Weigh In Day — How to Get it Right
So here you are, just one day away from the big event. You’ve planned well, trained hard and now you just have that last little hurdle before you compete: the weigh in. I’m not actually going to do a post on weight cutting, because most of mine have been relatively easy and I don’t know the nitty gritty science behind a lot of it. I’ve never done anything more extreme than five kilograms, partly because I’ve always managed to stay within that range and partly because I won’t risk my health (or indeed, my life) cutting anything more.
With that said, I’ll give you a brief insight into why my cuts have always been easy. I’ve never needed to sauna, salt bath, IV bag, or any of the more extreme solutions to get the weight off. The biggest cut I ever did was 5kg, and that was only once. Most of the time, I was actually much closer — usually only 2–3kg off. To lose that weight is easy, it’s just a matter of cutting out carbs 5 days leading up to the weigh in, which causes you to dump a bunch of water naturally. I usually go light on the water in the 3 days before weigh in and adjust as needed depending on how dark my pee is. I know from experience that I can expect to lose at least 800g overnight while sleeping, so I factor that in too. Depending on how much weight i’m still holding the day before, I may eat a few tubs of yoghurt over the course of the day (quick digesting) or go without completely.
The thing about weight cutting is, if you play it smart, it doesn’t have to be a horrible experience. And the issue is, the more you cut the more dangerous it gets. People have died from pushing it too far. My advice is to get your weight down to a manageable level and keep it there, or put more weight on and go up a weight class.
Instead of focusing on cutting weight, what I’m going to talk about here is what to do on the day of weigh in, so you don’t screw up and ruin the big day. If it’s a 24 hour weigh in, you’ve got a long period to put a lot of food and fluid in, and completely ruin your digestion and energy levels the next day as a result. If it’s a night before weigh in — as we usually did at judo, you have a much shorter window of eating, so you can’t screw up anywhere near as much.
So first things first — hydration. I don’t care how hungry you are, hydration comes before eating. I’m not an expert at hydration, because I’ve never dehydrated that much. From experience training during summer though, I’d recommend you look at a solution containing water, salt and glucose. Commercial drinks (like Gatorade and Powerade) have too much sugar and not enough salt, so you’re best off making your own. I’d highly recommend you look at Stan Efferding’s protocol that he’s been using for Crossfit games athletes, strongmen and MMA fighters. He did work with the Heat Institute to come up with it, so it’s going to give you the best results. There’s a great discussion about it on Mark Bell’s Power Project, which I’ve put below. The hydration discussion starts around 11:30.
After hydration, the most important thing is to make sensible food choices. The mark of a newbie is that they go out after weigh in and smash in food that satisfies all of their cravings, going on a gigantic binge. If you’ve fasted the day before weigh in and also cut your food intake prior, you’re forcing a huge amount of food into a very small space and making it as hard on your digestion as possible. Believe me when I tell you that if you go that route, you’ll blow your asshole out the next morning. It’s best to put some thought into your food choices, because the last thing you want on competition day is to be in massive digestive distress. After all, you don’t celebrate a weigh in, you celebrate following the competition itself, so save your big pig out for the night after the comp, where you’ll be just as hungry and you don’t have to worry about performing the next morning. Your stomach will also be in a better state to handle what you throw at it.
Your first priority is carbs and then protein. Fat is a no go until dinner time, because you’re trying to shuttle carbs into your muscles, and fat not only slows digestion, but it makes you feel full and stops you from eating more. Don’t just throw down a whole bunch of Krispy Kremes either — you want to choose carbs that are easy on the digestion and pack a lot in. For this reason, you absolutely cannot go past white rice. You can eat a tonne of it, it’s super high in carbs, and it doesn’t make you feel bloated and gross. Along with that, I just throw in some well salted kangaroo mince, because it’s super lean, has a lot of heme iron in it and is very high in protein. All the things that make your muscles strong on comp day.
