As you’ve probably seen (or even experienced), last minute weight cuts happen on a very frequently basis and have raised concern for the health of the athlete. This is where they’ll lose drastic amounts of bodyweight (~10%) in the 24 hours prior to weighing in…To date; there have even been a couple of fatalities in relation to this practice.
To figure out what actually happens to an athlete’s physiology on the run up to a fight, Kasper et al (2019) monitored an elite MMA athlete during his 8 week camp, where the 8 weeks of training was split into 4 distinct phase…I.e. a blueprint on how not to cut weight (Diet prescribed by the athletes team):
𝐏𝐡𝐚𝐬𝐞 𝟏(-𝟖 𝐰𝐞𝐞𝐤𝐬 𝐭𝐨 -𝟒 𝐰𝐞𝐞𝐤𝐬): 𝐒𝐭𝐚𝐫𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐰𝐞𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭 = 𝟖𝟎.𝟐𝐤𝐠
• Protein = 1.5-2.5g/kg
• Carbs = 1.6-1.8g/kg
• Fat = 0.8-1g/kg fat
• Fluid = ad libitum
Nutrition (-4 weeks to -1 weeks)
• Protein = 1g/kg
• Carbs = 1.6-1.8 g/kg protein
• Fat = 0.8-1 g/kg fat
• Fluid = ad libitum
Training = 2 S&C, 8 combat specific and 2 sparring per week through the 8 weeks.
𝐏𝐡𝐚𝐬𝐞 𝟐 (-𝟏 𝐰𝐞𝐞𝐤 𝐭𝐨 -𝟏 𝐝𝐚𝐲): 𝐒𝐭𝐚𝐫𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐰𝐞𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭 = 𝟕𝟓.𝟖𝐤𝐠 (-𝟒.𝟒𝐤𝐠)
• Protein = 1.3g/kg
• Carbs = 0.3g/kg
• Fat = 0.5g/kg fat
• Water loading = 4 days @8L/day + 1 day ~0.25L
𝐏𝐡𝐚𝐬𝐞 𝟑 (-𝟏 𝐝𝐚𝐲 𝐭𝐨 𝐰𝐞𝐢𝐠𝐡 𝐢𝐧): 𝐒𝐭𝐚𝐫𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐰𝐞𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭 = 𝟕𝟑𝐤𝐠(-𝟐.𝟖𝐤𝐠)
Nutrition – Commencing 6pm, the athlete started a 20 hour weight cut.
• Protein = 0g/kg
• Carbs = 0g/kg
• Fat = 0g/kg fat
• Fluid = 0L
• ‘Sweating out’ totals = 9 x 20 min baths covered in a wax-oil rub followed by 9 x towel wraps (to resemble a mummy).
𝐏𝐡𝐚𝐬𝐞 𝟒 (𝐖𝐞𝐢𝐠𝐡 𝐢𝐧 – 𝐅𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭): 𝐏𝐨𝐬𝐭 𝐖𝐞𝐢𝐠𝐡 𝐈𝐧 = 𝟔𝟓.𝟕𝐤𝐠 (-𝟕.𝟑𝐤𝐠)
Nutrition – 32 hours to replenish and rehydrate.
• Protein = 3.2g/kg
• Carbs = 15g/kg
• Fat = 2.6g/kg fat
• Fluid: Ad libitum.
𝐅𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭 𝐖𝐞𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭 = 𝟕𝟔.𝟑𝐤𝐠 (+𝟏𝟎.𝟔𝐤𝐠)
Although the athlete made weight effectively, it was far from safely…he had clear signs of relative energy deficiency (reduced RMR and the inability to complete fitness tests), hypercholesterolemia, alterations to endocrine hormones, and most likely had an impact on cardiac function.
In addition to this, the 20 hour dehydration protocol also caused hypernatremia and acute kidney injury (AKI)…Then, he proceeded to get smacked in the head repeatedly (also not healthy).
Knowing that practice like this is extremely common in MMA athletes, where they might repeat this 2-3 times a year over several years…who knows that adverse effects to long term health they have (in addition to the traumatic brains injuries they’ll experience).
From an athlete’s perspective, you won’t be able to change the nature of the competition, but you can certainly change the nature of the weight cut from being harmful and sometimes fatal to life…
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