretic that prevents your body from absorbing too much salt. It does this by allowing the salt be passed in your urine. It will cause drops in blood pressure and possible kidney issues. Additionally, it can lead to electrolyte imbalances when introduced in a large, acute, dose. It is not friendly when it comes to sparring potassium. Depleting sodium and using Lasix may result in a rise in aldosterone and subsequent water retention since the mechanism of Lasix is to excrete sodium.

Aldactone (Spironolactone) is a weak diuretic. It targets the distal nephron, thus reducing its ability to alter urine excretion compared to Lasix and Hydrochlorothiazide. It acts by counteracting the rise in aldosterone that occurs when sodium levels become low. It should be noted that prescription diuretics are extremely dangerous and can be deadly.


Water Intake, Sodium, and Glycogen Manipulation:

 1. Water Intake     

The idea with water intake manipulation is to first “water load” and then “water cut.” In the water-loading phase, a series of days occurs the week before weigh-ins where you overhydrate in an attempt to get your body to upregulate the water excretion process. Once you are an excreting machine, water is cut. The body has a delayed response to this drastic reduction in water consumption and continues to keep you peeing at a momentary accelerated rate. In general, water consumption is ramped up each day from seven days out until ~36 to 12 hours out. At that point, water is cut out, and your body should continue to keep excreting at an accelerated pace. The exact window for the body to realize you are no longer consuming tons of water is highly individualized. Additionally, so is the water loading and cutting methodology.

2. Sodium Manipulation

Similar to water manipulation, in sodium manipulation you drastically increase the amount of sodium you take in above what your body is used to the week before a meet. Sodium will aid in water retention at first, but also gets your body to start upregulating the process it uses to deal with metabolizing excess sodium. Between one and two days out, sodium is cut out of the diet completely. The upregulated machinery from the increased sodium early in the week should still be running, resulting in a reduction in weight through the loss of water. 


3. Glycogen Manipulation

Carbohydrates (glucose) are stored in your muscles and liver in the form of glycogen. On average, about 400-800 grams of glycogen is stored in the average person. Additionally, for each gram of glycogen store, approximately four grams of water is stored as well. This means something like 4.5 to 9 pounds of water and glycogen are stored and can add to the weight on the weigh-in scale. For this reason, athletes cutting weight often do a glycogen/carb depletion to make weight. There are many ways to do this, but essentially, at a week out you remove carbohydrates from your diet and sustain on low carbohydrate fats and proteins. Flax seed has been a favorite of mine in this period because it keeps things moving through the digestive tract. Thus, by dropping the carbs, you drop both water and glycogen weight. This tweak can result in a reduction in weight the week of a meet.

At the end of the day, weight-cuts are one of the worst parts of powerlifting. However, having an idea of the options available to make them happen hopefully makes the whole process a bit more tolerable.