Cutting Water Weight | How To ‘Shred’ For A Show

By Myprotein Writer

Nathan Travell

This is for lean people who want to temporarily get super-lean for some sort of ‘show’ (basically a time when you want to look super defined).

If you are above 12% body fat (for men), this will have little effect on you. The leaner you are, the more you get out cutting water weight.

Cutting water weight can involve multiple restrictions on your diet – it is not easy to do. This is not a fool proof process – even the guys at the top sometimes mess up – it’s important to be careful and precise as there are implications of which you may look flat and potentially bloated.

Why Cut Water Weight?

cut water weight

The key purpose of cutting water weight is to get rid of the water retained just below the skin (but not the muscle’s water stores – else you will look flat) so that your muscle bellies look full and separated.

The way we do this is by manipulating our body’s homeostasis (the act of ‘balance’ within the body.) The body tries to regulate water balance to ensure it doesn’t have too much or too little – it doesn’t want to have so much that you haemorrhage any blood vessels, and it doesn’t want to have so little that you dry out. It does this regulating the hormones ‘aldosterone’ and ‘vasopressin’.

Low Water Intake

In times of low water intake, the body ‘up’ regulates these hormones, of which causes cells in the body to retain water (urine is decreased and essential cells strongly draw water in from the blood).

High Water Intake

In times when water is plentiful, the body ‘down’ regulates the hormones which causes the body to try and flush out as much as possible.

Water Balance

Water intake is not the only thing that affects the water balance in your body – carbohydrates, salts and creatine affect water loading too.

Each gram of carbohydrate can attach to about 2-3 grams of water. Creatine and certain salts (for instance potassium and sodium) draw water to wherever they are stored – creatine is usually within the muscles but also in the brain, and salts are regulated throughout the body.

Salt-loading is particularly easy to mess up, so we will stick to the relatively more reliable carbohydrate and water-loading methods here.

You can also manipulate water loading in the short term by sweating it out – for instance through exercise, or by using a sauna/bath salts.

How do I cut water weight?

In the case of water weight cutting, it’s important to load up on water, then quickly reduce the intake to flush the majority of it out.

At the end of the cut you will increase your creatine and carbohydrate intake so that your muscles take the water from your skin (making the skin look thinner and the muscles look fuller). I recommend to do this over a week.


  • This is listed as ‘days out’ from whenever you need the cut to be ready by (could be a photoshoot, competition, fight etc.).
  • Calories should still be at a cutting level – about 500-1000kcals lower than maintenance.
  • Protein should be set at 1gram per pound of bodyweight.
  • Carbohydrates and fats will take the remaining calories (obviously adjusting depending on the day).

6 days before:

Drink 1-2 gallons of water each day. Eat about 40% of your daily calories in carbohydrates.

6-5 days before:

Drink 2-3 gallons of water. Drop carbohydrates by 50% (so 20% of your daily calories, you can up fat and protein to compensate for this, making sure you are still within a cutting range).

4  days before:

3 gallons of water. Drop carbs by 50% again (so 10% of your total daily calories)

days before:

3 gallons of water. Only trace carbohydrates – try to get as little as possible (think ketogenic diet).

2 days before:

3 gallons. Only trace carbohydrates.

1 day before:

  • Sips/as little water as possible –you want less than a litre drank.
  • Increase carb consumption to high.
  • After lunch, stop drinking fluids (unless you really need them!)
  • Try to sweat as much as possible today.
  • Before bed have a warm Epsom salt bath (top up the hot water).
  • Before you go to sleep, have a small simple sugar meal (30g-80g). Take 5-10g of creatine with your simple sugar meal.
  • Avoid as much salt in your diet as you can.
  • If you know you bloat with any foods, obviously don’t eat them today! With your simple sugar meal, you might want to try adding vegetable glycerine – this compound absorbs water.
  • As your muscles will be pulling in whatever they can (combined with the insulin spike with all the carbs you are eating today), they will absorb this substance. They will draw in even more water, to look even fuller!

The Day

The meal you have when you wake up (before your ‘show time’) will depend on the state of your body currently:

Are you muscles looking flat?

Have another simple sugar meal with some vegetable glycerine.

Are they looking good?

Have a mixed protein and carbohydrate meal.

Are you holding water?

Only have protein, and consider another Epsom salt bath!
Before your ‘show’ you want to take a little protein, some simple sugars and then get prepared with some light-pump routine.


training water weight

The goal is to deplete the muscle of glycogen, so that when you carb load, they will draw most of it in (rather than your fat cells).

The drawing in of carbs will also draw in the water (as mentioned earlier), meaning that they will look extra big and your skin will be extra dehydrated.

It’s best to go for a slightly higher rep range (think 12-15), with short rests (about 30 seconds) to really deplete the muscle stores of glycogen. This isn’t the time to be setting PRs.

Before your ‘show’, do 1-2 sets of 15 reps to get the muscle pumped, to make them truly stand out!

Take Home Message

Cutting water for a show is difficult – but if you’re already quite lean you’ll sure have the ability to incorporate a bit of discipline when needed.

Give the above tips a try and record your results!



Writer and expert