Weight Loss Strategies in Combat Sports and Concerning Habits in Mixed Martial Arts

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
Restricted access

Purchase article

USD  $24.95

Student 1 year subscription

USD  $107.00

1 year subscription

USD  $142.00

Student 2 year subscription

USD  $203.00

2 year subscription

USD  $265.00

Context: Combat sports are typically divided into weight classes, and body-mass manipulation to reach a weight class is commonplace. Previous research suggests that weight loss practices in mixed martial arts (MMA) may be more extreme than in other combat sports. Purpose: To investigate the magnitude of weight loss and the prevalence of weight loss strategies in different combat sports. Methods: Competitors (N = 637) from Brazilian jiu-jitsu, boxing, judo, MMA, Muay Thai/kickboxing, taekwondo, and wrestling completed an online questionnaire seeking information regarding their weight loss practices. Results: Body-mass manipulation was commonly undertaken by all combat-sport athletes, with a particularly high incidence of gradual dieting, increased exercise, and fluid restriction. Skipping meals was higher in taekwondo and wrestling (84%) compared with the other combat sports (∼58%), whereas training in heated rooms and forced oral fluid loss (spitting) was higher in wrestling (83% and 47%, respectively) compared with other combat sports (∼45% and ∼19%, respectively). MMA athletes reported the highest usage of sauna (76%) and water loading (67%) while also reporting the second-highest use of training in rubber/plastic suits (63%). Conclusions: Body-mass manipulation was present in all combat sports, with the prevalence and magnitude of acute weight loss greater in MMA. The incidence of and practices reported will help support staff be fully aware of the variety of methods these athletes and coaches may use to achieve weight loss. Additionally, the results could aid regulatory bodies in the further development of policies on weight cutting.

The authors are with the Centre for Exercise and Sports Science Research, School of Medical and Health Sciences, Edith Cowan University, Joondalup, WA, Australia. Chapman is also with the Dept of Physiology, Australian Inst of Sport, Bruce, ACT, Australia.

Barley (obarley@our.ecu.edu.au) is corresponding author.
  • 1.

    Reale R, Slater G, Burke L. Acute weight loss strategies for combat sports and applications to Olympic success. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2017;12(2):142151. doi:10.1123/ijspp.2016-0211

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 2.

    Jetton AM, Lawrence MM, Meucci M, et al. Dehydration and acute weight gain in mixed martial arts fighters before competition. J Strength Cond Res. 2013;27(5):13221326. PubMed ID: 23439336 doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e31828a1e91

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 3.

    Garthe I, Raastad T, Sundgot-Borgen J. Long-term effect of weight loss on body composition and performance in elite athletes. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2011;21(5):426435. PubMed ID: 21896944 doi:10.1123/ijsnem.21.5.426

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 4.

    Kiningham RB, Gorenflo DW. Weight loss methods of high school wrestlers. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2001;33(5):810813. PubMed ID: 11323553 doi:10.1097/00005768-200105000-00021

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 5.

    Morton JP, Robertson C, Sutton L, MacLaren DP. Making the weight: a case study from professional boxing. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2010;20(1):8085. PubMed ID: 20190355 doi:10.1123/ijsnem.20.1.80

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 6.

    Crighton B, Close GL, Morton JP. Alarming weight cutting behaviours in mixed martial arts: a cause for concern and a call for action. Br J Sports Med. 2016;50(8):446447. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2015-094732

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 7.

    da Silva Santos JF, Takito MY, Artioli GG, Franchini E. Weight loss practices in taekwondo athletes of different competitive levels. J Exerc Rehabil. 2016;12(3):202. PubMed ID: 27419116 doi:10.12965/jer.1632610.305

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 8.

    Brito CJ, Roas AFCM, Brito ISS, Marins JCB, Córdova C, Franchini E. Methods of body-mass reduction by combat sport athletes. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2012;22(2):8997. PubMed ID: 22349031 doi:10.1123/ijsnem.22.2.89

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 9.

    Reale R, Slater G, Burke LM. Weight management practices of Australian Olympic combat sport athletes. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2018;13:459466. doi:10.1123/ijspp.2016-0553

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 10.

    Artioli GG, Gualano B, Franchini E, et al. Prevalence, magnitude, and methods of rapid weight loss among judo competitors. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2010;42(3):436442. PubMed ID: 19952804 doi:10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181ba8055

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 11.

    Andreato LV, Andreato TV, da Silva Santos JF, Esteves JVDC, de Moraes SMF, Franchini E. Weight loss in mixed martial arts athletes. J Martial Arts Combat Sports. 2014;5(2):125131. doi:10.5604/20815735.1141986

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 12.

    Barley OR, Iredale F, Chapman DW, Hopper A, Abbiss C. Repeat effort performance is reduced 24 h after acute dehydration in mixed martial arts athletes [published online ahead of print September 11, 2017]. J Strength Cond Res. PubMed ID: 28930879 doi:10.1519/JSC.0000000000002249.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 13.

    Hall C, Lane AM. Effects of rapid weight loss on mood and performance among amateur boxers. Br J Sports Med. 2001;35(6):390395. PubMed ID: 11726472 doi:10.1136/bjsm.35.6.390

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 14.

