From the time of a weigh-in to the moment the fight begins, you will often see many fighters go through a tremendous physical transformation. Within a 24 to 30-hour period, they can lose and gain as much as 10 pounds or more, which can be a huge advantage during the fight. While weight cutting is a typical part of many fighters’ game plans, it can be dangerous. Thoughtful, careful weight cutting can reduce the impact this process has on a fighter’s body.

The dangers of weight cutting include damage to the organ systems of the body, particularly the kidneys. In addition, severe weight cutting can increase the risk of injury.

“If you cut too much weight, you can tax the organs,” explains Jeff Clark, an MMA coach and manager at TheArenaMMA in San Diego, California. “The other main problem is that you can lose too much fluid around the brain. This can cause some trauma and make you more susceptible to knock outs.”

In general, it is smart to start thinking about weight cutting about four to six weeks prior to the fight. Your goal is to get as close to the weight limit as possible, to give yourself more space to bulk up after the weigh-in. This means that a fighter typically should be about 7 to 12 pounds higher than fight weight a week prior to the weigh-in date. The best way to get to this point is with a combination of heavy training and eating a healthy and balanced diet that is low in fat.

When you do reach that crucial 7-day mark, the more extreme side of weight cuts begins. One way many fighters begin is by drinking only distilled water. This throws off your body’s PH balance and allows you to quickly remove water from your system. The night before the weigh-in, cut all water and head to the sauna as this will help you quickly strip off the water weight.

After weigh-in, you will have maybe 30 hours at the most to put weight back on rapidly. The safest way to do this is to eat healthy foods, especially fruit and complex carbohydrates. As far as hydration goes, drink small and steady amounts of water, coconut water and electrolyte drinks such as Pedialyte.

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