Some athletes can not pursue sport effectively without cutting weight. Athletes that carry more weight are prone to injury while performing sport specific tasks. Boxers and wrestlers weigh in the day before their big tournament, and in order to fight in a specific weight bracket, the athlete must weigh in range of the weight limits. Unfortunately, athletes and non-athletes fall short to the quick fixes that are on the market which results in some form of a starvation type diet. The recommended consumption of calories for an athlete is “no less than 30 kcal per kilogram of body weight daily” (Dunford, 2010, para. 3). “As a rule of thumb, 1 pound (0.5 kg) of body fat contains about 3,500 kcal. Mathematically, if a person reduced food intake and increased exercise by a combined 500 kcal daily, then in seven days’ time he or she would lose 1 pound of body fat” (Dunford, 2010, para. 1). Evident risks are associated with significant weight loss and weight cutting in sport. These risks typically resort from increased activity and decreased nutrition (fuel for the body)- or both. Although coaches and athletes might notice a small change during this process, the change can cause serious health related issues. When athletes are asked to lose weight, coaches should really be asking them to lose fat, and preserve muscle. The basic concept an athlete has of losing weight is to eat minimal, and workout excessively- which results in body fatigue, muscle depletion, and several other possible risk factors.
Dangerous Weight Cutting
Holm is one of the best female boxers and has been cutting weight for several years to reach her ultimate goals. She has set a serious example for alike athletes pushing her body to extremes and losing weight, quickly. With this being said, Holmes feels most comfortable if she can be within 10 pounds of her weight the day of weigh-in. This means, at times she must lose up to 10 pounds in a 24-hour window, which is often done in the sauna. Female athletes who maintain a low body fat percentage can be at risk for long term repercussions such as reproductive system difficulties. Muscle fatigue, breaking bones, and dehydration are common factors among overtrained athletes that are not caring for their bodies properly. Healthy bone density and strength are produced from fat cells that produce estrogen in the body (Huang, 2014).
Ample evidence suggest that weight cycling is dangerous and can lead to glycogen depletion, lower muscle mass, lower resting energy expenditure, and an increase in an athlete’s body fat (Benardot, 2012). Water weight is an important factor for athletes to consider while cutting weight. In order for the human body to stay alive, it must have plenty of water. Water helps keeps every cell, tissue, and organ in the body fully functionable. Water regulates the body temperature, it helps remove unwanted waste, and also helps lubricate joints (Family Doctor, 2010).
Safe Weight Loss
Should an athlete undergo a desire to change their nutrition during training season, the athlete should consult with a qualified healthcare professional for a healthy and successful meal plan. In doing so, the athlete will avoid any conflict that may arise from drastic weight cutting and water depletion. There are several ways that athletes can lose weight safely. Intaking lean protein (fish, chicken), remove added sugar from food consumed, keep track of when food is consumed, weight should be stable during the season, and stay hydrated and motivated (Guerra, 2014). In doing so, the athlete will avoid possible stress fractures, modifications in metabolic weight, altered hormonal milieu, and reduced muscle mass (Benardot, 2012).
The CSAC (California State Athletic Commissions) passed a law that bans athletes the ability to cut weight by severe dehydration. Dehydration and weight cutting are common among athletes that are engaged in boxing and wrestling (mixed martial arts) style sports. Several doctors have witnessed dehydrated athletes entering into competition, and rapidly re-hydrating, which has increased the possibilities of concussions and traumatic brain injury from confused athletes. The ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) has made it aware for all coaching and medical staff that weight cutting among athletes can be conflicting with regular growth patterns, physical health, and performance. With this being said, coaches and athletes must take preventative measures towards healthy weight loss before training season occurs; to help reduce these unnecessary risks. A helpful tool for athletes is to try and maintain competitive weight year around, this way, less stress is imposed on the body during training season. Athletes and coaches should always seek professional medical advice when an athlete needs to cut weight during training. Dietitians and nutritionists help athletes maintain a healthy and much needed nutritional meal plan that will keep the athlete fully fueled and hydrated in and out of season.
Benardot, D. (2012). Advanced sports nutrition (2nd ed). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
Dunford, M. (2010). How can athletes reduce body fat? Retrieved from http://www.humankinetics.com/excerpts/excerpts/how-can-athletes-reduce-body-fat
Family Doctor. (2010, January). Hydration: Why It’s So Important. Retrieved from http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/prevention-wellness/food-nutrition/nutrients/hydration-why-its-so-important.html
Guerra, K. (2014, June 22). 6 Do’s and Don’ts for Athletes Losing Weight. Retrieved from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/2014/07/losing-weight-while-maintaining-athletic-performance/
Huang, M. (2014, October 17). The Truth About MMA’s Dangerous Weight Game. Retrieved from http://espn.go.com/espnw/news-commentary/article/11711953/the-truth-mma-dangerous-weight-game