Refuelling and rehydrating isn’t just a matter of what you put into your body either, it’s a matter of when and how. Timing plays a big role in keeping your digestion moving, and how much you eat in each sitting is important too. I’ve played around with this for a number of years, and after a lot of trial and error I’ve got a system that works really well. First off, a few rules:
- Never eat and hydrate at the same time. Especially when you’re dehydrated and you need to consume a lot of fluid, it will inhibit digestion if you do both at once. My rule of thumb is to drink 15–30 minutes before eating, and after a meal wait for 2 hours.
- Don’t pig out. You’re looking to eat every 2–3 hours, so keep the meals at a reasonable size. You’ve got plenty of time to pack the food in, so don’t overdo it.
- Move around a bit. Don’t just sit on your ass all day eating. After each meal, go for a 10 minute walk.
So with that in mind, here is the process to follow:
Weigh in. Immediately consume your hydration drink. Depending on how dark you were peeing before weigh in, this might be sufficient or you might need to drink more. Don’t rush the hydration process, there’s plenty of time. When you’re comfortable that you’ve had enough to drink, wait for at least 15 minutes afterwards, 30 minutes preferably before you begin eating.
After you’re hydrated, consume at least 1.5 full cups of white rice (this assumes that you’re 90kg or less. If you’re in a heavier weight category, eat more). If you’re a strength athlete, I’d consume 100g of kangaroo/bison/elk as well. (If you’re a fighter, focus on the carbs first because you probably don’t need as much protein. Eat extra rice in place of protein). Be sure to salt your meals as well. Salt helps you retain fluid, and right now that’s exactly what you want.
You should be able to eat again around 2 hours later. Take it slowly, don’t try to eat until you’re bursting at the seams. Repeat the same meal 3 times in total. So assuming you had a 9am weigh in and you didn’t cut too much water, you’ll be eating at 930, 1130 and 130. Believe me by then, you’ll be sick of eating mince and rice, but you’ll have packed in plenty of carbs. Being that there’s still 5+ hours until dinner, I break it up by drinking a large chocolate milk and having a couple of donuts about 330.
Eat a normal dinner, but don’t go nuts. You’ve had plenty to eat already, so there’s no reason to pig out. Remember, you’re trying to get the maximum amount of fuel in for the minimum amount of digestive distress. You’re fuelling your body here, not your cravings. I usually eat pizza, because again, very high in carbs and calories and at this point, your body has 12+ hours to digest it, so fat content isn’t a huge issue.
If you have a night before weigh in
Your first priority after hydration is carbohydrates. Protein can wait until your second meal of the evening. Assuming you have a 6pm weigh in and you haven’t cut too much water, try to eat 2 cups of white rice. Do whatever you need to do to make it taste a little better — I’d highly recommend a sauce with a decent amount of salt in it to help you retain fluid. That’s 90g of carbs you’ve just put away. The rice will digest relatively quickly, and you should be ready to eat again in 2 hours or so. At that point, you want to look at protein and more rice. You’re trying to fuel up here, so stay away from anything with a lot of fat in it, because it will fill you up too much and slow your digestion (the opposite of what you want). You can go with the mince and rice I suggested above for strength athletes, or you can go for steak or something similar. Stick with the rice rather than fries, mash potato or pasta, because you can eat more and feel less full.
Here’s the thing — even if you’ve done all the right things, you’re still probably going to feel a bit of digestive pain in the morning. Let’s face it, you’ve crammed a lot of food into a stomach that’s shrunk due to fasting, so it’s not going to be all beer and skittles the next morning, but at least you’ve minimised the damage while maximising what you’ve put in. The best I’ve managed is to get it down to 2 toilet trips fairly close to one another, and after that it was smooth sailing, with no cramps. Make sure you wake up early enough on comp day that you have plenty of time to go a couple of times. I’d also have an Imodium ready just in case you need to put a stop to it. I’ll talk about eating the next morning in my post covering competition day.