What about multiple weigh-ins?
There are times when athletes will need to weigh-in multiple times, usually on 2 or 3 consecutive days. Competitions such as the ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championships have multiple weigh-ins, usually on consecutive days. For example, if you are competing in the 66kg or 145.2lbs weight division you will have to weigh-in on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday morning at that weight.
When faced with this scenario, you will not be able to cut a lot of weight and be fully recovered. Compared to competitions with only 1 weigh-in, there is not much of an opportunity to cut a significant amount of weight. You must stay within a few pounds of your competition weight.
I recommend focusing on a strategy of eating foods low in weight but high in energy (Calories). If you had to use any fluid restriction or dehydration protocols, be sure to replace the lost fluids and electrolytes prior to competition but AFTER weigh-in. After competing on Day 1, immediately switch back to a weight-cutting protocol where you would be limiting things such as fiber and sodium intake. Be prepared to use active/passive dehydration methods on consecutive days.
Should I drink distilled water?
No. I do not recommend drinking distilled or de-mineralized water especially when combined with water loading. Drinking distilled water in excess amounts can lead to deficiency in electrolytes such as sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium, and calcium. This is the same reason I do not recommend using laxatives. Below is a well-researched article from the World Health Organization (WHO) on the health risks from drinking distilled water: https://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/dwq/nutrientschap12.pdf
Should I use hydration testing?
The most common hydration test is urine osmolality or urine specific gravity testing. According to Dr. Oliver Barley, urine testing may not be useful for assessing actual hydration level. Urine in the bladder serves no function and if that urine is dehydrated, it does not give us useful information and may lead to false positives. Urine hydration tests are also relatively easy to beat and wrestlers have been beating them for years which shows their inherent fallibility. Even serum/plasma osmolality which is considered the gold standard of hydration tests has its own downfalls with human error. In my opinion, hydration testing is simply another tool in the toolbox and not something that should be fully relied upon.
Do you recommend any supplements?
I consider all supplements as optional. Here are the ones I would use depending on the situation.
- Fish Oil – DHA especially shows promise for brain health. There is evidence that DHA is useful for mitigating brain injury from mild concussions.
- Caffeine – Caffeine has been shown to help increase glycogen re-synthesis in the body but the research is not as clear as it would seem. First, the study dose was extremely large for most people (8mg/kg) and there is a high individual response to caffeine. There are also many unknown sympathetic nervous system effects. If an athlete consumes caffeine regularly, I generally recommend strategically adding it especially after the weight-cut.
- Glutamine – Glutamine can help with hydration. Glutamine can pull sodium and water out of the small intestine. Glutamine can also increase hydration rate. I would mainly use it after weighing in.
- Creatine – Creatine is something I leave up to the fighters. Creatine should benefit the athlete’s performance, but also adds water retention to the equation. If an athlete is underweight but cannot move to the lower weight class, I often add creatine to help them bump up closer toward the top of the weight class.
Should I use diuretics or coffee to lose water weight?
Coffee likely does not have a major diuretic effect. There is lack of evidence on mostly all diuretics, so with that in mind I would not rely on them during the weight cut. There are 2 diuretics that show promise: Taraxacum officinale (dandelion) and Arctostaphylos (uva-ursi) but both lack significant scientific evidence in humans.
What are the differences between men and women?
The menstrual cycle for women can be an issue due to hormonal changes leading to increased water retention and weight gain. Some women choose to take birth control in order to prevent this.
Generally speaking, at a given body mass women tend to have higher body fat and lower muscle mass than men. This means that their potential to lose water is less than men and may be why women tend to sweat less than men. Muscle is where the water is held as opposed to fat so theoretically women have less water to lose.
This would not be the case if you are an extremely lean female. But in general, women tend to sweat less than men so it may take longer for women to cut the same amount of weight.
How do you recommend checking your weight?
Wear the same clothes. Use the same scale. Invest in a high quality shipping scale. Place on flat surface, not on carpet or uneven surface.
Will adding epsom salt and alcohol to a hot bath will help increase water loss?
