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April 2014

Weight Cutting: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

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I am going to preface this blog by saying that I am not claiming to be a weight cutting guru by any means. However, I will say that I have cut weight countless times for many wrestling tournaments all round the world and for over 20 MMA bouts also. In that time I have had good weight cuts, okay weight cuts and, quite frankly, some horrific weight cuts. For the most part they have been bad cuts but, as a result, this has enabled me to evaluate the situation of weight cutting in combat sports fairly well.

 

Flaw Number  1

The first major flaw I have made, and now recognise is due to it being, inappropriately, socially acceptable (in MMA especially), is cutting massive amounts of water. This practice engulfs all levels of the sport, from UFC calibre fighters to athletes fighting in town halls for a maximum of £200.

Fighters will regularly cut between 3kg – 7kg, maybe even more, by sitting in a sauna or salt bath draining as much fluid out of their body as they possibly can. Having done this on many occasions, I can’t emphasise enough how brutally hard and energy zapping the process is. Despite modern day rehydration strategies being more advanced than previous years, whether it be IV drips or even using products such as dioralyte, if we look at it totally objectively… Is it possible for the body to fully recover from this dehydration process and perform even close to maximal performance ability? NO!

 

For example, MMA as a sport is a serious of explosive movements and chain of movements over a 15-25 minute time period. Studies have proven that dehydration prior to high intensity exercise can reduce athletic performance to up to 45% and that is only looking at 2.5-3% of fluid loss. From my own personal experience, when I have cut a substantial amount of water weight, I can notice a severe difference in my punch resistance during the fight compared to when I’m in training. This is due to the dehydration of the brain that takes place during these water cuts. Obviously we are fighting with smaller gloves and more power shots than in sparring, but having cut weight using a variety of methods, I can testify that even flicky jabs are a lot more effective than they are without the water cut. There’s also the ‘heavy leg’ feeling, where your legs feel remarkably heavier than usual. I’m sure everyone who has experienced this will attest to the ‘heavy leg’ feeling never quite disappearing, not in time for the fight anyway.  In addition, there’s the ‘bloated stomach’ feeling that always leave you feeling concerned about taking body shots, not good!

 

To conclude, water cutting can make you more susceptible to punches to the head and beste online casino leaves your legs with a nasty, lethargic feeling. When you try to reconstitute properly, you are then left with an inevitable worry about getting, unduly, dropped mid-fight due to a heavily, bloated stomach. As a result, water cutting leads to huge disadvantages to you on fight day. Oh and also, when it all goes wrong, there’s also the (not so rare) hospital admission to be wary of too, leading to no fight at all. So be sensible!

 

Flaw Number 2

There is an obsession in MMA with everyone trying to be massive at their weight class. Of course, this is done so in entirely the wrong way too. For example, you will get a 66kg fighter ballooning up to 80kg after a fight; just to ‘dick swing’ about how big they are at their weight (I’ve been there, awkward…). Good job, you’re massive now, but you’ve also landed yourself in a yo-yoing diet in between fights. Yo-yo dieting is not an accomplishment; it makes every cut a little bit harder as – from experience- you end up heavier each time. Fighters would be better served keeping on top of their nutrition straight after a fight to stay around the same weight constantly. Obviously have the odd doughnut but don’t go totally mental and go 12kg above your weight class. Don’t forget the basic rules of nutrition!

 

By monitoring your diet and continuing to train in between fights, you do not need to spend most of your fight camp focussing on getting fit or concentrating on weight loss. Instead you can focus on what’s really important: skill development and getting better. Take Anthony “Rumble” Johnson, for example, a UFC fighter who used to nearly kill himself in attempt to shrink to make welterweight… During those fights, he had obvious cardio problems, his skills would noticeably depreciate and he would regularly miss weight too despite torturing himself trying not to.  Inevitably, he took a step away and, whether it was forced or not, he decided it would be better to go up 2 weight classes instead. A huge jump but considering how huge he now is at his new weight, it makes it even more ridiculous that he even attempted to make 77kg in the first place. However, he reaped the benefits of his new weight when he took a massive scalp in beating Phil Davis last weekend. He demonstrated great cardio, massive skill improvement and better punch resistance too.

 

Thus, the question is not whether you are big enough for a weight, but are you good enough for the weight?

 

My Solution

Seeing as both weight cutting and yo-yo dieting didn’t work for me and an abundance of other fighters out there too, I wasn’t for it anymore. Fight camps are hard enough without hallucinating in saunas or putting additional, huge stresses on your body through relentless cardio and starvation methods.  So, I decided to further my knowledge on nutrition and through trial and error, I was able to see what works best for me so I was no longer disadvantaging myself pre-fight.

 

The solution was simple. The whole camp, including fight week, I ate 6 meals a day. I had breakfast, lunch and dinner, and supported this with supplementary snacks, and tried to have some source of protein at every meal too.  The percentage breakdown of this was 30-40% protein, 30-40% fats and 20% carbs. You may look at that and think it is pretty low on carbs but the amount of carbs our body needs is a lot lower than reported. We are better served getting our energy stores from the unsaturated fats such as nuts and oils (coconut, hemp, cold-pressed etc.), especially when we are looking at weight loss when preparing for a fight. In addition, I drank lots of water the whole time, 3-4 litres a day. This prescription led to my metabolism firing like never before and my weight dropping to its lowest ever pre-fight – no water cut necessary! Conversely, in the past I have eaten 2 meals a day, starving myself, yet still been 4-5kg heavier pre-fight as my metabolism slowed to that of a sloth.

 

On fight day the difference was massive! My legs felt light, mentally I was more energised due to not having a tough weight cut, and I wasn’t bloated either. All of these factors resulted in a greater confidence within myself and my ability on fight night. More importantly, pre-fight, my training was awesome the whole camp! I had constantly high levels of energy which allowed me to push harder, learn more and make massive improvements. This compared to my former self in the last week of training made a vast difference too. I was normally a write off because I would be too much of a zombie, whereas now I am able to train with more intensity right up until 3 days before the fight, leaving me feeling sharper than ever! It is no surprise that this simple solution led to one of my best and most relaxed performances.

 

Who would have thought that putting yourself through an enjoyable diet and weight cut would lead to better athletic performance?

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