Cutting Weight for MMA versus Losing Weight

Cutting weight vs. Losing Weight in martial arts training

There is a huge misconception in martial arts and MMA training that fighters are able to rapidly lose weight in the last few weeks of training before a fight. Sometimes this is the case where they burn fat off, but when a fighter drops 10-20 pounds of weight 1-2 weeks before a fight, it’s rarely fat that they are losing. Chances are fighters are already in peak shape leading up to a fight (and if not, they should be), but when they really need to cut, they are losing primarily water weight. If you are looking for long-term sustainable weight loss, you DO NOT want to follow these tactics. Cutting weight like a fighter can be highly taxing on your body, and can lead to long-term problems if you are consistently training this way. Most fighters put a lot of weight back on IMMEDIATELY following a fight, or even within a few hours of weigh-in, because they are rapidly rehydrating. So it’s important to determine a long-term plan.

cutting weight

Click the image to get this blueprint for cutting weight

Step 1 for cutting weight:

Assess yourself. See a doctor, personal trainer, or physiotherapist and get an accurate measurement of body composition. You can do this with a bodpod, bio-electrical impedance scale, or calipers. A good personal trainer should be able to do this, and many gyms and fitness centers do complimentary assessments. Your goal should be 10% if you’re male or about 15-18% if you’re female. If you are any higher, your body just isn’t going to be as efficient in regards to strength and endurance. This is not just for fighters. Excess fat is literally dead weight. It does nothing but put extra stress on your body. It may keep you warm in winter, but if you’re not in danger of starvation or freezing to death, this is the range you want to be in to start cutting weight.

Step 2 for cutting weight:

Get on a plan to get where you need to be. If you’re already at 10%, stay there. If not, identify what you need to adjust to get down there before cutting weight for your fight. Look at your nutrition. It’s a tough balancing act. You need to make sure that you’re eating enough to make it through your workouts and making consistent improvement, but not so much that you’re gaining weight. Measure this consistently. Don’t count calories. It’s a highly inaccurate measurement when cutting weight. Many factors including size, quality, and origin can affect caloric value. Mass and volume, however, are more reliable ways to measure your food.  For example, most proteins come in 4-8 ounce portions. They’re usually measured at the store, 4 oz burgers, 8 oz chicken breasts, etc. This is the perfect range of protein for a single meal. If you are trying to bulk up, eat toward the higher end, or more. If you are trying to cut, eat more toward 4 ounces. That’s about the size of your palm, and about as thick as a deck of cards. 8 oz is about the size of your full hand. Try to stay in this range to maintain weight. Stay on the lower end to cut, or go beyond if you want to gain weight. Vegetables are practically free calories if you plan to cut (if you cook them right). Carbs vary based on your goals and target for cutting weight.

Step 3 for cutting weight:

Tweak. Try a certain portion size for all of your meals, and monitor your weight for a week. If at the end of the week, you’re not where you want to be, then you need to cut down your protein and carb intake. Vegetables don’t need to be cut unless you’re in the last 2-3 days before weigh-in, and you’re cutting weight in water. But for fat loss, you want 2-3 cups of veggies in each meal. Monitor your progress with your weight, body fat % and your energy levels. Note how you feel for the day and during your workouts. There’s a lot of science going on in your body, and you need to balance your target for cutting weight with performance. Once you’re at the target body fat % and conditioning goals, you can begin the cutting weight for your fight.

It’s a very useful tactic to learn to manage how you are cutting weight, but not all fighters have the time or energy to dedicate to learning this. And if you’re only a few weeks out from a fight, you don’t have time for a crash course on cutting weight. That’s ok. You’re training hard, and you should commit to that. That’s why people specialize in certain fields. You should have a variety of coaches that lay the plan out for YOU. That’s why my friend, MMA strength and Conditioning coach Eric Wong put together this Blueprint for cutting weight in MMA. If you want to save the time on energy and planning, Eric has already done all the work for you. Click here to check it out.


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