No. Adding epsom salt does not make a hot bath more effective. Salt can increase the boiling point of water but we are not sitting in boiling water nor that relevant. During passive dehydration, water exits the body due to perspiration from the heat and both a hot bath and sauna use heat to increase perspiration resulting in water loss.
Alcohol has been anecdotally reported to help make the hot water feel cooler, therefore adding a sensation that the water is cooler than it actually is. There is no evidence that alcohol nor epsom salt helps draw water out of the body. Heat is the primary mechanism of body water loss.
Why cut weight?
The purpose of cutting weight is for gaining a competitive advantage. Because of weight classes, cutting weight allows you to compete at a lower weight class. The heavier athlete is usually favored in sports utilizing weight classes, this is obvious otherwise there would be no need for weight classes.
What do I do about cramping?
The role of sodium and other electrolytes in cramping is still a controversial subject. There is evidence that cramping is related to muscle fatigue as well as other neurological factors. One thing I have found to work anecdotally is to increase magnesium and potassium intake if you begin to experience muscular cramping.
Cramping may not be dehydration or electrolyte related –> https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1150229/
Should I use laxatives?
No. I do not recommend using laxatives. Laxatives are a more aggressive way of gut content elimination and most individuals do not feel well after using them. A low-fiber diet works like a laxative by eliminating gut contents without the negatives of excessive electrolyte loss.
Can I just drink water after a weigh-in?
NO. You should rehydrate with carbohydrates, electrolytes AND water. When you are dehydrated from sweating, you lose water AND electrolytes. Drinking only water will lower electrolyte concentration in the body and cause excessive urination. This is not optimal for rehydration.
What is your opinion on athletes under the age of 18 and weight cutting?
Weight cutting should not be encouraged with young athletes under the age of 18. They are still growing and their bodies are going through changes. Not having enough calories to support that growth is not a good thing. Weight cutting is already dangerous and children additionally do not have the ability to regulate body temperature to the same degree as adults through sweating. Weight cutting can also be detrimental psychologically and lead to eating disorders.
Why is my weight fluctuating and going up and down?
Your body weight will fluctuate 1-2% daily (more for some) due to water. The shifts in water can be attributed to many things such as sodium, food, hormones (menstrual cycle for women), etc.
Fighters cutting weight who are unaware of this often text me early in the morning or late at night freaking out about the fact that their weight went up 1-3 pounds from the previous day. What I do to prepare them for weight fluctuations is have them do daily weigh-ins beginning 2 weeks out from weigh-in day. I tell them to focus primarily on the results of the daily weigh-in and less so on their weight during other times of the day. This usually mitigates concern of weight fluctuations.
Daily weigh-in protocol:
- Wake up
- Use bathroom
- Do not eat or drink anything
- Weigh yourself naked
- Record the date and your weight
Why do we have to get as lean as possible to lose more water weight?
Humans being are primarily comprised of water and the human body is approximately 60% water. Fat contains about 10% water while muscle contains about 70-80% water. The leaner you are, the more water you have and can cut from your body. This is why athletes should get as lean as possible leading up to the final week before the weight cut.
Water is the main constituent of all organisms and is what allows the chemistry that makes life possible. It is a universal solvent unlike any other liquid. Humans can survive for weeks without eating food but no more than a few days without drinking water.
The average individual’s body contains 60% water. The average obese individual’s body contains 40% water. The average athlete’s body contains 70% water. Athletes generally have less fat mass and more lean muscle.
Water inside the body is distributed in predominantly 3 compartments.
- Most to your body’s water is held intracellularly (inside the cell) .
- Extracellularly (surrounding the cell)
- Fluid in your blood
- Regulates body temperature through sweating
- Transports nutrients to the body
- Filters waste products from the body using the kidneys, excreted as urine
- Aids digestion
- Lubricates joints
How does dehydration affect my ability to perform?
The chapter on the dangers of weight cutting will cover this in more detail but generally speaking:
- Heat regulation in the body will become impaired first
- Followed by aerobic fitness
- Followed by muscular endurance
- Followed by strength and power