In combat sports such as Boxing and MMA, fighters compete in various weight divisions where they are required to make weight prior to a competitive bout. However, many fighters cut large amounts of weight in the weeks or days leading up to competition in an attempt to be matched up against an opponent with a lower body mass with the belief this will offer a performance advantage.
The time between weigh in and fight time can vary between combat sports, age groups and competitions. Typically, most fighters have 24-36 hours between weigh in and competition to rehydrate and refuel appropriately. However, some fighters must weigh in on the same day of their fight with the average lag time between weigh in and competition around 3-4 hours. With this in mind I like to have fighters entering fight week with around 3-4% of their overall body weight to lose (for a 70kg boxer that would be 2.1-2.8kg to make the welterweight division for example).
As you can imagine with such a limited opportunity to consume fluids between weigh in and competition, fighters must ensure they are cutting weight correctly and safely. Fighters who cut large amounts of fluid in order to make weight for same day weigh ins (> 2% of a fighter’s body weight) are at risk of performance decrements due to dehydration. This can instil fatigue, raise cardiac output and reduce concentration. Whilst the brain is surrounded by water, water acts as a protective layer, meaning that fighters who start fights dehydrated due to poorly planned weight cuts are at risk of suffering a mild brain trauma injury (concussion) if they get hit in the head during a fight. Therefore, cutting more than 2% of your body weight before a same day weigh is not recommended.
Another important aspect to mention is that fighters with same day weigh ins also have a limited opportunity to refuel with carbohydrates after their weigh in. Let’s say a fighter weighs in at 3pm and is fighting at 6pm, they have 3 hours to consume a meal rich in carbohydrates. However, the key issue are:
- DIGESTIBILITY – will this meal digest in time?
- NERVES – will the fighter be nervous and not feel as though they can stomach a bowl of pasta before they fight?
- GASTROINTESTINAL DISTRESS – will consuming a large amount of carbohydrates cause gastrointestinal distress?
To counteract this liquid carbohydrates are a good option. Multi transportable carbohydrate drinks containing a mix of glucose, fructose and maltodextrin can help fighters take on board around 80-90g of carbohydrates/hour, 20-30g higher than if glucose was consumed alone. However, the key point is that fighters should ideally not be topping up the tank from empty by cutting out carbs completely in fight-week, which is a common method used by fighters to make weight for day before weigh ins.
3 Key Tips For Same Day Weigh Ins
- Adopt a Low Fibre Diet In The Days Before Weigh In
Adopting a low fibre diet 1-2 days before weigh in can help reduce the amounts of what I like to call “bulkage” or “dead weight” sat in the gastrointestinal tract. This can lead to losses of around 1-2% of body weight which equates to around 0.5-1kg for most fighters. All foods high in fibre such as vegetables, nuts, seeds, brown rice etc should be swapped for low fibre foods such as white bread/rice and pasta. The best part about this weight loss method is that it doesn’t have any negative impacts on performance. One tip would be to just ensure you consume a moderate to high fibre diet habitually so outside of fight-week eat lots of vegetables and fibrous foods!
- Reduce Carbohydrate Intakes But Don’t Cut Them Completely
Reducing your carbohydrate intakes down from your normal levels which may equate to around 4-5g/kg Body mass to around 1.5-2g/kg BM in fight week will help reduce weight by around 1%. However, I would not advise cutting out carbohydrates completely for same day weigh ins as previously mentioned there are limited opportunities to refuel with carbohydrates post weigh in. I like to tell fighters to keep some petrol in the tank, but don’t empty it completely as due to nerves or unknown circumstances on the day, you could be fighting on an empty fuel tank…
- Only Dehydrate Around 1% of Your Body Weight If You Need To
Only dehydrate what you know you can get back in. For example, if you have to dehydrate 1kg make sure you can consume 1.5L of fluid post weigh in before your fight. Dehydration or sweating should only be used to get the last bit of weight off if needed and should be limited due to the negative effects it can have on performance. However, dehydration should ideally not be required if other acute weight loss strategies are planned accordingly by a professional and executed correctly by the fighter.
I hope these tips have been useful for any combat sports athletes who have same day weigh ins. If any fighters would like help with planning their weight cuts or need any help with their nutrition in or outside of camp, get in touch.