Cutting Weight in Combat Sports Indira Moores Lo-Ellen Park Secondary School Contents Cutting Weight in Combat Sports3 Cutting Weight in General3 Effects of Extreme Weight Cuts4 Effects on Growth and Development5 Proper Techniques5 Effects on Performance6 Average Cuts7 Prevention of Weight Cutting8 Conclusion8 Works Cited10 Cutting Weight in Combat Sports It is a known fact that to be a competitor at an elite level, one must work hard and make sacrifices. There are many examples of hard working athletes shown through the media.
Most of these examples, however, tend to focus on a select few professional sports like hockey, football, basketball and amateur sports like figure skating and track and field. Many other sports, are sometimes recognized as being an elite level, but are not nearly as understood because they do not get the exposure from the media, that more ‘popular’ sports do. A lot of combat sports, including wrestling, fall in to this category. Wrestling gets a limited media exposure compared to more popular sports, and as a result, is not well understood.
For example, at the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008, Canada earned its first gold medal by wrestler Carol Hyun at weight 49 kg. Yet wrestling was generally not covered extensively over most television networks, (Yardly, 2008). Because combat sports aren’t generally media-popular sports, they are often not understood, which leads to some misconceptions. For instance, they are viewed as more violent compared to other contact sports such as hockey or football, or that it requires less training, (Bina, 2011).
However, one of the biggest misconceptions, and the one I am choosing to focus on is that cutting weight, in a sport such as wrestling, is an unhealthy component of the sport with detrimental consequences. That’s not to say that there aren’t extreme examples of dangerous and reckless weight cutting with dire consequences. However weight cutting, when monitored and executed properly, is just another example of hard work and sacrifices that must be made within the sport. Cutting Weight in General Most combat sports are divided into weight classes. This gives athletes the advantage of competing against someone who is relatively their own size.
Rather than having a 190 pound athlete compete against a 130 pound athlete. The competitors attend a weigh- in session in which the athletes are weighed and are grouped in to the listed weight class. This is where the concept of cutting weight comes in. Instead of wrestling someone your own size, why not lose weight and wrestle somebody who is smaller? This thought process has become very popular in recent years with wrestlers, especially in North America. Cutting weight is known as the process of losing a lot of weight in a short amount of time.
If it is only a few pounds, losing the weight is fairly easy, but if the athlete is trying to drop multiple weight classes in a few days that is when issues arise. Unfortunately, the small amount of attention from the media that wrestling receives is mainly focused on the most extreme cases and negative cases, where athletes refuse liquids for hours, food for days and wear multiple layers of clothing to sweat out the weight. In some cases athletes are dressed in sweat suits and sit in steam rooms at ridiculously high temperatures in attempts to lose the weight.
The media has brought the attention to the deaths and the injuries instead of focusing more on the good of the sport. When the process of cutting weight is only viewed in such a negative way, it’s easy to assume that it can be very detrimental to anyone’s body. Effects of Extreme Weight Cuts These extreme cases that the media has focused on are, of course, very unfortunate. These cuts have very harmful effects on the body. First of all, there is the obvious fact that the body is being dehydrated. Dehydration alone, causes the body to be tired and sleepy, causes the body to have a ard time concentrating and can be easily stressed, (Matheney, 2010). An athlete is also more prone to being injured when they are dehydrated, (Matheney, 2010). Dehydration causes the organs in the body to work harder to continue their bodily functions. Examples of this are the heart and the kidneys. The heart pumps blood all over the body after it has been oxygenized. Without the necessary amount of water in the body, the heart has to pump stronger and more often, causing it to be over worked. The kidneys filter waste products from the blood stream and without water it cannot filter properly.
As a result, dehydration can cause kidney and heart failure. There are also reports of harming the liver during the process of cutting weight, (McAllister,2011). Aside from the physical effects, there are some mental effects on the body as well. Refusing foods and liquids days before a weigh in can increase an athlete’s risk of an eating disorder. Although, it is not necessarily because of the media and pressures to look a certain way, it is caused by the pressures of the team, coaches and themselves to weigh a certain weight.
There is also the possibility of hormone imbalances which cause mood swings and depression in athletes, (Matheny, 2010). Effects on Growth and Development Younger, maturing athletes who cut large amounts of weight are more likely to experience hormone imbalances, which is caused by under nutrition. As a result the body’s growth hormone gets altered, which may cause permanent growth impairment if it is repeated over many seasons of wrestling, (Cochan, 2011. ) Any dietary restrictions in children who compete can also be harmful.
Children, especially those who compete in intense levels of physical activity need a variety of nutrients. Since they are still growing and developing, many fats and carbohydrates are needed to keep the body fueled. If not, dietary restrictions may also reduce protein nutrition and muscular performance, (Health Canada, 2011). Proper Techniques Although cutting weight will never be considered something extremely healthy, there are methods of cutting weight that do less harm to the body. People can cut weight properly over a long period of time through dieting and water manipulation.
