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How to cut weight safely without effecting performance

Making weight is not just hitting the scales at the required LBS. It's about getting there, while putting yourself in a good position to perform on fight night.

Often, fighters will focus solely on getting down to weight, without any thought on the knock on effects. Of course, doing the weight is key because if you don't make weight, you don't fight. However, you have to consider health and performance the following day.

Above is Louis, professional MMA fighter of mine. Today we made weight 61.2kg, starting the week at 67kg. So, in total, we did about 12LBS safely and effectively. How did we do this?

Firstly, lets look at common mistakes in weight making.

Common mistakes

There are a few things fighters who are trying to make weight commonly do, these include;

  • Cutting calories all week

  • Training in a sweat suit to cut last pounds

  • Cutting all carbs for a week

These are the most common mistakes I see. You can make weight while still eating a lot of food, in fact, I'd recommend this.

how we made weight

Weight making comes down to manipulating some variables. Some are safer than others and have less overall risk. Below you can see an overview of this, in order of safest to those with the highest risk.

  • Fibre cut: Here we reduce Fibre 3 days out. Fibre is found in things like veg and Whole Wheat foods. People with high Fibre diets tend to have this stored in the Intestine where it absorbs water, so you can see how reducing it would help. By going low Fibre on fight week, we are clearing the Intestine out (Sh**ing it out), bringing weight down. You must be eating a high Fibre diet prior to cutting for this to work....obviously.

  • Salt cut: Similar to the Fibre above, we can eliminate salt on fight week to reduce weight. Sodium binds to water and so cutting this out will reduce our overall weight.

  • Water load: Water load consists of drinking a lot (1L per 10kg of BW) for 4 days before reducing to a minimal (0.1L per 10kg BW) 24 hours from weigh in. In simple terms, this tricks the body into thinking there is a constant income of fluids and so we keep passing it through. Research shows this is probably something to do with receptors in the Kidneys. In the period before you weigh in, your body will still get rid of water and so this in turn helps reduce overall weight.

  • Glycogen Depletion: AKA Carbs. We can cut Carbs to minimalise the amount of stores in the cells. We probably never get this all the way down but can reduce significantly. The issue is Carbs are our energy source so if we cut too much the fighter may lack some fuel for training on fight week, interviews etc A good Idea is to keep 30-40g of Carbs in the diet. This can be done in the morning or around training so we can reduce the amount of 'unused' stores in the body.

  • Dehydration: We have active (moving) and passive (not moving) dehydration protocols. Active methods will increase the levels of Cortisol in the fighter and increase stress levels / Sympathetic demands on the central nervous system. This is going to be high already so for me, I'd always go for a passive method. We can use a sauna or bath for this. Through experience, I find fighters prefer the bath and so do I. The bath protocol must be planned and not become a guessing game. Dehydration is dangerous to health, especially when you think about the brain itself losing fluid, in a sport where blows will be targeted there. If we can avoid/ minimalise this, then that is recommended.

Round up

There is making weight and there is making weight. Sure you can turn up hitting the required limit but are you leaving something on the scales? Can you perform in 36 hours time? Are you putting your health at risk?

In terms of food on fight week, you should still keep calories high. Cutting calories is to drop body fat, which in fight week isn't the aim, it's too short term. Instead, look to hit your daily calories with protein and fats. An example meal would be Salmon fillet with Avocado or Steak and Eggs.

Weight making is a skill which should be done by a specialist.


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