Weight-cutting tips for martial artists

weight cutting tips

No matter what martial art you’re competing in, weight-cutting sucks–big time.

Cutting pounds to meet your division’s weight limit has become a common and accepted practice in combat sports, despite the fact that it usually requires athletes to severely dehydrate and deplete themselves. The thing about weight-cutting is: It can be very dangerous. And if not done properly, then it could lead to poor performance, injury, and in the most extreme cases, even death.

To ensure that you cut weight safely and properly, we’ve asked the pros for some tips. Here’s what they had to say.

Start early
If you know you have to lose 15lbs between the start of your training camp and the day of the competition, then don’t wait until the last minute to start losing weight.

“Like most fighters, I used to cut weight and diet about 2 months before a fight, depending on how heavy I was,” says Mark Striegl, a professional MMA fighter for ONE Championship, an MMA promotion that recently required its fighters to gradually get within range of their fight weight in the weeks leading up to their bout (see the details here). “I’d eat clean throughout fight camp, then lose the last 5 kilograms or so one week before the fight.”

You also don’t want to lose too much weight too fast; you’d like to do it gradually to ensure. Numerous sources state that the healthy rate of weight loss is around 2 pounds (1kg) per week. More drastic weight loss could affect your sports performance and more.

Eat right
Needless to say, you shouldn’t rely solely on sweating it out to get your weight down. Proper diet can help you lose fat (not just weight) safely. “My fight camp diet consists of complex carbs like quinoa and potatoes and lean meats like fish and chicken. I also eat a lot of vegetables and fruit,” says Striegl.

Start your healthy diet earlier on to avoid the urge to crash diet right before your competition.

Avoid salt and sugar
This is a healthy practice overall, most especially when you’re trying to make weight. Taking in salt and sugar increases your body’s water retention, so this could be counterproductive to your efforts to make weight.

This could be particularly frustrating when you’re trying to cut those last few pounds in the sauna before weigh in. “I cut out salts and sugars about one week before the fight, so I wouldn’t retain any extra water,” says Striegl, who says he’s thankful that ONE Championship’s new rules mandate its fighters to compete very close to their walk-around-weight.

Final word
Don’t forget to properly rehydrate after making weight. “Rehydration is the most important part of the weight cut process,” says Ray Elbe, a former MMA champion who helps UFC’s Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino cut weight. “You can’t fight if you don’t properly recover from depleting your body.” His advice: Replenish your electrolytes with a balanced amount of magnesium, sodium, and potassium.

There are many bad habits in weight cutting that could do you some serious harm, so be sure to consult with professionals about how to do it properly, especially if it’s your first time to compete.

Image credit to MMA Orient

Gab Pangalangan

Gab Pangalangan is a former collegiate national Judo champ and the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of DojoDrifter.com. You can find his other works in the Philippines' leading magazines and websites.
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