Do I Need To Cut Weight For Competition?

Picture by UAEJJF

You may have looked at the weight categories for a competition, thinking whether to cut weight or not. Is it really worth it to suffer, or should you just not bother at all? When does a weightcut get “dangerous”? And ultimately: does cutting weight help you in competition? Find out here!

Why cut?

The idea of cutting weight is to end up in a division where you’ll feel big and strong in comparison to your opponents. Here’s a common scenario: you – like many other people – don’t naturally weigh the exact weight for your division. Let’s say you weigh 61.7kgs with gi in lightweight (-64kg), which makes you consider dropping to featherweight (-58.5kg), so you won’t feel ‘small’ in your division.

On the other hand, you might be pretty lean already, with not much fat to lose. Yet cutting weight seems possible. And you’ll be stronger. Right? So what to do?

Mackenzie Dern after her much discussed UFC fight against Amanda Cooper, fighting with a 7lbs weight difference that was accepted by Cooper. Picture by Marcelo Gonçalves.

Does cutting weight help me in competition?       

Nobody likes to cut weight. You’re hungry, dehydrated or worse: both. In the end, everyone who cuts weight does it with one goal: to win in competition. But does it really influence how you perform?

Many studies have described the negative effects of weight loss on health. But whether cutting weight affects performance in competition, has never been supported, or rejected by science.

It’s up to you

That’s why the real answer to this question can only be found by yourself, and your own experiences. Have you ever cut weight? How did you do this? If you were on a strict diet of 1 apple and 2 rice crackers for five days straight, and felt sick and weak during competition; well, no surprise there.

If you lost weight in a more healthy way than previously described, but found out you lost too much strength either way – then cutting might not be for you.

Angelica Galvao moved up in weightclass to -90kg, and won the Abu Dhabi World Pro 2018 Championship. Picture by Flograppling.

Fast or slow?

One very important question to begin with, is to ask yourself what “kind” of weight cut you are aiming for. Are you lean already and do you “just want to lose a few kilos for competition”, or do you have some fat mass that you’d like to lose anyway? These are two very different things with very different approaches.

If the latter one is the case, it’s probably best to slowly adjust your food intake, promoting weight loss over a longer period of time. If you are already on a desirable walk-around weight, and want to lose weight more rapidly, then it’s a whole different story.

(Want to read more about other people’s experiences with cutting weight? Check out our interview with Livia Gluchowska!)

It’s all about balance

Even with a healthy cutting diet for “just a few kilos for competition”, there’s a delicate balance between losing weight and performing. This means that if you go under your a certain lower limit of bodyweight, you will most likely always lose some strength and power by cutting.

It’s balancing how much you lose in strength and energy, compared to how much you need in a certain division. And this experience is very personal, and up to you.

“Always believe in yourself.” Wise words by Brenda Heller. Picture by maxbuzinphoto.

Do’s and don’ts

Whatever choice you make, there are definetely some do’s and don’ts when it comes to cutting weight. Here are some tips to cut weight safely.

Don’ts:

  • Don’t use any medication that promotes fluid/weight loss.
  • Don’t try to lose all the kilos by dehydration. Weight loss through dehydration that is more than 2% of bodyweight has negative effects on your aerobic system.** (This means for example a weight loss of more than 1.2kg for a 60kg girl.)

Do’s:

  • Try to get to a walk-around weight that is natural for you. Meaning: a weight that your body naturally maintains when you live a healthy lifestyle.
  • Prevent going up and down in weight too much – also known as jo-joing. Try to not deviate more than 4% of your competition weight when it’s off-season. This way, you won’t have to cut a lot when the competition season is there.
  • If you have fat mass to lose, and want to lose this gradually: focus on gradual weight loss: a maximum of 0.5-1.0 kg weight loss per week.
  • If you have to take a flight to the tournament, make sure you keep moving and wear the tighest spats you have. If you sit still, your body fluids will accumulate (test this by tying your shoelaces a little tight and watch the prints in your feet after you’ve landed) and you will be heavier on your competition day. Keep moving and your body fluids will circulate, preventing this.
  • Although dehydration is not advisable, but you still did it: try to recover your hydration status by drinking something containing 50-60 mmol/L sodium and 80-120 mmol/L glucose.
  • If weight cuts are hard for you, consider only doing them for “big” tournaments such as Worlds, Europeans and Pans, but not the local tournaments.

 

Remember: cutting weight is very personal. Looking at how other people do it, does not mean that you can or have to do the same as them. Consult a sports nutritionist to find out what works best for you, and to prevent to lose more than you gain. Read more tips on healthy food in our blog “The Daily Essentials”!

**Sawka MN, Burke LM, Eichner ER, Maughan RJ, Montain SJ, Stachenfeld NS.(2007) American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Exercise and fluid replacement. Medicine Science and Sports Exercise. 39:377-90.

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Rose el Sharouni

Rose is a brown belt at Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Academy Amsterdam (Checkmat). Besides being one of the co-founders of Ladies Only BJJ, she is a full-time medicine student and holds a MsC degree in Sports Sciences.

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