The Art of Weight Cutting in Combat Sports

Navigating Safe and Unsafe Strategies

Dr Barlow

6/18/20232 min read

brown and beige weighing scale
brown and beige weighing scale

In the world of combat sports, where every pound can make a difference, weight cutting has become an integral part of an athlete's journey. However, the methods used to shed those extra pounds can vary dramatically in terms of safety and effectiveness. As an NHS Sports Medicine Doctor with a passion for combat sports, I understand the importance of both physical health and performance in these athletes' lives. In this article, we will delve into safe and unsafe weight cutting strategies for both professional and amateur combat sports athletes, always keeping their well-being in mind.

The Dangers of Unsafe Weight Cutting: Before we discuss safe strategies, it's crucial to understand the dangers associated with unsafe weight cutting methods. Rapid and extreme weight loss can lead to severe health consequences, including:

  1. Dehydration: One of the most common and dangerous practices is extreme dehydration through excessive sweating, saunas, or diuretics. This can lead to heat exhaustion, electrolyte imbalances, and even organ damage.

  2. Muscle Loss: Drastic calorie restriction and excessive exercise can cause athletes to lose muscle mass, which negatively impacts their performance and strength.

  3. Weakened Immune System: Prolonged periods of inadequate nutrition can weaken the immune system, making athletes more susceptible to illness and infection.

  4. Mental Health Issues: The stress of extreme weight cutting can lead to anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues, affecting an athlete's overall well-being.

Safe Weight Cutting Strategies: Now that we've highlighted the risks, let's explore safe weight cutting strategies that professional and amateur combat sports athletes should consider:

  1. Gradual Weight Reduction: Plan your weight cut well in advance of the competition. Aim for a gradual reduction of 1-2 pounds per week, which is considered a safe and sustainable rate.

  2. Balanced Nutrition: Maintain a balanced and nutritious diet throughout your training camp. Avoid extreme calorie deficits and prioritize whole foods rich in nutrients.

  3. Hydration: Stay properly hydrated throughout your training and weight-cutting process. Dehydration should be avoided at all costs, as it can lead to numerous health issues.

  4. Consult a Nutritionist: Seek the guidance of a sports nutritionist who can help you create a personalized meal plan to meet your weight goals safely.

  5. Monitor Weight Regularly: Keep track of your weight during training to ensure you are on track to meet your target without resorting to extreme measures.

  6. Use Saunas and Baths Sparingly: If using saunas or hot baths to cut weight, do so with caution and under supervision. Never push your body to extremes.

  7. Seek Medical Guidance: Always consult with a medical professional, like myself, to ensure your weight-cutting plan is safe and tailored to your specific needs.

Weight cutting is a complex and often necessary aspect of combat sports, but it should never compromise an athlete's health and well-being. With unholy sauna hours, diuretics, transfusions and refuelling - there's a potential ditch at every corner. I urge both professional and amateur athletes to prioritize safe and evidence-based weight cutting strategies. Your long-term health and performance are worth far more than a few pounds on the scale. Remember, it's not just about making weight; it's about performing at your best and staying safe inside and outside the ring or cage.