By: Christina Sears
With obesity on the rise, people are always looking for the quickest diet to trim down, and tone up. But what about those who are already in great shape? Athletes that need to maintain a specific weight to participate in the sport they are competing in?
Athletes like boxers, wrestlers, judo players, rowers, weight lifters and mixed martial arts fighters are all athletes who have to go through the process of “cutting weight.”
Cutting weight is when an athlete rapidly loses weight to make a specific weight class for competition. It’s the subject of intense controversy, yet is the reality for these athletes.
Nick Cipriano has coached the McMaster wrestling team for the past 25 years and says these athletes can’t take the risk that everyone won’t play by the rules.
“No one person can take the risk that we all agree to weigh in at natural weight. We are all fearful that somebody is going to cheat, somebody is going to cut weight to get an advantage” says Cipriano.
He says that if your natural weight is 150 pounds and you’re competing against someone who’s natural weight is 165 pounds, but they certify their weight at 150 pounds for the ten seconds they step on the scale, when you compete against them a day or two days later they will be bigger and stronger.
Some athletes are reported to lose up to one to two pound every half hour, after already losing 21 or so pounds in a 10 — 13 week period. Athletes will use rubber suits called sauna suits, some will stop eating or dehydrate themselves, others will go to the extreme and use a diuretic like x-lax.
Rory McDonell is a pro mixed martial arts fighter with a wrestling background and is very familiar with the process. He admits he did cut weight in high school but says he went about cutting weight in the wrong way.
“It’s been a learning experience, and I started out doing trial and error stuff. I remember the very first time I cut weight I was trying to drop three or four pounds and it was horrible because I ate in the morning, and I was trying to cut weight using a garbage bag to sweat and I really didn’t know what I was doing and I didn’t recover properly” he says
But in his transition to mixed martial arts (MMA) McDonell did speak to a nutritionist, to help with cutting the weight and his recovery plan. The recovery plan is very important with MMA fighters it allows them to put all the minerals and nutrients back into their body before fight time.
Teenagers at high school level wrestling should be cautioned to avoid losing weight too rapidly or too excessively the way adult athletes may do.
Their bodies require additional nutrients to grow. And weight-cutting can interfere with their physical development.
Adam Morden is a personal trainer at Steel City Cross Fit in Dundas. He says he isn’t concerned with the high level, pro and elite athletes cutting weight for competition he says its high school wrestlers he’s concerned about.
“I don’t see any reason why at high school anyone should be cutting weight, it really doesn’t make any sense to me that the level of competition isn’t high enough. Non-competitive college type wrestling, really not to much point cutting a lot of weight, because of heath risks” says Morden.
In the U.S. at higher levels of competition there are strict rules and regulations about cutting weight due to three collegiate wrestlers dieing in 1997 due to rapid weight loss.
Coach Cipriano says in Canada, there are no set rules or regulations, simply guidelines athletes cutting weight should follow.
“The use of sauna’s or any kind of aparatus that you wish to facilitate weight loss is illegal. At the university level its decouraged, but there isn’t any set policy on it. And certainly at the olympic level there is no specific policy on weight loss. It becomes a very individual thing” he says.
Sheldon Francis is an accomplished wrestler from McMaster University and has experienced Olympic level wrestling training. He says that if a wrestler is in great shape the weight will just come off.
“When I was in really good shape leading up to the Olympic trials and I had to make my weight, it just flew off. It was so easy because your boy is burning things so efficiently and so high that you lose so much weight just doing regular things when you’re in really good shape” says Francis.
He says when you’re not in good shape and you try and lose that kind of weight it’s a shock to the system, it’s a shock to your body and that’s where some athletes run into complications and problems.
Although this seems unheard of and redicilous, Francis says that its called “cutting weight,” he says an athlete just loses the weight for that brief half hour or five minutes they step on the scale. As soon as these athletes rehydrate themselves they will right back up to their natural weight.
Contact Christina Sears regarding the above editorial via email at [email protected].