How to Cut Weight for a Fight (Then Re-Gaining It)

Although MuscleTalk is primarily about bodybuilding and strength sports, a significant proportion of our members are involved in combat activities. There are numerous topics posted about boxing, various martial arts, MMA and wrestling. Many of our members compete in these sports which have different weight classes, therefore they will need to know how to ‘make a weight’ in order to compete in their desired class, whilst maintaining optimum performance in the ring
Fighter ready for fight

Many fighters have to get below a target body weight in order to fight in a particular weight class. Sometimes this can be a few kilos below your off-season weight, so a few weeks of strict dieting are in order to lose this excess weight, whilst at the same time, maintaining adequate energy levels and nutrition for muscle power.

The last few days is the most important time for diet manipulation in order to achieve your desired weight whilst ensuring you’re pumped full of energy to perform at your best in the ring. During this time you’ll be aiming to deplete your muscles of their carbohydrate stores, then reload them with quality carbs in order to super-compensate and store more than before for optimal energy.

However, it’s likely that many of you will be struggling to make that weight for your class on the official weigh in day, so you’ll not be wanting to eat too many carbs else you’ll be too heavy and you’ll end up in the class above fighting guys a few kilos heavier than you.

On the more extreme level some of you will have to fluid manipulate as well as carb deplete in order to get the scales down – this may mean fluid restriction and manipulation of sodium (salt) intake. Below is an example meal plan a fighter may adopt on the day of the fight if he wakes up and panics that he’s still got a little to lose by the time of the weigh in!

Let’s assume weigh in is at 6 pm but he’s not due to fight to gone 8 pm. He’ll still be wanting to keep his energy up, else he’ll feel listless in the ring and they’ll have been no point to all the preparation over the past weeks. And, although he’ll need to manipulate fluid intake, it’s imperative that he is still adequately hydrated by the time of the actual fight.

The key is during the day to keep carbohydrate intake low (but not omit them), protein high and fluid / sodium intake minimal. Then post weigh-in he should consume a variety of quickly and slowly absorbed carbs and rehydrate as quickly as possible, without bloating himself causing him to feel sluggish in the ring. The plan is merely an example, but the kind of thing I have used on some of my boxing and martial art clients.

Fight Day Meal Plan

Wake 1 scoop of a decent whey protein powder in 100ml low electrolyte mineral water
Breakfast 9.30am Porridge: 100g oats + 200ml skimmed milk + 2 tbsp sugar
11.00am Apple
1 small dry roasted sweet potato
1 scoop whey protein powder in 100ml low electrolyte mineral water
Lunch 1.00pm Chicken breast (120g)
40g basmati rice + tbsp sweetcorn
No drink
3.30pm Chicken breast (120g)
Small banana
No drink
6.00pm Weigh in
Immediately post weigh-in 1 large Mars bar
250ml bottle isotonic drink
(Sip 1.5-2 litres of water during the 2 hour period but do not bloat)
30mins later 6 oatcake biscuits
1 scoop whey + 2 tsp sugar in water
30 mins later Chocolate flapjack
50ml bottle isotonic drink
30mins later 6 oatcakes
Kendal mint cake or Mars bar
Nothing but water 30 mins pre-fight
After fight – have a good meal of whatever you like to replenish!

The carbs are low in quantity, regular and of low glycaemic index (GI) choices during the day. Basmati rice, sweet potato and oats (porridge) are all low GI, which means they are slowly digested and absorbed to give a more sustained release of energy, as opposed to the surge in blood sugar other carbs, like sugar, give.

Following the weigh-in carbs are a mixture of high and low GI sources. The high GI ones are to get the depleted stores up as rapidly as possible before the fight, whilst the low GI choices (oatcakes) are to stop the fighter crashing (running out of energy) in the ring, and give him the edge to fight that little bit longer; this could be the edge he needs over a faltering opponent!

He’ll have partially dehydrated himself (to lose water weight) during the day in order to keep his weight down, but it’s imperative that he rehydrates before the fight, as lack of fluid will limit performance more than any other nutrition inadequacy. For this reason he could make use of commercial isotonic sports drinks, as well as sipping (so as not to bloat himself) water frequently before the fight. Lightly splashing water on the brow before the fight is a useful hydrating tip as this will help keep him cool and reduce sweating, and hence water loss, and will also help reduce the risk of sweat running into the eyes.

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James Collier

James first started bodybuilding as a teenager back in the 1980s and obtained his degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Surrey back in 1995. After qualifying he worked as a clinical Dietitian for the NHS in various UK hospitals.

Having competed several times during the 1990s, his passion now lies in helping other bodybuilders, strength and fitness trainees reach their goals.

He is a Registered Nutritionist and a full member of The Nutrition Society in the UK. James is also co-founder and developer of Huel, nutritionally complete food.

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