Thursday, November 20, 2014

Cutting Weight for Competitions

Without fail, every time a martial arts tournament is around the corner, at least a few people ask me what the best way to cut weight or what to day pre/day of competition. I always give the same answer: "You're too late." 

Waiting until the last 2 weeks to figure out how to cut several kilos, or how your body reacts to which foods after you've been depleting it of energy sources, or how your performance will be affected by weight cut methods and day of stupid. This should be something that's experimented with several weeks in advanced. It takes discipline, time, and writing things down to figure this kind of stuff out. And then there's the whole competition day jitters and how to handle that adrenaline. Not to mention what to eat post-competition, so that your body doesn't freak out and re-gain ALL of the weight you just took 3 weeks to cut, back in the first day or two (not even exaggerating)! 

So how do you do it? Sorry, that's not for this post (you'd have to ask me in person for this one). This post is for what I think of cutting weight specifically for sports competition purposes. 

Frankly, I think it's stupid. I've competed in probably close to 70 martial arts competitions, all which required me to be in a certain weight division. (For those who don't know why people cut weight for these things, it's so that you're the biggest person in your division, so you have a weight/size advantage). I've had to cut anywhere from 2 lbs to 16 lbs, and found out that my body retains water like a champ. I've spent the same 2 hours in a sauna with a sweat suit and albolene smeared all over me and would only lose half a pound, .7 at most. In comparison, I've seen people lose 10 pounds in that same 2 hours. Ridiculous. And anytime I'm cutting weight, or watching my diet so I don't gain back to my healthy weight, my body feels like crap, I get cranky, and all I can think about is food. Training is no longer fun, and everything I do ends up being for the upcoming competition. Comp day, I typically felt tired, and didn't have sufficient energy during my fights. Sounds like a shit deal, right? So why did I do it? My coach told me it was a mental game, and that's what needed to be done to win. So did everyone else. So I did it. 

As an adult, I've competed a multitude of times. And I've only cut weight twice. I refuse to do it anymore. I know the affects it has on my body, my mind, and my life, and I refuse to let it into my life again. Not even 2 pounds. If/when I compete again, it'll be at the weight I walk at. I feel stronger, I enjoy training, I'm happier, I feel better during the competitions (so if I lose, it was because of skill, not lack of energy...side note, it's supposed to be a competition of skill at a martial art, not a competition of how well you can cut weight), and my body likes it so much more, because I'm not creating that intense stress of "starve yourself, but train like you're going to fight for your life....and then when you're depleted of your body's energy supply, actually fight for your life...a few the same day...and then binge on everything delicious." Yea, you gain all the weight back. And it's all fat and water. And you probably lost a good amount of muscle during that cut. 

I'm sure you've heard about how yo-yo dieting is the best way to gain fat? Well, cutting weight for competitions is exactly that. And guess what, it gets harder and harder to lose that weight every time. And when you've decided to be done cutting weight, your brain doesn't know that, and will have a hell of a time getting to a healthy set point for your weight and body composition.

The way that I think about it now is that sports and competitions are my hobby. They're for fun. I don't make any money off of it. But if I let it get to the point where it negatively affects my ability to do the rest of the things in my life (like my job or my family), then it's time for a reassessment. 

Unless someone's paying me (a significant amount of money) to fight at a weight that's not my current weight, I won't do it. Even then, I still might not. I've learned the importance of making my body happy, and not confusing the hell out of it by depriving it and then putting it in a gluttonous state several times a year. Give me my food back, give me my sanity back, give me my life back. Training is fun again, and life is good :)

*note: During my last time cutting weight, I finally got smart about it and developed a 2-week pre-competition nutritional/training program that my body actually likes, and can be used to cut some decent weight without any of the bad affect of traditional weight cutting, so if you want that, you can ask me for it. 

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