As an avid fan of everything martial arts, I found myself watching UFC 194 this weekend, whereby Connor McGregor knocked out Jose Aldo in 13 seconds. As I joined the women from Winnipeg Women’s Kickboxing to watch the fight card, we were discussing how McGregor looked “aged” at the weigh-ins on Friday. Often fighters have to drop massive amounts of weight leading up to a fight so they can fight at a set goal weight. You hear of fighters who walk around at 240 lbs dropping to 205 within 6 – 8 weeks for a fight. And it is not just men – the women are following this same regime with massive weight loss and gain.
So what is this massive weight loss and gain REALLY doing to your body? It is much more than simple dehydration leading up to the fights. This can lead to long-term issues with your liver, kidneys, and much more. In fact, just this week fighter Jianbing Yang died trying to make weight for his fight in Manila. This massive shock to your system CAN kill you. And here is why.
Let’s start with the dehydration piece. Often fighters will workout in sauna suits or in actual saunas to sweat out the water in their bodies in order to make weight. And they are obviously not drinking anything to bring that back into their systems. Consequences of dehydration include muscle spasms, kidney dysfunction, dangerous reactions to medications, infections, seizures, hospitalization, coma and death.
There are numerous side effects to rapid weight loss as well. These include:
- Fatigue – mentally and physically
- Menstrual irregularities
- Hair loss
- Liver damage – short and long term
Moreover, gallstones are a common side effect of rapid weight loss. If severe, this may require removal of your gall bladder. In addition, you are not losing fat, rather your body’s water is being deprived into dehydration and you are losing lean muscle tissue and bone. Now imagine as an athlete who is going to have to face an opponent for a grueling fight, to have lost actual muscle and bone the weeks leading up to the fight. Not only are you putting your body into jeopardy in those weeks, but now you are putting your body into a ring and having someone hit you hard. Your defense will simply not be as sharp due to the muscle loss and your risk of injury is much higher due to this and the bone loss. Sounds pretty dangerous doesn’t it?
Cutting weight for fighters is part of the game. I hope this blog can provide some forethought to the fighters and trainers in Canada when it comes to the risks involved. In terms of a solution that is realistic, I would suggest staying within ten pounds of your fight weight. This reduces your risk to the numerous dangers mentioned above, and will allow for you to concentrate on your training and skill, not just about the number on the scale. You will fight stronger – there is no doubt about it. Being an athlete is about more than a number on a scale. It’s about being a healthy human being. And please remember an athlete eats and trains. An athlete does not diet and exercise.