How Fighters Cut Weight Before A Fight

“Going to hell and back” could probably be the right expression to use about the sudden weight cut process the fighters put themselves under. This is not to scare you but just to prepare you for the journey!

On a lighter note, I think you should know that there have been cases of fighters dying during this process.

But that’s just a minor problem…so, let’s dig in!

If You Are Going To Do It, Do It Right!

The action of losing a considerable amount of weight in a very short period of time to gain access to a specific weight category has been a questionable practice in several sports.

However, almost all fighters have had to lose weight at some stage in their careers, especially before any big event.

Nutrition and medical experts frequently warn that this practice can harm your body and may result in severe injuries even to the point of death. But the fighters all around the world continue to follow it to gain an unfair advantage to the detrimental of their health.

You should consult a doctor before you take this step. A medical professional may have to run some tests and monitor the progress during the days you are on the weight cutting diet.

Most fighters control their weight during the weeks of training, but when it comes close to the fight, they are forced to focus on passing the cut in their preferred weight category.

There are two stages of weight management for a fighter during which his/her weight goes up and down like a yo-yo.

  • Before weighing-in: Depending on the individual, this can last from five to seven days.
  • After weighing-in: You have up to 24 hours before the fight starts.

We will now talk about each process in detail so you know what you are up against.

 Before Weighing

You have one week left before you weigh in to make sure you’ve made the weight as per your pre-agreed range of weight.

Now, let’s take a more detailed look at the various steps you need to take to achieve your weight loss goals.

Carbs & Intake of Calories

The first thing is to stop eating carbohydrates, which will make you lose glycogen in the muscles, and therefore reduce the water that is associated with glycogen.

The weight of any fighter is directly related to the calories he or she consumes during the day. In order to lose excess weight, there has to be a substantial reduction of calories eaten as compared to the calories used.

The fighter should monitor his/her calorie consumption closely. To be able to reduce 1 lb of body fat, you will have to burn up to 3,500 calories.[1]

Consumption of Water

Drink plenty of water and then gradually reduce the amount of water consumed daily until you barely consume any.

For a 5-day weight cutting program, the consumption of water can be:

  • Day 1 – 2 Gallons
  • Day 2 – 1 Gallon
  • Day 3 – 1 Gallon
  • Day 4 – 5 Gallons
  • Day 5 – 25 Gallons
  • Weigh-in day – No water should be consumed until you are weighed[2]

This is the way the professional fighters and boxers manipulate their weight on the day of weighing. If you are targeting a 5-day program for this drastic weight reduction, you should drink a lot of water on the first day. This will retain sodium in your body and eliminate potassium.

Start reducing the intake of water from day 2 with the aim of reaching day 5 drinking only 1L of water. Remember that you should not drink any water on the actual day you are going to be weighed. Don’t worry! Soon after weighing, you will be free from all this agony, provided you are still breathing.

Sweating

The process of dehydration is activated by causing sweat through hot water baths, sauna and thermal clothing.

Did you know that some fighters even go to the point of sleeping wrapped in sheets and quilts, or chew ice cubes to take saliva out of their mouth and spit it out?

It is said that if you weigh 160lbs and spend 30 minutes in the sauna, approximately 300 calories are burnt. However, this number can change depending on the composition, age, sex and the setting in the sauna.[3]

Get Rid of Sugar

In order to lose weight in a short period of time, it is very important to take out sugar from your diet by excluding all those foods that contain sugar as well as starchy foods (carbohydrates).

Sometimes sugar is hidden in foods that we might never suspect such as bread, market juices, sauces and other canned foods. Also, most of the times foods that contain sugar also contain bad fats that add up to your calorie intake overall.

Protein Consumption

Protein is very important while you are trying to reduce the body fat. When you reduce your calorie intake, the protein intake should be as high as 1.8 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram or 0.82 to 0.91 grams per pound of body weight. [4] You should also load yourself up with good quality proteins such as meat and eggs and don’t forget about the vegetables like spinach, broccoli and cauliflower.

Protein powder is very popular among the fighters for a good reason. It is quick, easy to take and cheaper than eating equivalent amounts of meat or fish. However, remember that protein powder is a supplement and not a substitute for a piece of meat or fish in your diet.

Salt

In order to lose weight, one of the first things you need to do is to eliminate sodium from your diet. When you eat salty foods, the sodium is retained in your body. You also retain water temporarily until your body gets its sodium as well as water levels back in balance.

Did you know that most of us consume twice the recommended intake of sodium? When you reduce salt intake and drink a lot of water, you will start to see the effect very quickly. All that extra water weight due to excessive sodium will start disappearing.

