by Don Heatrick
Following on from Part 1 and Part 2, this time I’ll share my approach to rehydrating and restocking energy after the weigh-in. I’ll begin with my rationale and then break down simply what to eat and drink, and when.
Temporary weight loss for a fight comes almost entirely through mild dehydration. The battle to rehydrate must be over before the fight or your performance will severely suffer.
Fluid intake between rounds is minimal – you won’t lose a significant amount of water weight during the bout (even in a hot humid climate like Thailand), a simple mouthful of water to wet your mouth between rounds is sufficient.
Your apparent thirst will mostly be psychological. You don’t want to glug down too much water and find it sloshing around in your stomach during the fight.
Iso, Hyper & Iso
Fluid can typically be absorbed at a rate of approximately 0.5 – 0.75 litres per hour.
And you can optimise fluid absorption by trimming the ratio of carbohydrate/water in your drink – this is what the terms isotonic, hypertonic and hypotonic refer to.
With the right ratio of carbohydrate to water (isotonic), the fluid passes through the stomach quickly.
If the carbohydrate level is a little too strong (hypertonic), fluid must be drawn from the body to dilute the carbohydrate before the fluid can be absorbed. If the carbohydrate level is a little too weak (hypotonic), then extra carbohydrate must be added in the stomach before fluid can be absorbed, again slowing absorption.
Although isotonic drinks provide the most rapid rehydration, hypertonic, and hypotonic drinks also absorb quickly as the carb/water ratio lies just either side of the optimum mix.
If the carb/water ratio is too far out then absorption will be too slow, resulting in the water sitting in your stomach. I recommend that you experiment with isotonic, hypertonic and hypotonic drinks during training sessions to find which ratio feels best for you – stronger carb concentrations (hyper) may make you feel queezy.
Don’t try something new on the day of your fight, it could go horribly wrong.
Drinks without sodium (salts) have been found to stimulate urine production, meaning that you could be peeing your fluid out as quickly as you’re necking it down! Sodium also stimulates your thirst, making it far easier to get through all the fluid you need to take back on board.
Despite having a reduced food intake in the last 24-hours, you won’t have depleted muscle carbohydrate (glycogen) as you haven’t been very active during this ‘rest’ day. However, it feels good to get some sensible food back into you.
This pre-fight meal should consist of low to medium glycemic index carbs with a little protein to release energy steadily and avoid energy crashes.
What & When to Eat & Drink
The amount of rehydration fluid required depends on how much fluid you’ve cut (which relates to 2 – 3% of your hydrated bodyweight).
Studies show that when rehydrating, about a third of your intake will be lost. In my experience this is certainly true – pre-fight nerves will make you urinate more frequently.
If the maximum practical rate of fluid absorption is approximately between 0.5 – 0.75 litres per hour, and assuming you have a minimum of 4-hrs between the weigh-in and your fight, you can get between 2 – 3 litres fluids back on board.
Of course using the correct carb and sodium strategies will improve your fluid absorption dramatically.
However, if you’re likely to fight early in the show then base you maximum weight cut to around 1.3 – 2 kg, as this is all you’re likely to be able to replace regardless of your size.
If you’re fighting later in the show and have more time, then you could cut more weight but you’re beginning to gamble on impairing your performance.
Step 1 is therefore knowing how much fluid you need to get back into you.
If you multiply the number of kilos you’ve dropped to make weight by 1.5 this will be the approximate number of litres you need to drink before the fight.
Refer to the following table for an idea of the relative weight cut and corresponding rehydration quantities required.
You need to arm yourself with the correct amount of iso/hyper/hypo tonic drink to make sure you’re firing on all cylinders in the ring.
You can purchase sports drinks or diarrhoea rehydration sachets to achieve this, but I prefer to mix up my own using more natural ingredients. I make a hypertonic drink with 500ml of orange juice (not from concentrate) with 500ml water and add 1g salt. I then try to drink most of this every hour.
Potassium levels are boosted by the use of orange juice – I also eat a banana to further help restore potassium lost when sweating.
Eating salty snacks (crisps or nuts etc.) add further sodium and boost fluid absorption/thirst. The colour of your urine will give you an idea of your hydration status. Clear or very light yellow urine indicates that you’re adequately hydrated, darker yellow indicates you’re still dehydrated.
