Dropping A Weight Class
I’ll just put this up front – this is NOT a “how to” manual for how to drop a weight class.I’m not a dietician, nutritionist, athlete extraordinaire, or expert on much of anything. This is just my experience of dropping nearly 30lbs to move down a weight class and what it was like during that process.
Weight class is a touchy subject and really something that shouldn’t be a concern for a first time competitors but once you’ve decided to set some big, terrifying goals in the open class…weight class suddenly becomes relevant.
Obviously, there are certain limitations to moving weight classes – for example if you have more lean mass than your weight class limit, you’re probably not going to want to move down a class. However, if you can and want to move down a weight class, the big question then becomes “How do I do this?”.
You could crash diet or cut hard (REALLY hard) but you’re probably going to end up feeling and performing pretty poorly. So the question really becomes “How do I lose weight, maintain or gain lean mass, gain strength, and not lose my mind?” And that’s a complicated question.
Around June of last year, my coach Jason Struck and I made the decision that I was going to work on cutting down from a middleweight to a lightweight during my off season (about 6 months). That meant losing nearly 30lbs while trying to maintain or make strength gains and being ready to compete in January. We made a plan of how I was going to do that and then, I did it. It wasn’t easy but it certainly wasn’t an all out battle. In fact, it was a lot less painful than I thought it would be. You can read waaaay more about that here and here .
Barbell stare downs. #Strongmaam #strongwoman #ladieslifthere #startingstrongman #fitfluential A photo posted by Gabby (@gabbysgfree) on
When I was getting ready to move down a class, it was hard to find information about cutting weight slowly from a female perspective and particularly from a female strength athlete perspective. So I decided to write about my experience in the hopes that maybe this small niche of individuals could grow! I truly didn’t know what to expect when I was getting ready to move down a weight class. As time went out, it became clear that hearing about others’ experiences was something that people wanted to know about to help form their own set of expectations during a rather intensive, complicated experience. With that in mind, here are 7 things that I think you can expect when dropping a weight class:
1. Being motivated isn’t enough: It’s not going to be rainbows and sunshine and peanut butter cups all the time. Losing a decent amount of weight is stressful, both physically and mentally. While it certainly doesn’t have to be a massive battle, it also isn’t “fun”. At some point, motivation by itself isn’t going to cut it. Making the process as easy as possible by instilling good practices and habits, being disciplined, and being flexible will help you navigate a not so easy cut
2. Dieting is temporary: Making lifestyle changes that are conducive to improving health and quality of life are one thing – undergoing dieting to move down a weight class as an athlete is another. While making lifestyle changes are certainly encouraged, it is important to remember that dieting down is not sustainable – you don’t diet down all.the.time without serious consequences. Yes, there are going to be times when you pass on wine or want to eat an entire pizza and can’t. That’s okay. That stuff will still be there when you’ve met your goal.
3. Consistency is better than perfection: Are you going to be 100% perfect? Absolutely not. Aiming to be consistent is much easier than aiming to be perfect. Your results aren’t based on having one perfect week – they are based on having several really good weeks.
4. Your strength may take a hit: but probably not as big of a hit as you would think. I managed to maintain most of my strength (and set quite a few PRs) while I was cutting down to my new class. The biggest factor in why I was able to do this: planning and assessment. My training volume was reduced and my carbs were kept quite high (because that is a big factor for my performance).
5. Your recovery is your number 1 priority: Dieting and training hard takes a big toll on your body and your mind. Having good recovery practices in place is, in my component, a huge factor in potential success. Prioritizing your sleep, soft tissue work, rest days, and mental stress relief is important for maintaining not only your physical condition, but your sanity.
6. You must plan the work and work the plan: Having a plan is one of THE keys to success, period. You don’t go into to the gym to train without the plan (well, you might. but that’s probably not the best way to make progress) so why would you approach your nutrition any differently? Plan what you are going to do and then, do it.
7. Accountability helps: Having someone to hold you accountable makes it easy to want to stick with the plan. Set a deadline, check in regularly, and have a support system. I was accountable to Jason and to my entire gym (Crossfit Full Circle) Even if there aren’t people in your life who are supporting you, you can reach out to like-minded individuals online (like in the Starting Strongman forums or Facebook group!) to help keep you accountable.
If you’re interested in changing weight classes, find someone to help you, if you can. Having someone manage your nutrition (and by manage, I mean guide you, not dictate every morsel that crosses your lips) is ideal. They can take away a lot of the mental gymnastics that go along with navigating nutrition and they help with the accountability factor. If you can’t find someone to guide you – there are lots of knowledgeable individuals out there who can point you in the direction of valid resources that can give you the knowledge to design your own plan. But don’t believe the idea that dropping weight as a strength athlete is impossible! It is more than possible and you CAN be successful.
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