By: Maurice Salmon (Staff Writer)
Managing Weight and Healthy Dieting
In combat sports, there is a saying, “On any given night, anyone could be beat”. This is a statement that is often made to excuse a poor performance in most cases. This catch all phrase cannot be used to categorize all fighters; the person that is most prepared is the one victorious in combat. Over the next few weeks, I will shed light on the various techniques that are key to developing a healthy and successful training and fighting career. In this article, I will cover the importance of maintaining weight by incorporating a healthy in-competition diet.
Many fighters and commentators often reference weight cutting and the difficulty that fighters face to reach a desired number on the scale. The conversation tends to intensify during the week of weigh-ins, as a fighter determines how much weight is to be cut… Plus, physically and mentally preparing to drop the pounds.
Cutting weight is the process of dehydrating water from the body to make a target weight the day before the fight, then immediately rehydrating for the next 16-24 hours and gaining the weight back in water. This process is done to give a fighter an advantage of being heavier on the night of the fight. In many cases, the weight is removed by using a sauna or running miles on a treadmill with a sweat suit. It’s a grueling process that can also be dangerous if too much weight is coming off at a rapid pace. In most cases, a fighter cutting 10-15 pounds the week of a fight is not uncommon. However, there are also the stories that surface of fighters dropping 25-30 pounds in 2-3 days. This is extremely dangerous and has the potential to harm the body. Yet, it underscores how far a fighter will go to fight in a particular weight class. This practice has led to the discussion of adding weight divisions to help many fighters compete in weight classes, without punishing their bodies so severely before the fight even takes place.
Adding additional weight classes and creating same day weigh-ins helps resolve the issue of a fighter cutting a large amount of weight the night before a fight, and then, attempting to rehydrate the next day. For many, this is the only way to compete in certain weight classes — even though it has been proven the body is unable to recover at that speed naturally.
The use of extreme cutting techniques is generally reserved for fighters with heavy muscle mass, or a fighter that doesn’t diet properly to help reduce weight during camp. A proper diet will reduce body fat during training, while providing the protein and nutrients needed to drop the pounds long before cutting weight. A good time period for a fight camp should be 6-8 weeks. This gives a fighter training time to focus on diet, conditioning, and opponent/game plan, while fixing holes in their game from previous fights.
During fight camp, a fighter should be training 5-6 days a week for 2-3 hours a day. Within an eight week period, that fighter has amassed approximately 145-150 hours of intense training. The mind and body must be prepared to endure rigorous training to be successful and prepared for combat. It is equally as important for the body to be fueled properly to withstand and recover from a grueling training schedule. Putting the right amount of fuel in your machine is also as important. Intense and rigorous training for many hours results in fighters burning thousands of calories per day. To continue to train at such a high level, fighters must continue to ingest large amounts of water and protein for the muscles to recover properly.
A good balance of carbohydrates for energy and protein for muscle growth and recovery will give a fighter the physical fuel needed to have a healthy camp. Foods with low fats and high protein will provide nutrients to muscles, as the muscles grow and become more durable, protein keeps muscles full and healthy. A good mix of simple carbs like brown rice, cured bread, or a baked potato, will provide the energy to push through the long hours of training. I have found a good 1 to 1 mix to be helpful; meaning, one gram of protein per pound of body weight and one gram of carbohydrates per pound of body weight. This formula allows the muscles to look full and function at their best during camp. For example, if a fighter weighs 185 pounds, their intake should be 185 grams of protein and 185 grams of carbohydrates per day during fight camp. This is done while cutting the carbs early enough before training so that the body burns them instead of storing the carbs and adding weight. Eliminating fats and artificial sugars from your diet will reduce body fat and burn unwanted weight quicker and make for an easier weight cut. A clean diet and 2 to 3 gallons of water per day will keep the body and muscles hydrated while burning undesired body weight during camp. The more water a fighter carries in the muscles reduce muscle loss for weight cutting purposes. The less muscle cut means faster recovery and better performance on fight night. This is all a part of a fighter’s preparation during camp. A fighter should only be cutting 3 to 5 pounds the day of weigh-ins for a safe and healthy weight cut. Too much weight cut can result in lack of energy and damaged muscles on fight day. The key is early preparation and diet during training camp to eliminate or reduce weight cutting on weigh-in day.
Cutting weight and managing a diet is no easy task, but this is part of being a professional fighter. Athletic commission’s hand out hefty fines for fighters missing weight, so they make sure they are also monitoring how much weight fighters are cutting. To recover quickly from weight cutting, some fighters have resorted to using IV bags to re-hydrate their bodies. The thought is, is if a fighter were to re hydrate intravenously, he or she would be able to retain a larger quantity of fluids more so than if he/she were to ingest large amounts through the mouth.
Essentially, there is no quick fix when preparing for competition. To ease the stress on the mind and body, proper dieting and nutrition should be a primary focus of fight camp. Managing weight during camp is a part of preparation for a fight. The fighter diet is essential to healthy and successful preparation for competitive fighting.
Be on the lookout for part two of this three part series – Tips for Healthy and Successful Preparation for Competitive Fighting. If you would like more information on the fighter diet that I have used in preparation for battle, feel free to email me or contact me at: email@example.com.