Weight cutting: Sport scientists investigate fighters' 'water loading' before bouts
By Jonathon Gul
Scientists at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) are investigating a weight-loss method used in boxing, wrestling and mixed martial arts (MMA) that involves loading up on water before a bout.
The method, called weight cutting, has been used frequently by combat athletes around the world for decades, so they "make weight" for lighter divisions.
Reid Reale from the AIS is running the study, which involves monitoring athletes across several disciplines, who have been brought to Canberra for testing.
"Some athletes go the extreme of drinking excess volumes of fluid, hypothetically to up regulate renal hormones, and the excretion of water," he said.
The theory behind the method is that by drinking excess water for several days, and then dehydrating the body, additional fluids will be stripped away, leaving the fighter lean and light.
"Say that I weigh in Friday night, we'll water load from Tuesday, Wednesday, and about up to Thursday afternoon," MMA athlete Robbie Paraha said.
"And then I'll have say 600 mils [mL] to last me that night, and then Friday will basically be ice cubes, if I need, worst case scenario."
'There's been no research on whether this works or not'
Mr Reale said despite the practice being widespread, particularly in MMA athletes, no thorough study of its effectiveness for weight loss, or its impact on performance, had been done.
"There was one survey which was conducted in the UK, which showed that 60 per cent of MMA athletes use this," he said.
"There's been absolutely no research to look at whether or not this actually works or not, the performance implications, or the underlying mechanisms."
Jiu jitsu athlete Kain Karnis from Victoria said the fluid intake, diet, sleep patterns and blood tests of the group have been closely monitored.
"We're also on a low residual diet, which is, we're pretty much losing weight from our bowels, because of the fibre that stuck in our guts," he said.
Ian Dunican from the AIS said sleep patterns have a major impact on athletes' performance levels, and drinking excess water could have a negative effect.
"Basically what we're trying to see is when the athletes drink this high quality or high volume of water during the day, is there an effect on overnight sleep," he said.
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