Following the first part of this article, which discussed my thoughts on how much weight you can cut and why, this second part outlines my recommendations for how you cut. As before, my approach is one of optimum fight performance, not maximum weight cut – read the first part if you’re not sure of the difference.
The Final Week Weight Cut
We’ll pick things up at the week before the fight, your body composition is good and you’re looking to temporarily cut 2-3% of your body weight through mild dehydration for the weigh-in. This can safely and easily be achieved by combining the following methods.
You’ll typically dehydrate by approximately 1-2% of your bodyweight overnight through perspiration and respiration, depending on the ambient temperature and humidity. Also, an adult bladder can hold up to about 500ml or 0.5kg or fluid, so you’re morning toilet habits can also be factored in. All of this can be used as part of your fight cut strategy – but first you must measure it.
In the final week before the fight, weigh yourself every night before bed and again on waking (after a toilet trip, but before drinking or eating breakfast) and record the difference. You can use this average overnight weight loss trend to predict what you’ll need to weigh when you go to bed the night before the fight, to wake up on weight.
Also, bear in mind that if you’re warmer at night you’ll sweat more. You can exploit this if the night before the fight you’re a little heavy, by wearing extra clothing to bed to amp up your overnight loss. Just make sure you’re not so hot that your sleep is affected.
Final Week Nutrition Adjustments
Now is time to make sure the food that you eat doesn’t inadvertently cause you to store extra water, a mistake I’ve seen many times. A sudden weight gain can only be a result of water weight. Sodium (salt) in your diet is usually the culprit.
Temporarily restricting your sodium intake in the final week can result in a short-term loss of fluid and a corresponding loss of 0.45 to 1.45kg of water weight. This short-term restriction isn’t likely to negatively affect health because your body has a large reserve of sodium in the bones.
Stay away from fast food outlets and other restaurants in the last week to keep your sodium intake low. Also, lay off the processed foods, deli meats, cheese, frozen meals, isotonic energy drinks, salted crisps, rice cakes and nuts etc. All of these can turn your body into a water jug, and each 500ml of water you carry in your body is another 0.5kg on the scales.
In the final week, make sure you consume enough calories to sustain your physical activity. But, consider your calorie requirements will reduce in the last week when tapering your training for a fight, as the duration/volume of your training should decrease while the intensity increases. I’ve also personally found that reducing the amount of starchy carbohydrates (breads, rice, pasta and potatoes) in the final week helps reduce bulk in your diet too.
You should rest the day before the fight to allow your body to supercompensate, and therefore your energy requirements will be minimal and a reduction of food and water is okay. Go very light on your evening meal – in fact, if possible try not to eat or drink after 4pm.
Weigh yourself before bed and then subtract the amount of weight you typically lose overnight. Will you be close to weight when you wake? Do you need to wear some extra clothes to bed to help lose a little extra? Don’t underestimate the amount of fluid you’ll excrete as a result of pre-fight nerves – extra toilet trips are natural and will also help you make weight.
A Word of Caution
While we’re on the subject, NEVER use laxatives or diuretics to make weight. You can seriously affect your fluid and hormone levels and not only completely screw up your performance, but also risk serious health issues. Water loading also has no place whatsoever in making weight for a same day fight. Both of these methods result in uncontrolled dehydration which cannot be stabilised before you fight – just don’t go there.
Last Minute Reduction
If you’ve followed all the steps and gone easy on the food and (especially) the drink on the day before the fight, then you should be on weight. If you’re still over, your only option is to sweat the final weight off. Don’t exceed 2-3% of your body weight using this method, there can be fatal consequences – this is NOT an exaggeration. Combat sport athletes have died from water loss as little as 6.7% of body weight.
If you must use heat to reduce water weight, my preference is to submerge in a hot bath for 20-mins. This normally shifts the last bit if you’ve gone a little off track. Although hot baths or saunas don’t demand physical exertion (as opposed to skipping in a sweat suit) and therefore leave a fighter less fatigued, it still takes it out of you. Heat places physical stress on your body – General Adaptation Syndrome.
Make the cut without resorting to heat stress if you can. It not only affects your subsequent fight performance less, but it removes the risks associated with increased body core temperature and fatal heat stroke.
Depending on what your weight is, you can either afford to eat and drink a little, or are strictly nil by mouth. Don’t go crazy if you can eat and drink something – the weight of what you eat will literally appear on the scales, e.g. a standard 200ml glass of water will add 0.2kg.
So now you should be feeling a little dry and hungry and have successfully made weight. Now it’s crucial to rehydrate and restock energy levels to as close to 100% as possible. 3 to 4 hours and counting, the clock is ticking…
In part 3 I share with you my methods to do this.
Don Heatrick, owner of Heatrick Strength & Conditioning, is a renowned Level 4 Strength and Conditioning coach, Muay Thai coach and former pro Thai boxer from the UK.
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