By Brandon Richey
The dreaded weight cut is something that has always been a somewhat haunting factor for athletes who are preparing for an event, and many athletes have adopted some bad habits for dropping fat.
Cutting should never be done to compromise performance and health, so today I want to talk a little about three safe and practical tactics one can apply to cut weight.
Before I dive into these strategies, I want to point out that a weight cut will vary from athlete to athlete.
A 20 or 30 lb. weight cut is a significant amount of weight to cut for a given individual. However, that same 20 or 30 lbs. is even more significant the less the individual weighs to begin with.
In other words, if an athlete is trying to cut down from 190 lbs. to 170 lbs. that is a significant 20 lb. weight cut, but it’s not as significant as someone going from 165 lbs. to 145 lbs.
In actuality, if the cut is done too quickly, the latter is a much more drastic and could potentially even be dangerous as that 20 lbs. makes up a significantly larger percentage of his or her total bodyweight.
Over the years, there have been some examples of some terrible weight cutting habits adopted by athletes and coaches. Severe dehydration, starvation, and too much exercise and sauna time, to name a few, can all contribute to drastic loss of water weight.
It’s important to understand that the carelessness in practicing these to extremes will drastically flush the system of nutrients and compromise both health and performance.
These hard and fast drastic measures are NOT the way to cut weight in a healthy way right before a competition. Rather, they are meant for longer-term push towards a decrease in fat.
1. Implement a Gradual Decrease in Water Consumption
Water and sodium levels can influence a great portion of body weight.
Because of this, an athlete who is looking to cut body weight in a safe and effective manner can gradually taper off water consumption about a week out from the competition to flush the system safely.
Dr. John Berardi, who works with several UFC fighters, has used a tapering method that looks something like the following over a period of 6 days:
- Sunday: 2 gallons
- Monday: 1 gallon
- Tuesday: 1 gallon
- Wednesday: .5 gallon
- Thursday: .25 gallon
- Friday: No water until after weigh-in
2. Limit Carb Intake to About 50 Grams Per Day
The three main nutrients our bodies utilize for energy are fats, proteins, and carbs.
When training our bodies rely on these nutrients for a host of reasons related to health, performance, and recovery.
Carbs are great for energy, but the consumption of them also pulls in a significant amount of water into the muscle. This is something that an athlete doesn’t need if he or she is looking to cut weight. Starches have a similar effect, and should be limited as well.
I would add that during the early phases of strength and conditioning where the goal is to develop speed, power, and strength a bit more carbohydrate consumption may be acceptable.
Carbs should still be managed intelligently as to not increase body weight in order to make the cutting phase for the athlete less cumbersome when the time comes.
After all, the body can pull from fat storage as a large fuel source to enable the body to power through some demanding strength and conditioning training sessions.
3. Eat More Proteins and Fats
When I say to eat protein and fats, I’m talking about taking the opportunity to consume some foods that are high biological nutrient content such as eggs, meats, and other vegetarian foods. It’s also a great time to eat some high nutrient leafy green vegetables.
Broccoli, cauliflower, and spinach greens are all great sources of veggies to get in and to continue to help the flushing process of water as we’re trying to cut weight.
Additionally, protein consumption is crucial for muscle repair and recovery as we taper off the weight cut intelligently.
Keep in mind that these three tactics do NOT involve ALL options to cut weight safely. Although, if implemented, these three tactics will have a huge impact on a weight cut right before a competition.
Just remember that the key to a safe and effective weight cut which will preserve health and performance is about making sure that we gradually implement and taper these tactics over time.
Any weight cut for competition should be planned ahead of time and done so that the priority of health and performance ALWAYS comes before making weight for a given competition.
I hope you found today’s article helpful. Have you had to cut weight for competition? If so what strategies did you implement during the process? Post up in the comments below and tell us about it.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
SEALgrinderPT coach Brandon Richey is a certified strength and conditioning coach, author, and founder of Brandon Richey Fitness.
He has worked with thousands of athletes over his 17 years of experience, developing fitness training programs for beginners to professional and D-1 level collegiate athletes at the University of Georgia.
He also trains MMA and Muay Thai athletes, both professional and amateur.
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