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

Introduction

The overall purpose of this research is to investigate the extent of weight loss and the popularity of weight loss strategies in different combat sports. Almost every combat sport has different weight classes that holds competitors at certain weights to make sure competition is fair and to keep them safe. This leads to certain strategies being constructed so that one fighter can potentially have an advantage over the other.

Methods

The researchers used a survey to conduct their research. They used a previously used survey developed and validated for Judo. The survey was altered by replacing the Judo language with a more general language pertaining to all combat sports. The modified survey was then given to 637 athletes that ranged from wrestling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to Boxing, Taekwondo and MMA. The survey asked athletes certain questions including, their weight, height, competitive level, dietary history, etc. The survey also contained questions about their weight loss journey before the weigh ins and after. The survey was conducted using Qualtrics online questionnaire software and the study was approved by the Human Research Ethics Committee of the host institution in Australia.

Results

The research found that 85% of all fighters used some type of weight loss treatment prior to their weigh ins. Most of the fighters began to lose weight 14-28 days before the official weigh ins. Overall, the average weight lost for all combat fighters was around 6% body weight, while MMA was more than 11.5% body weight. After the competition, fighters reported that they gained back all of their original weight seven days after the competition. Dieting, restricting fluids, and exercise were the most common strategies used to lose weight.

Discussion

The findings show that almost all combat sports use some type of weight manipulation to try to gain an advantage during the competition. It was also confirmed that MMA took weight loss before the weigh ins to the extreme by losing almost twice as much weight as other combat sports. It also confirmed that increased exercise and manipulating fluid intake were the common methods used to lose weight.

The information gathered in the research gives us a better understanding of the strategies different combat sports and athletes use to lose weight prior to weigh-ins. The research also agreed with previous research suggesting that MMA weight cutting strategies were more extreme than other combat sports it also lets us know more details about the strategies used that could potentially be dangerous to the athletes.

Conclusions

The authors conclude that manipulating weight to be within a certain weight class in most combat sports, ranging from MMA to boxing to wrestling, is commonplace and the norm for combat sports’ culture. Athletes commonly use several strategies that could potentially put their health at risk and that could also negatively affect their performance.

Importance

The overall importance of this research done is essential for developing regulations to keep athletes safe while they lose weight in the weeks or months leading up to their weigh ins and competitions. It also informs coaches and competitors to make informed decisions for an athlete’s future and competitive success.

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