One of the challenges of any combat sport is the weight cut.
Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is no different, it’s a key part of the preparation for fights - and even the outcome if done incorrectly.
All combat sports are split into weight categories that you must stay within if you want to compete within that category. The idea is to be at the upper limit of your category so as to not be at a disadvantage against your opponent.
The weigh-in takes place a day before the fight, so to take advantage of this fighters will ‘cut’ water weight to meet their weight limit. They then rehydrate in the 24 to 36 hours before the fight and come into the fight considerably heavier than the upper limit of the weight category. That may seem strange but it’s well within the rules whilst still being a controversial part of the sport.
Over the years of being involved with MMA both as a pro fighter and now as a performance coach, I have formulated a weight management protocol based on scientific research and trial and error on both myself and the athletes I work with.
A detailed and organised nutrition plan allows the athlete to take on the two parts of the weight cut; the diet and the water cut, while still training hard and optimising performance…
The diet stage
This stage consists of manipulating the ratios of protein, fats and carbohydrates in relation to where the meal comes in the day and its proximity to and intensity of training.
This stage changes the fighter’s body composition and lowers their body fat percentage whilst increasing their lean body mass. The fight-week body fat percentage target is between 8% - 12% (unless they’re a heavyweight) and the exact % depends largely on the athlete and their natural body composition and type.
The water cut
This is a complex and challenging process that starts 6 days before the weigh-in and involves manipulating salt levels and water balance through a low sodium, low carbohydrate diet and water loading.
It culminates in using hot baths (above 42C) on weigh-in day to sweat out fluids and lower the athlete’s bodyweight to their weight limit.
A case study, BAMMA World Lightweight Champion Terry Brazier
PH fighter Terry Brazier recently moved down a weight category to the lightweight division (70kg) to challenge for another World Title and came away victorious on the night. On fight night he was the bigger, stronger fighter and that had a large part to do with his weight cut and subsequent rehydration.
To give you an Idea of how the process works, Terry began his fight camp 6 weeks before the fight and weighed 84.5kg.
Through diligently sticking to the diet plan he progressively dropped his weight, hitting predetermined weight markers along the way and was 77kg with just 7 days to go before the fight.
From this point, a process of a low sodium, low carbohydrate diet and water loading brought his weight to 73.9kg the day before the weigh-in. The last 3.9 kg were lost through sweating via hot bath protocol and he weighed in at 69.8kg on weigh-in day.
Although I have put together a weight cut that I’m confident is the safest and healthiest way of doing so, there are other ways to drop weight that fighters use and are successful with.
But, if the fighter manages to make weight with no complications, a huge stumbling block can be the rehydration and refuelling protocol. It’s imperative that the athlete is adequately rehydrated by fight night, as they risk impaired performance and injury if they’re not.
This is where Precision Hydration comes in. PH’s strongest drink contains 1,500mg of sodium per litre, making it perfect for replacing the fluids and electrolytes lost through sweat during the post weigh-in rehydration.
I have a secret recipe involving PH 1500 tablets, natural sugars, amino acids amongst other things, and the athlete sticks to a time specific rehydration plan that goes right up to the start of the fight.
Through this process Terry was able to go from 69.8kg on weigh-in day to 81kg by the time he stepped in the cage. He had a dominant performance, winning every round convincingly on his way to becoming a two weight World Champion by being the more technical and fitter fighter but also the bigger and stronger one, aided by Precision Hydration and their electrolyte drinks.
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