The Breakdown: Cutting Weight

Many combat sport athletes strive to compete in the lightest weight class possible. With cutting weight, they believe that this will give them an advantage of size, strength, speed, power, etc. As a result, there are both short-term and long-term strategies that every fighter who is trying to cut weight uses. And often these strategies result in caloric starvation and/or dehydration. With the combination of decreased caloric intake, increased physical exertion and dehydration, there is an increased risk of infection, extreme mood swings and other bodily malfunctions.

Physical exertion (active and passive) and mental stress can result in excessive strain. The process of dehydration may cause serious injury and in extreme cases, death. With the risks in mind, the primary focus of this article is to offer strategies to promote weight loss and making weight in the safest way possible. I am not a medical professional. I am merely giving my thoughts based on personal experience, observation and speaking with medical professionals and personal trainers.

Workout Guidelines

  • It is now generally accepted that burning fat during exercise is largely influenced by the availability of carbohydrates.
  • It is also important to keep in mind that fat storage in your body increases with each meal throughout the day. Research suggests this is the result of insulin increases.
  • As a result, fat storage after dinner is greater than when compared to breakfast or lunch.
  • In order to minimize the effects; it is suggested that the total training for a day be spread out over the course of a number of sessions (2 or 3 sessions as opposed to one long session).
  • Real-life limits this but do your best to follow this suggestion as often as possible.
  • When put into practice, 1. an early morning cardio session (on an empty stomach for fat burning), 2. a mid-day wrestling session and 3. an evening strength and conditioning session or another stand-up or wrestling workout.

Nutrition Guidelines

  • When designing a meal plan there are a few key focuses to keep in mind: timing, quantity, and macro-nutrient breakdown.
  • Because timing plays a pivotal role, scheduling meals around the structure of daily training sessions is of first priority to ensure adequate energy, recovery, and body composition changes (gain muscle, lose fat) are achieved.
  • As far as proper macro-nutrient breakdown, a diet centered around reduced carbohydrate intake as the day progresses but NOT a zero-carb plan, as well as a reduced intake of saturated fat.
  • Training in conditions of reduced carbohydrate activity may actually enhance the oxidation capacity of skeletal muscle, as opposed to, high carbohydrate intake.
  • WHEN carbs are consumed with a meal, low glycemic (slow burning) options are your best option; especially at meals that don’t immediately follow a workout/training session. This helps to minimize the effects of insulin on efforts to reduce body fat.
  • Research that shows fat burning in the body is reduced by 30% over the course of an 8-hour post-training period when carbohydrates were consumed before exercise as opposed to after.
  • So, if you’re looking to maximize fat loss, you should focus on eating your last meal several hours before a training session and, if there are carbs in the meal, make sure they’re as low on the Glycemic Index as possible.
  • By following a lower carbohydrate diet, the odds of entering a training session with glycogen stores that are not maxed out is common. While this isn’t a big deal, it does increase the chances of amino acid (protein) breakdown in the body in an effort to supplement your body’s energy needs.
  • As a result, it is suggested to increase protein intake in the diet to minimize/prevent any muscle loss. You can supplement which is proven to prevent muscle loss in athletes over the course of time.
  • Elevated daily protein intake can maintain lean mass even in the face of high daily training energy expenditure and when daily carbohydrate intake is reduced.
  • Where protein supplements are being used to support daily protein intake, it is also worth using a supplement that is both casein and whey based so as to minimize the suppressor effects of insulin.
  • Based on experience daily carb intake should be between 2-5 g/kg body weight.
  • Additionally, fat intake should be between .5-1 g/kg of body weight.
  • Finally, when it comes to making weight, protein in 2-2.5 g/kg of body weight tends to do the best when it comes to preserving muscle while you get your weight down.

Hydration Guidelines

  • In the case of MMA, where a match begins after 12-24  hours after weigh-ins, acute, severe dehydration may prevent you from attaining an optimal state of hydration. Ultimately, this could lead to a decrease in your performance.
  • Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that the training and diet before the weigh-in be as optimized as possible to minimize or eliminate any last minute dehydration that needs to take place in order to make weight.

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