The Dangerous Art of Weight Cutting

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As I wrote about in my last post, MMA can be an extremely rough sport both physically on the fighter, and visually for the viewer. It’s not rare to see a fighter spill more blood than a tanker spills oil in the Gulf of Mexico. But the crazy thing is, for a sport that brutal, getting punched in the face and having your limbs twisted isn’t the worst part.

No, for most the worst part is the weight cut.

Cutting weight is something that almost anyone who has ever competed in any sort of combat sport, from high school wrestling to Professional arm wrestling, has engaged in at some point in time. It is defined as the practice of rapid weight loss prior to competition. Many fighters will start slowly cutting down weeks in advance. But that doesn’t stop most from having to drop a final five pounds or so the day before a weigh in.

It’s also a fairly hot button topic in the combat sports community. For years now the debate over weight cutting, pros and cons, has raged. One of the loudest anti weight cutting voices has come from the mouth of UFC Demigod Joe Rogan.

Rogan has come out against the practice a number of times on both twitter and his popular podcast, “The Joe Rogan Experience”. The most recent example was on his podcast on January 11 of the new year, in his interview with former MMA fighter Bas Rutten. During said conversation Rogan mentioned multiple times that, “There’s definitely an issue with people cutting too much weight, there’s definitely an issue with people doing it unhealthily.”

Rogan and Rutten also address the fact that often times, the fighter looks better physically when he or she doesn’t cut as much weight. They reference Kelvin Gastelum as an example. Gastelum has had a checkered past with making weight, and because of that the UFC now makes him fight in a higher weight class. Both Rogan and Rutten agreed that he looks far better and healthier at the higher weight class than he ever did cutting weight and making the lighter class.

And the idea of weight cutting being dangerous isn’t just some wild idea the old “Fear Factor” host, and some guy who got kicked in the head for a career concocted themselves. No there is also a fair bit of science to back that idea up.

When I asked Fresno State Kinesiology major, Alexis Mendoza, about the topic she basically backed up everything Rogan and Rutten said.

“Starving/dehydrating oneself to lose weight fast is extremely unhealthy, seeing as carbohydrates and water are the essential nutrients that we need to consume through our diet. Carbohydrates are our brain food, so no carbs means no fuel for our body so the athlete wouldn’t be able to function properly. Yes you are losing weight as your body then feeds off of stored lipids/fats for energy, but it is sort of like a last resort. Starvation and dehydration can also cause organs like the kidneys to fail which could cause permanent damage.”

But just because it’s unhealthy and doesn’t always produce the best results, doesn’t mean we don’t engage in it. It’s the American way dammit! If we avoided everything that was detrimental to our health, and produced a low quality product, then we would never have such great institutions like the McDonalds and The Hometown Buffet.

Now if done correctly cutting weight isn’t that bad of a process. Just eat clean, slowly cut to your ideal weight, and stay within shouting distance of your class so you never have to drop more than a pound or two the day before competition.

But if you’ve got shit for brains like I did back when I was cutting weight in high school, you are more than likely going to end up employing some of the more old school ways of cutting weight. These are weight cutting techniques that have been passed down by combat sports competitors for ages. The one common thread between every single one of those tips, is they all make you miserable.

And it’s those miserable techniques I want to highlight. What makes said techniques so unbearable is that they almost always involve dehydrating oneself. If you’ve only got a little bit of time, water weight is by far and away the easiest weight to lose. But to do it you have to employ such methods as running in trash bags, spitting in bottles, sitting in saunas, etc. And all the dehydration, is often times in addition to starving yourself for a few days too.

And while those techniques are archaic, and should be avoided at all costs, they are without a doubt effective. I would say you could take my word for it, but seeing as the only picture I have of myself on the blog is of me in a luchador mask, I can only assume you don’t take anything I say worth a grain of salt. And I can’t blame you for that. Quite honestly if you see that picture of me looking like a knock off Nacho Libre, and you somehow come to the conclusion that you should take any word of mine remotely seriously, then I’m honestly flabbergasted you even posses the mental capacity to read this post.

But fear not. Luckily for my readers (all seven of you), one of my roommates and former high school wrestling teammates, Alex Deatherage, was dumb enough to allow me to put him through a half hour weight cut. That way I could display just how effective some of the cruder weight cutting techniques could be.

At the beginning of the cut, Deatherage weighed a total of 182.4 lbs. I then proceeded to outfit him in traditional desperate weight cutter’s garb. I threw a trash bag over his head, had him step into some sweats and sweatpants, taped his ankles and wrists shut (to keep the heat trapped), and had him don a beanie for good measure.

In that 30 minutes, Deatherage ran about 2 miles, jumped rope for about 7 minutes, and capped it all off by wallowing in his own sweat and pity in our home made sauna. On top of all that, he also was able to fill up darn near a quarter of a water bottle full of spit.

After the quick 30 minutes of hell, I reweighed Deatherage and learned that he had sweat and spit a total of 1.2lbs off.

So obviously the crude tactics work, but that doesn’t make them a good idea. You don’t have to be Stephen Hawking to know that starving and dehydrating yourself to lose weight is a bad idea. If you don’t believe me just watch the Full House episode where DJ passes out on the treadmill because she’s starving herself so she can look skinny for Kimmy Gibbler’s birthday.

So do me a favor and engage in weight cutting safely. The last thing I want for any of my readers is for you to hurt yourself trying look skinny for lame ass Kimmy Gibbler.


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