    Moore B, King D, Kesl L, et al. Effect of rapid dehydration and rehydration on work capacity and muscle metabolism during intense exercise in wrestlers. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1992;24(5):95. doi:10.1249/00005768-199205001-00569

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 15.

    Kraft JA, Green JM, Bishop PA, Richardson MT, Neggers YH, Leeper JD. The influence of hydration on anaerobic performance: a review. Res Q Exerc Sport. 2012;83(2):282292. PubMed ID: 22808714

    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 16.

    Oppliger R, Case H, Horswill C, Landry G, Shelter A. American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Weight loss in wrestlers. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1996;28(6):ixxii. PubMed ID: 8926865

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 17.

    Turocy PS, DePalma BF, Horswill CA, et al. National Athletic Trainers’ Association position statement: safe weight loss and maintenance practices in sport and exercise. J Athl Train. 2011;46(3):322336. PubMed ID: 21669104 doi:10.4085/1062-6050-46.3.322

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 18.

    Artioli GG, Scagliusi F, Kashiwagura D, Franchini E, Gualano B, Junior A. Development, validity and reliability of a questionnaire designed to evaluate rapid weight loss patterns in judo players. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2010;20(1):e177187. PubMed ID: 19793217 doi:10.1111/j.1600-0838.2009.00940.x

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 19.

    Schmider E, Ziegler M, Danay E, Beyer L, Bühner M. Is it really robust? Methodology. 2010;6(4):147151. doi:10.1027/1614-2241/a000016

  • 20.

    Sullivan GM, Artino AR Jr. Analyzing and interpreting data from Likert-type scales. J Grad Med Educ. 2013;5(4):541542. PubMed ID: 24454995 doi:10.4300/JGME-5-4-18

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 21.

    Carifio J, Perla R. Resolving the 50‐year debate around using and misusing Likert scales. Med Educ. 2008;42(12):11501152. PubMed ID: 19120943 doi:10.1111/j.1365-2923.2008.03172.x

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 22.

    Norman G. Likert scales, levels of measurement and the “laws” of statistics. Adv Health Sci Educ. 2010;15(5):625632. doi:10.1007/s10459-010-9222-y

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 23.

    Ruxton GD, Beauchamp G. Time for some a priori thinking about post hoc testing. Behav Ecol. 2008;19(3):690693. doi:10.1093/beheco/arn020

  • 24.

    Daniele G, Weinstein RN, Wallace PW, Palmieri V, Bianco M. Rapid weight gain in professional boxing and correlation with fight decisions: analysis from 71 title fights. Phys Sportsmed. 2016;44(4):349354. PubMed ID: 27564844 doi:10.1080/00913847.2016.1228421

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 25.

    Reale R, Cox GR, Slater G, Burke LM. Weight re-gain: not linked to success in a real-life multiday boxing tournament. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2017;12(7):856863. doi:10.1123/ijspp.2016-0311

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 26.

    Franchini E, Brito CJ, Artioli GG. Weight loss in combat sports: physiological, psychological and performance effects. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2012;9(1):52. PubMed ID: 23237303 doi:10.1186/1550-2783-9-52

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 27.

    Cheuvront SN, Kenefick RW, Montain SJ, Sawka MN. Mechanisms of aerobic performance impairment with heat stress and dehydration. J Appl Physiol. 2010;109(6):19891995. PubMed ID: 20689090 doi:10.1152/japplphysiol.00367.2010

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 28.

    Burge CM, Carey MF, Payne WR. Rowing performance, fluid balance, and metabolic function following dehydration and rehydration. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1993;25(12):13581364. PubMed ID: 8107542 doi:10.1249/00005768-199312000-00007

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 29.

    Kraft JA, Green JM, Bishop PA, Richardson MT, Neggers YH, Leeper JD. Effects of heat exposure and 3% dehydration achieved via hot water immersion on repeated cycle sprint performance. J Strength Cond Res. 2011;25(3):778786. PubMed ID: 20512070 doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181c1f79d

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 30.

    Oöpik V, Pääsuke M, Sikku T, et al. Effect of rapid weight loss on metabolism and isokinetic performance capacity. A case study of two well trained wrestlers. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 1996;36(2):127131.

    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 31.

    Kempton MJ, Ettinger U, Schmechtig A, et al. Effects of acute dehydration on brain morphology in healthy humans. Hum Brain Mapp. 2009;30(1):291298. PubMed ID: 18064587 doi:10.1002/hbm.20500

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 32.

    Hutchison MG, Lawrence DW, Cusimano MD, Schweizer TA. Head trauma in mixed martial arts. Am J Sports Med. 2014;42(6):13521358. PubMed ID: 24658345 doi:10.1177/0363546514526151

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 33.

    Artioli GG, Saunders B, Iglesias RT, Franchini E. It is time to ban rapid weight loss from combat sports. Sports Med. 2016;46(11):15791584. PubMed ID: 27102173 doi:10.1007/s40279-016-0541-x

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 1773 1773 290
Full Text Views 75 75 4
PDF Downloads 55 55 5