Lessons Learned From Cutting Weight
This past Sunday May 15, 2016 I competed in my first Full Power powerlifting meet, which includes all three lifts, squat, bench, and deadlift. Prior to this meet, my very first powerlifting meet in December 2015 was a push/pull meet, which is just bench and deadlift.
If you have been following my Instagram posts over the past 6 weeks, and read my blog post “114lbs Lean and 670lbs Strong” you’ll know that I decided to cut a few pounds from 117lbs bodyweight to 114lbs bodyweight to compete in the 114lbs weight class instead of the 123lbs weight class.
I decided to compete in the 114lbs weight class because not only was I closer to this weight class than 123lbs but also, I wanted to demonstrate that you can be lean AND strong. You don’t need to pack on pounds or weigh in at your heaviest (or even heaviER) for your body frame in order to build strength or be at your strongest. Just as petite powerhouse Marisa Inda talks about in her podcast interview on the JuggLife Podcast Episode: “Marisa Inda-Powerlifting In The Olympics And Body Acceptance” there is this misconception of powerlifters in that that “oh you’re just a fat powerlifter”. Contrary to this misconception, you can be fit, lean, and strong all at once and you don’t need to eat big and get big, to lift big. Like many powerlifters in her weight class, Marisa Inda is living proof of this.
Now, with the goal of fat loss to achieve a certain weight class for a performance goal, it’s important to keep in mind that as Marisa Inda also says, “muscle moves weight” (listen more in the RDella Podcast with Marisa Inda, “Muscle Moves Weight” Episode 153). SO, you should not hesitate to fill out your frame. Meaning, if you are 5 foot 5 inches tall by no means should you cut weight to compete in the 114lbs weight class. Build muscle, fill out your frame and compete in a weight class that is appropriate to your height and body frame.
I am 5 feet and ½ (60.5 inches) inch tall and, 114lbs is a healthy weight for me. Will I always compete in this weight class? Maybe not. Maybe I will build even more muscle and start to fill out the 123lbs weight class, as long as carrying this extra weight is not a detriment to my health and/or athletic performance. BUT for now, like every experience, I figured I would learn from this, and moreover this weight cut was a test to:
- To see if I could cut weight and maintain strength;
- To see if mentally I could follow a strict diet plan, weigh and track food portions, macronutrients, and calories, and use the scale as a measurement tool as progress towards my weight class goal rather than as a torture device that determines my self worth, and subsequently not fall back into past unhealthy behavioral patterns. (Read more about this in my post “Just Eat.”)
Most people cut water weight for 3lbs about 72 hours before a meet but I did not want to do that for a number of reasons, so I gave myself 6 weeks to lose actual tissue weight because:
- Waiting until the last minute is not my style and it would have stressed me out thinking about it for 6 weeks. I wanted to be prepared ahead of time and be where I needed to be ahead of time rather than cramming the last week to make weight;
- I wanted to spend time training at my new weight so that I could get used to lifting the loads I lift in training at this lower weight. I didn’t want it to be a huge shock to my system last minute;
- I wasn’t sure how long it would take because it’s been a long time since I intentionally lost weight, so mentally this was safe, less stressful planning for myself;
- I looked at the calendar and saw that the week that I weighed in was the week that I would be finishing my period. I usually retain anywhere from 1-2 lbs of water weight during the week of my period so I wanted to make sure that I cut actual fat, had actual tissue loss, so that I would weigh in at or below 114lbs.
At first I set out to do this on my own and started out on a plan that I put together myself but given that I had only a short 6 weeks to accomplish this goal, there was not much room for error, so I decided that I needed help to make sure that I lost the weight without losing strength. Therefore, I turned to Renaissance Periodization and purchased one of their cutting diet templates and started to follow this diet template on March 31, 2016. (Use the code ‘artemis10’ to receive $10 off one of their cutting or massing templates and purchase HERE.)
I reached my goal weight of 114lbs, and actually exceeded my goal by weighing in at 113.5lbs only 9 days later on April 8, 2016. Not only did the Renaissance Periodization diet template help me to reach my weight goal, but it also helped me to cut calories without losing strength, improve nutrient timing and meal spacing, re-introduce more healthy fats into my diet, and add more overall balance to my meals.
By following this diet template I learned that,
- I was eating more protein than I needed to eat;
- I was not eating enough healthy fats;
- I was eating about 1.5 – 2 times too many carbohydrates that I needed to eat and not always at the most ideal times;
- I also was not accounting for the oils I was cooking with or putting on my vegetables or additional calories I was consuming when I snacked on things like figs or dried mango. (I LOVE DRIED MANGO.) I also had to eliminate enjoying dessert on the weekends, which was probably one of the more difficult things for me because I will eat desert over having a drink ANY DAY and I truly look forward to the few days on the weekends that I indulge in my favorites dessert treats;
- In addition, the diet template helped me to cluster the bulk of my carbohydrate consumption earlier in the day when I was most active and around my workouts and coaching hours, and learn how to eat more protein and fats later in the day in the afternoon when I work on administrative tasks, around dinner, and before bedtime when I was less active.
On April 24 I weighed in at 112lbs which was a bit of a shock to me because the last time I was 112lbs or lighter I was a very, less muscular, mentally and physically unhealthy 112lbs, who was starving herself.
Therefore, I thought I needed to be skinny and both mentally and physically unhealthy with a lot less muscle to be this light.
This is me today at 112lbs:
Not skinny, not unhealthy mentally or physically, but rather, muscular, lean and both mentally and physically strong.
This experience was a revelation to me to learn that I can be this lean and maintain the muscle I have, and weigh this weight with a healthy mind and body AND still maintain strength.
The day before my meet on May 14, 2016 I weighed in at 112lbs,
and then the next day at my meet I hit my goal of a 215lbs back squat:
I also matched my bench press of 135lbs from my last meet in December 2015 but this time I did it stronger and smoother than the December 2015 meet:
I didn’t complete a 140lbs bench but unlike my last meet I actually got 140lbs off my chest and half way up so I know it’s not far off.
By the time it came to deadlift at 3 p.m. in the afternoon I was mentally and physically fried from the effort I had put forth for both squat and bench so I did not hit my deadlift goals of 305lbs and 315lbs, but I still successfully completed my opener of 285lbs no problem.
I walked away with an overall total of 635lbs, which was the highest total out of all the raw female lifters at this particular meet. For the next meet I need to figure out how to channel my energy evenly across all three lifts. I’ll probably stay much more conservative on my squat and save most of my energy for deadlift as my next meet will definitely be all about that 315lbs deadlift and finally nailing 140lbs bench press.
Will I maintain a bodyweight of 112lbs? Probably not, but I also know that I will not gain all the weight back to 117lbs. I was carrying a few extra pounds that I did not need to be carrying, so I will probably maintain a weight around 114/115lbs, which is very sustainable for me. Although I am a strong advocate of focus on what you can do, not on how you look, and everything else will fall into place AND about learning to love the body you were born with, I am not a part of the “body-fat-doesn’t-matter-at-all” sect, especially as I grow older into my 40’s. Body fat DOES matter as it pertains to physical health. In addition, there is NO SHAME in wanting to be fit and per the book the Renaissance Woman by Jennifer Case, Dr. Melissa Davis, and Dr. Mike Israetel, there is NO SHAME in valuing your physique as evidence of your hard work and dedication to your sport or to your fitness and nutrition goals.