A simple low carb diet can help anybody two to three pounds per week. As long as the diet is still feeding the body the necessary nutrients, like water, only a small and necessary amount carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals, it will still have enough energy to exercise intensely and slowly lose weight, (Landry, 2009). For example, after an intense workout or practice, eating a fruit would benefit the body. The simple sugars are carbohydrates that help replenish muscles after being worked very hard. This can be consumed instead of a calorie-high and carb-loaded protein drink.
Another way losing weight that is less harmful to the body is known as water manipulation. Athletes are able to “trick” their body into thinking that it is consuming more water, then it actually is. For example, in the week leading up to the weigh in, for two days an athlete will drink eight litres of water. He or she will let the body adjust to this enormous amount of water being consumed. Naturally, the body will rid the excess water. After the two days, he or she will cut down to four litres, which is still a large amount.
The body is still taking in more water than necessary, and is still ridding a large amount. This can help an athlete lose from 5-7 pounds in the days leading up to a weigh in. Effects on Performance After being dehydrated for an extended period of time, the body takes a prolonged time to rehydrate. According to The Wrestler Diet, by Roger Landry and others, the body intakes “only about two pints [of water] per hour, and takes up to 48 hours for the water balance tissue in your muscles to be restored,”. Different bodies, however, react differently.
Athletes who have been dieting responsibly and are used to competing may be more familiar with restoring their bodies before a tournament. Ioannis Barbas did a study on twelve Greco – Roman wrestlers and how they recovered from the average weight cutting process during the tournament. Through his study he discovered a number of things like which matches in the day were the hardest for most athletes – that being the fourth match- , when the athletes found themselves most tired and so on. He did this by recording performance measurements, muscle damage assessments, and blood sampling before and after every match.
He also found that these wrestlers were able to overcome weight loss routines before tournaments and preform very well and up to their usual abilities. Another factor that may affect the performances of combat sport competitors may be improper diets. Other professional and amateur sports that do not focus on weight have the advantage of consuming many high calorie and high carb foods that would fuel the body with necessary nutrients during their competition. Meanwhile, athlete who are concerned about their weight are restricting these types of foods so he or she can make the desired weight class.
In other words, these athletes are not getting proper nutrients, which may affect the athlete’s performance, (Smith). However, if the athlete loses the weight responsibly and avoids dehydration as much as possible, the recovery should be maximal. If an athlete has been dehydrated for a short period of time, and rehydrates with water and electrolytes after the weigh in the negative effects should be minimal, (Barbas, 2010). Average Cuts The average amount of weight that is cut by athletes strongly depends on the sport, and the level of competition.
For example, professional UFC fighters are going to cut more than a rookie high school wrestler. Professional UFC fighters are known to cut anywhere from 20 to 45 pounds, (Wong, 2010). This is an extremely large amount, but most of it is done over a long period of time and carefully, considering this is what they do as a profession. High school and university level wrestlers could drop a simple five pounds to 15 pounds over time, (McAllister, 2011). Prevention of Weight Cutting With the number of deaths and injuries that have occurred from athletes cutting weight, there had to be changes made.
The consequences of cutting weight are very extreme, yet many athletes continue to do so in a very reckless way. In the United States, collegiate wrestling competitions have changed the weigh in date from the evening before the competition, to the day of the competition. This helps reduce the chance of athletes cutting weight by giving them less time to recover after dehydration and starvation. The less time to recover, the less likely the athlete will perform well, and therefore an athlete is less likely to cut. The NCAA has also recently taken many steps to reduce the chances of athletes cutting weight.
They have banned competitors of practicing in a room that is hotter than 80 degrees Fahrenheit, self – induced vomiting, and extensive fluid and/or food restrictions, (Loma, 2010). Another common restriction that has been made is the banning of sauna suits. This is a decent compromise to athletes because the act of weight cutting can still be done, but in a much less dangerous way. Sauna suits are very dangerous and can easily overheat an athlete. Conclusion Cutting weight is an unhealthy part of combat sports. Nonetheless, it is a part of the sport.
Unfortunately, the small amount of attention the media gives to these combat sports, such as wrestling, tend to be more negative and focused on extreme cases of athletes cutting large amounts of weight. As a result of the lack of attention, the sports are not thoroughly understood, particularly the concept of cutting weight. Cutting weight does have detrimental effects on the body, especially young, growing children. But if it is executed properly, then the negative effects are negligible. If athletes do monitor their weight cutting process over time and very carefully, they will be able to compete near their fullest potential.
If cutting weight, and other misconceptions about combat sports had more exposure, it would be understood that cutting weight is just another part of the sport that demonstrates hard work and extreme sacrifices. Works Cited Barbas, I. , (Nov 27th, 2010). , Physiological and performance adaptations of elite Greco-Roman wrestlers during a one-day tournament. , Retrieved from http://www. fila-official. com/images/FILA/documents/stages/2010/Barbas_physiological_performance_adaptations_gr. pdf on Feb 20th, 2012. Bina, A. , (Feb 2011). , Why is College Wrestling Unpopular? Retrieve from
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