You can even eliminate or reduce the intake of salt simply by tricking your taste buds and replacing salt with herbs and spices like coriander, black pepper, cayenne, basil, turmeric, dill and ginger. [5] Rest assured, your food will taste better and you won’t have to worry about water retention in your body due to salt.

There are also spices like Cumin, habaneros, Cayenne Pepper and jalapeños which will increase your metabolism by up to 25% and at the same time be a good replacement for salt.[6]

Training

Generally, the fighters undergo specific training which includes the bigger groups of muscles like the legs as well as the back. They train these muscles excessively and also do aggressive aerobic training. Some of those useful exercises include deadlifts, bent rows, lunges, upright rows, squats and military press.

Given below are the figures if you like to know how many calories you can lose by carrying out any of the following exercises. Keep in mind that these figures are according to a specific given weight. A heavier person will burn more calories whereas a lighter weight person will burn less.

  • Running: A person weighing 160 pounds can burn about 461 calories while running for 45 minutes at a speed of 5 mph. [7]
  • Cycling: Someone who weighs 160 pounds can burn about 288 calories in an hour of cycling at a leisurely pace. [8]
  • Rowing: A person weighing 155 pounds can burn between 260 to 316 calories during 30 minutes at a moderate pace [9]
  • Swimming: During one-hour freestyle swimming, a Swimmer weighing 155 pounds can burn 704 calories swimming at a fast pace, and 493 calories swimming at a slower pace.[10]
  • Walking: For a 130-pound person walking at a moderate pace can burn 120 to 140 calories per hour.[11]

After Weighing

Happy days are here again!

If everything went well in achieving your goal in weight and you are still breathing normally, you should now put all that lost weight back on. Apart from the weight, you have to regain all that energy and strength that you had before starting your weight cutting routine.

Remember that you have about 14 hours to recover all of this if you take into account sleeping time and the hours you were waiting for weighing-in.

Now is your long waited opportunity to consume the maximum amount of carbohydrates which include much-needed proteins and fats. This should be done immediately after weighing-in but remember to avoid eating junk food.

Continue eating in smaller portions and focus mainly on healthy foods like rice, lean meat, vegetables, etc. Also, drastically increase your water intake, 1ltr of water every hour. You obviously won’t be retaining all of that in your body, approximately 25% will be lost in urine. Stop drinking water about 2 hours before the fight. Unfortunately, boxing rings don’t come with an attached bathroom.

Increase the intake of salt. Sodium will help your body to retain water and give you those extra pounds in weight. Thus, your body will bring back all that lost glycogen in the muscles and you will start feeling on top of the world and ready to go into that ring confidently.

Cutting Weight is Not The Same as Losing Weight

Fat weight and water weight are two different things and your primary target is to lose water weight in this weight cutting program.

The weight cutting, as opposed to losing weight, is to reduce the amount of water retained in your body.

The science behind weight cut is a very calculated one, and that’s why the professional fighters have had success with this strategy. However, the fighters do admit that the weight cutting is probably the most difficult part of their training for a fight and it can lead to many psychological and physical changes and problems. Therefore, it is important for the fighters to know their limitations and try to stay within what works best for them.

Most nutritionists will agree that the act of cutting weight is harmful, unhealthy, and even dangerous but the nature of the fighter is to fight at every moment to achieve the maximum advantage in the next fight.

So, cutting weight becomes just another part of the battle.

Precaution Tips

It is important for any fighter to be fully aware of the risks involved when they undertake such weight cutting program. It may sound disheartening but the facts are facts:

  • Training without proper feeding can lead to muscle injury.
  • Excluding carbohydrates and glucose from the diet can affect the brain working at its full capacity.
  • On the last days before weighing, dehydration can lead to kidney damage.[12]
  • The lack of essential minerals, such as sodium and chlorine can produce muscle cramps.
  • The use of diuretics can damage the kidneys and it is also illegal in most sports.
  • Possible side effects include fatigue and
  • Also, lack of concentration.
  • Redness, dryness and peeling of the skin.
  • Dryness in the mouth, lips and
  • Increase in the heart rate and body temperature.
  • Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing and exercising.
  • Mood fluctuations.

Preparing for a fight is like a mental and physical roller coaster, and you don´t need to put your body and mind under that stress unless you are fighting professionally.

Always take some medical or nutritional advice from an expert before any rapid weight loss endeavor to weigh possible gains and losses so you can determine whether you want to proceed or not.

In summary, if you want to lose weight effectively. Remember to start the procedure by drinking lots of water and then drastically cut the intake of water. Also, do not consume carbs as well as salt, try to sweat as much as possible, and even take a diuretic if required. Once you have achieved your target, drink 1 liter of water every hour and consume as many proteins, good carbs and fats as you can.

Resources

Tom Garland

Former boxer/Blogger at Extreme Strikers
A former professional boxer with 9 years of experience.

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