My preferred pre-fight meal is a simple and convenient tuna, pasta and sweetcorn mix with a little light salad cream. You should stop eating 1-2 hours before your fight, but drink right up to the fight.
That’s your hydration and energy levels taken care of, now you just need to get your Muay Thai strategy, tactics and mindset right. Enjoy yourself in there, and chok dee!
As always, please let me have your comments below.
Founder of Heatrick Strength and Conditioning
Don Heatrick is a family man from the UK, former mechanical design engineer, European Muay Thai silver medallist, former pro Thai boxer (ranked 4th in UK while aged 40-years), a Muay Thai coach, podcast host, and the go-to expert on Muay Thai performance training with over 25 years of coaching experience.
Don helps ambitious fighters and coaches take their game to the next level by bridging the gap between Strength & Conditioning, Performance Science, and Muay Thai.
Follow Don Heatrick on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/donheatrick/
Useful as ever don, also never really thought about sodium being so helpful, only time I use it is in my home made isotonic drink but thought the only reason for doing it was to replace body salts lost through sweating never thought about also having it to hold onto water, makes sense though in this instance………..please keep the posts comjng
Thanks Andy, I’m glad it helped out. I’ll keep at it :)
Great help. Thank you. Have my first fight in two days and have 2kg to loose.
No problem Seoirse. How did the fight go?
Cheer Don, I found this and your other blogs very helpful as an aid to preparation for my 2nd c class fight. I found that non concentrate orange juice water and salt mix worked very well for me, I tested it during training and it worked perfect on fight night, I felt good, very good.
Nice one Nathan – well done for being thorough and testing things out before the fight too :)
That was great information thanks alot.
[…] 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 […]
Awesome article it’s going to help me greatly with my weight cut this weekend. I am not far off weight now but was wondering how to consume and what to consume after weigh ins, thanks a lot
Hi Jesse, good luck with your fight at the weekend. :)
Are you asking about food consumption rather than fluid consumption? Is you weigh-in and fight on the same day?
Yes it is on the same day, and I just reviewed the glycemic index and now understand which foods are on the low/medium, I feel much more confident about weighing in now.
GREAT WORK Don! =) but i have a question…I’m going to go to Thailand this summer and i would like to know if there, you can loose more weight than in your environment (Spain in my case) thank you!
Thailand being hot and humid, will mean you can dehydrate quicker (losing the associated water weight too). But this still needs to be within the safe limits I’ve described, and within the ranges that work well for you as an individual.
The amount of weight you effectively cut and still perform optimally will be unchanged regardless of the environment, but the rate that you can lose it and regain it will be affected.
thank you Don Heatrick! you are the best
Cheers Ricardo! :D
[…] Grab yourself an isotonic drink — topping up potassium/sodium, carbs and fluids. Either a commercial sports drink, coconut water or something like my fruit juice mix. […]
Very helpful as always. You might not have the answer to this one but I was just curious if these numbers change at all for women during menstruation. It’s not uncommon for me to suddenly retain a kg or two for a few days. My last fight everything was on track and then my weight shot up thanks to my period. Does this mean I can cut more weight because I have more water on board? Does it make it easier to rehydrate because my body is eager to retain water? How does it impact the weight cut?
Great question Quinn!
For women, weight cutting is more complicated! Hormones (estrogen and progesterone) that regulate the menstrual cycle will cause fluctuations in weight – primarily because of fluid retention. And the amount that it affects you is personal.
I’d recommend weighing yourself over a few months, to get an idea of the weight gain you can typically expect during your cycle, and where in your cycle it typically happens too.
Armed with this, you can manually factor in this amount of extra weight for fights that you anticipate will land during the stage of your cycle that you typically expect extra fluid retention. I’m not sure, but I believe water loading is likely to be more successful for female fighters to dehydrate during their menstrual cycles, as sweating is reduced at this time – whereas urination is less affected… I might be wrong there though!
What about 12 hours to fight after weigh in? Can cut more water weight without energy compromised?
Yes, you can go a little further as you have more time to rehydrate. But I wouldn’t advise losing more than 4% of body weight. Here’s a more in-depth look at weight cutting for Muay Thai for you: https://heatrick.com/2020/02/13/what-is-my-ideal-fight-weight-class/
Amazing article thank you
Thank you, much appreciated. :)