Losing 5% or more of body weight is not uncommon in athletes that participate in weight division sports such as wrestling, boxing, judo, etc. Some athletes at higher weight classes cut weight so that they can compete at lower weight classes, hoping to get the upper hand over the smaller opponent. Knowing how to safely lose weight without compromising health can be difficult too. Keep these ideas in mind when determining your approach towards making weight for competition: 

1. Fluid restriction

Be cautious when restricting fluids within 24 hours of competition, can take 24-48 hours to recover fluids from dehydration due to fluid restriction. It can be hard to recover and can negatively impact your performance. Fluid losses of 5% or more can be life threatening, which is why small amounts of fluids should be lost at a time.

The longer the fluid restriction the higher the chances of diminishing your ability to rehydrate and endure the heat. It can increase risk for heat injury due to reduction in sweat loss and cooling mechanisms within the body.

Fluid restriction permits greater retention of electrolytes compared to energy restricted diets, and sweating practices from increased exercise. It allows more rapid hydration when used as acute weight loss strategy. Although, long term fluid restriction with increased exercise activity can lead to increased electrolytes being lost through sweat. Fluid restriction increases chances of dehydration, leading to decreased aerobic performance. The extent to which performance is decreased depends on dehydration approach, and degree of weight loss.

2. Energy restriction

Be careful when restricting meals for weight loss close to competition, especially when low in carbs, as physical and mental performance may be hindered.

Lean body mass (LBM) is lost during energy restricted diet weight loss plans, which can potentially reduce strength due to lack of energy intake & increased exercise activity. To minimize loss of LBM, 1.5g/kg-2.0g/kg of protein should be consumed  during energy restricted diets.

When combing energy restricted diets and increased exercise activity give yourself enough time to recover. The closer rapid weight loss is to competition, the higher the chance of hindering physical and mental performance. Acute weight loss of 6% body mass or less involving both energy restriction and dehydration practices shows no differences in performance of wrestlers and judo athletes.

High carbohydrate diets should be consumed after weigh in, to replenish depleted muscle glycogen from energy restricted diet, which may lead to diminished performance.

Now that you know a little something about different weight loss strategies, determine which one best accommodates to you. Practice weight loss programs before jumping right into one, so that you know the effects it has on your body close to competition, which can help you determine the best strategy to use for weight loss.

by Owen Ng