Cutting Weight and Recovery Tips

There are many different methods used to cut weight prior to a competition.  Note that in this case; we use the term “cutting weight” to describe the act of losing a lot of weight over a short period of time with the goal of gaining it back very quickly once you make weight.  This should not be mistaken with weight loss for health reasons, which is designed to keep weight off permanently.  In either case, it is strongly recommended that you consult with your doctor prior to any decision.

The most common process used for weight cutting is dehydration.  In general, athletes dawn heavy clothing and/or plastic sauna suits and exercise rapidly in order to sweat out those unwanted pounds.  Using a sauna or hot bath is also common practice.  Before choosing one of these methods, consult your sport’s governing body to confirm the methods legality; for example, plastic suits and use of the sauna is banned in scholastic and collegiate wrestling – on an international level however, it is fine.

Dehydration should only be done within 12-24 hours of weigh-ins and should not exceed 5-8% of one’s body weight. It is important that one only be dehydrated for a short period of time, as the effect of continuous dehydration is very harmful to the human body.  Lack of water causes the body to increase the plasma and viscosity of the blood, results in raised heart rate, increased blood pressure and can cause nausea, vomiting, muscle cramps and in severe prolonged cases can result in coma or even death.  This is why it is so vital that one rehydrate immediately and quickly post weighing in.

Rehydrating

According to the Australian Institute of Sports [7], one should consume 1.5 times their estimated fluid deficit.  This may be challenging when competing immediately after weighing in, since some people cut more than 5 pounds.

 “When the rehydration period prior to an exercise bout is less than 60-120 min (e.g. weigh-in prior to a race or competition bout, recovery between repeated training or competition session), gastrointestinal discomfort may prevent the athlete from achieving this targeted fluid intake. In such a situation, that athlete should consume the greatest volume that can be comfortably tolerated.” [7]

Not only how much, but what type of fluid you put into your body is important.  Scientists and doctors agree that “Fluid intake should be accompanied by electrolyte replacement, particularly sodium, to optimize the retention of fluid and re-equilibration of body fluid”. [7] It has also been extensively studied that a "properly formulated carbohydrate-electrolyte beverage" increases the rate of absorption of liquids into the body. [8 – Vanderbilt article].  Rapid Rehydration is specifically designed with this information in mind to assure maximum rehydration and recovery.

What to Eat.

Before weigh-ins:

Whether trying to lose five pounds or five ounces, one should never go without eating.   Lack of food for long periods of time causes the body to go into starvation mode, the stomach shrinks, metabolism slows down and you become tired and sluggish.  When your metabolism slows down, it is more difficult to lose weight.  Continuously eating small meals (energy bars, fruit...) actually makes it easier to lose weight and keeps your energy up.

Post weigh-ins:

A common mistake among athletes is to eat as much food as possible after weighing in.  We get it, you haven’t eaten a real meal in a long time and you’re hungry.  Despite continuously eating small amount of food prior to weigh-ins like we recommended, your body has still reacted to your weight loss (just not as much as it would if you starved yourself).  All that food will just end up sitting in your shrunken stomach making you feel balloted and tired.  In order to digest, the body pulls blood away from your muscles to your stomach; a lot of food will take longer to digest, leaving you feel weak and tired.

Everybody’s body reacts differently.  What we recommend is that you eat small, carbohydrate rich, meals at thirty minute intervals, such as a bowl of healthy cereal or oatmeal.  This will give you the energy you need as well as not overload your stomach.  Smaller meals will clear the stomach and you will be able to eat again shortly.  Remember, it is better to fight hungry than full.

No matter what you end up eating, it is far more important that you rehydrate.