Disclaimer: Water cuts are NOT a means to lose weight. They help to make "weight" for an upcoming meet or competition by strategically cutting water and glycogen. They should be done for a TEMPORARY purpose and with a plan to put back on the weight lost as soon as possible.
When I signed up for a January UPA powerlifting meet last fall, I had hoped my slow body recomp would take me from around 195# down to the 181# weight class. I did lose weight, but not enough. I weighed my options and with my coaches guidance, decided I'd be more competitive in the 181 class, and so I decided to try a water cut.
I had always felt very negative about water cuts. I have quite a long history of repetitive restriction and binge eating. I have tried "lean gains" and doing 18 hour fasts as a means to lose weight, even. As women it's a slippery slope and I was aware of how it might bring back my disordered eating or a desire to return to that lifestyle. It always seemed very risky to water load/cut, and even dangerous. But I was able to put my (somewhat irrational) feelings to the side and move forward to experience my very first experimental water loading and water cut. I'm not going to tell you "how to" do it, but rather I'm going to share with you how mine went.
Water cuts almost seem to be taboo or a sensitive subject for some. I have had folks tell me that they would never do one, or that they "don't do water cuts" for competitions. I may have been one of those people in the past. But the opportunity arose and I was up for the challenge. How do you really know if something will be good or bad if you don't try it, to see how YOU react to it? I have countless friends who cut for both strongman and powerlifting meets regularly. For many, it's just not worth the strength loss of a long term weight cut. A temporary water cut will allow you to potentially keep more strength than an actual long term calorie restriction.
The weeks leading up to my cut included the holidays and my birthday. I thoroughly enjoyed every festive morsel I could get my hands on. But when my water loading was just around the corner I dialed my nutrition down and I was able to drop a few lbs that way.
When it was time to start water loading I was at 193 lbs and I knew I had about 12 lbs of water and glycogen to cut. Sunday through Wednesday I drank two gallons of water each day. I was sure to eat ample sodium and my food choices weren't much different than usual. I wasn't sure I'd be able to drink two gallons but I did! It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be either. And my usual one gallon of water is MUCH easier after the fact. :-) I did strategize and try to drink most of the first gallon by noon.
I didn't feel much different over the first four days, other than going to the bathroom more of course. My weight started to slowly lower, and I stayed about the same weight teetering around 189/190 and it gradually started going lower and lower as time went on, but nothing drastic.
On Thursday I cut down to one gallon of distilled water and continued to lower and eliminate my salt and carb intake. I saw the scale move a bit, but not convincingly. How on earth was all, this water weight going to just disappear?
By Thursday evening the scale had moved maybe 3-4 lbs down to 187/188. On Friday morning I was around 185. I was to have no more than a half gallon of water on Friday and then I was to fast after lunch until weigh in Saturday morning at 9am. Friday was the hardest and most restricted day. It was the only day that I questioned what I was doing to my body. I purposely didn't read online about water cuts because I didn't want to make myself more anxious about how I 'might' feel. I was afraid I'd be nauseous or cranky. I didn't feel too bad until Friday evening.
I weighed 183.5 on the competition scale Friday evening when I arrived to the competition venue. I was in a panic at how I would cut 2 lbs by the next morning. But my lovely coach assured me that it would be okay, and to trust the process. By Friday around dinner time I was very hungry. I was also very thirsty. We got into the hot tub for about an hour to help me "sweat" some of the final water out of my system. When I got back to the hotel room that night, I was 181.4, RIGHT ON THE MONEY! I was so relieved to finally see that magic number.
Friday night I experienced the worst night's sleep. My mouth was dry and I wanted to eat so badly. It wasn't completely terrible, just unpleasant. I ended up having a few ice cubes and gum to keep my mouth occupied. But one ice cube just made me want more and more.
Saturday morning arrived and by then I was weighing around 179. How nuts is it that just a week before I was around 193?? I am still amazed by this. But all along I knew this was not for the long term and I was eager to start putting the water and glycogen back into my body. I weighed in at 9am on the competition scale at 179.5. Hooray!!! I made weight.
The next 24 hours included so much food. It was time to put the weight back on, and quickly. I immediately drank a bottle of Pedialyte to help get electrolytes back in my system. I consumed a very large breakfast of many carbs, and throughout the day I ate continuously. I even kept eating when I felt full. I knew that it was important to get my weight back to around normal by the time the meet started the next day. By around noon I was back up to 188. By 6 pm I was back to 192. I consumed 4 bottles of Pedialyte, many salty and carby snacks, and pizza for dinner. The morning of the meet I was around 190. I was relieved to be back to "myself" and to feel hydrated again.
Overall the water load and cut wasn't too bad. I am thankful that it did not make me want to continue to restrict, but rather I was really glad to get back to my usual weight. I know it was likely stressful on my body, but I do also feel like I bounced back pretty well.
Did my meet suffer because of it? I don't know if I will ever know for sure, but if it affected anything, I'd have to say it likely did affect my deadlift. My squats and bench went pretty well, but my deadlift just felt plain off. I don't know if it was a leverage change OR just me being tired. Who knows though, I could have just been tired from the long day of competing.
I can honestly say I would maybe cut again, but I hope it's not for a good while. I do not recommend this to anybody as a way of losing weight for any amount of time. Every moment I spent cutting weight, I was counting the seconds until I could start putting it back on. Also, it's important to know that I had 24 hours to regain water and glycogen. It is NEVER ideal to water cut if you're weighing in the same day of your competition.
I was really grateful to have my coach walk me through the water load and cut, step by step. She was really great. Thanks Becca! <3 My coworkers, friends and family were also supportive. It was quite a rigorous process, but everyone who cared about me tolerated my wacky needs.
I am right around 189 today, the day after the meet. I am really glad to be able to eat normal again. I'll get back to my healthy body recomposition efforts just as soon as I feel recovered and ready to go.