Drop Those Quarantine Pounds
As we're all stuck inside for quarantine and all of our favorite BJJ and MMA events are canceled for the foreseeable future, I'm sure I'm not the only one who's slowly but surely stacking on the pounds. I'm staying active (boxing and hangboarding, mostly) but there's only so much you can do at home without a home gym setup.
So, the odds are good that when BJJ tournaments are back up and running, I'll be a few pounds overweight. And I know I won't be only one. So, today, I want to share my tried-and-true weight cut science with you all. I'm gonna show you my weight cut technique along with different ways you can make it less severe if you don't need to drop as much. If taken to the fullest extent, a man my size can drop at least 15-20+ pounds in a week, and be back to full fighting power by Saturday. I once used it to go from 196 pounds to 178 pounds in 6 days.
My knowledge comes from my own experience, that of my teammates, my coaches' wealth of knowledge, and extensive research looking for every possible way to cut an extra pound or two.
So, what's the technique?
For the week schedule, we're assuming a Friday weigh in and a Saturday tournament. Adjust as necessary. And if you're weighing in the day of the tournament (like you would for IBJJF), this is a bad idea because you won't rehydrate in time.
Step 1: Find your target.
This part's easy. You gotta know what weight you're at, what weight you need to be at, how much the difference is in pounds and how much it is by percent. I weigh about 190 pounds. If I drop 20 pounds, that's 11% of my weight. If a girl who weighs 130 drops 20 pounds, that's closer to 16%! It's much easier for bigger people (and men!) to drop weight than it is for smaller people. In my experience, this technique will cut about 15% of your weight. Any more than that, you're starting to play with fire and if you need to drop that much in a week you're probably a professional and don't need to read this anyway.
Step 2: Plan your water.
A lot of people know that they need to cut out water. Water weight is the easiest kind of weight to drop out and refill. But not as many people know that as you start to dehydrate, your body starts to hold on to that water weight. If you're drinking a gallon or more of water a day, you'll actually hold on to that water less than if you aren't hydrated enough.
So, that in mind, here's how I plan my water intake:
Sunday: 2 gallons
Monday: 1 gallon
Tuesday: 1 gallon
Wednesday: 1/2 gallon
Thursday: 1 quart
Friday: None. A sip or two, maybe.
I do the "water load" on Sunday because it gets my body into flushing mode. Make sure you drink at least a gallon of water a day before starting the cut on Sunday. This will really get your body into flushing mode and make your cut more effective.
Contrary to popular belief, your morning coffee won't dehydrate you. It's the resultant lack of water that does. So include the water in your morning coffee in your water totals. If it's a really steep cut, I stick to espresso. If it's a routine cut that isn't awful, I'll enjoy a good cup or two of strong coffee every morning.
Step 3: Cut Salt and Carbs
This is a huge portion of a good weight cut. For every 1 gram of carbs that your body stores as glycogen, about 2.5 grams of water are retained as well. You want to deplete your body's glycogen stores throughout the week to drop the water. So, drop the carbs around Monday or Tuesday. If you're keto or carnivore, you won't be holding on to that water anyway and as such won't be able to cut as much weight.
Salt is similar. Eating salt forces your body to hang on to water as well. I usually cut salt on Tuesday or Wednesday, depending on how much weight I need to drop.
If you really need to squeak out every pound, cut out carbs and salt on Sunday and let it ride. You'll feel absolutely terrible by weigh-ins, but it might be exactly what you need.
Step 4: Execute
A lot of fighters say that the weight cut is the hardest part. I wholeheartedly agree. Cutting weight is no easy task, and it's definitely a war of attrition. Your head is pounding, you're weak, you start to second guess yourself, and come Friday, you don't even know if you're gonna wake up on weight! Hold the line. It'll work.
Step 5: What if you still need to cut a few on Friday?
This is where things can get dangerous. One of my teammates once dropped 15 pounds in a day for an Invicta fight. My coach almost had to take her to the hospital for organ failure, but she made it through okay. Do not take this lightly.
If you have access to one, a sauna is a great way to sweat out the water and is widely used. There's something better though:
A really f*cking hot bath. Most home bath tubs don't get hot enough, so fill a pot with water and throw that sucker on the stove. While that's boiling, fill up the bath with the hottest water you've got. Pour the boiling water into the tub, then let it cool until you can barely handle it. Obviously you don't want to burn yourself. It should be cool enough to not damage your skin, otherwise it'll hurt really bad, ruin the whole cut, and be a generally terrible experience. But you should be uncomfortable. You know that feeling when you get into a hot tub that's too hot to sit in for more than a few minutes? That's what you want.
Sit in the bath for 15-20 minutes. You should be sweating profusely. I can not stress this enough: make sure you have someone watching you. When my roommate did this for a tournament last year, he almost passed out getting out of the tub.
Get out of the tub every 15-20 and check your weight. Keep the water hot as long as you need, but once you're on weight you're all set for weighins.
The trick to an effective weight cut is to be at the lowest weight possible for the shortest time possible. For that reason, if I have to use the bath tub, I'll wait until only an hour or two before weighing in. I try to time it perfectly, but I'd rather be underweight than overweight when weighing in so I err on the side of caution.
Before I go on to rehydrating, how do you dial this back if you don't need to cut as much?
If I only have 5-6 pounds to lose, I might keep my water the same but cut out carbs. It really depends on your body, your usual diet, and how you like to cut weight. I live in a dry climate so I'd rather drop the carbs than the water. If I have 10 pounds or so to lose, I'll cut the carbs and I'll bump the water schedule back a day. So I'll drink 2 gallons Monday, 1 each Tuesday and Wednesday, half a gallon on Thursday, and as much as I can get away with on Friday to stay on weight. Playing with your water, salt, and carb intake is the art of the weight cut. Self-experimentation is the only way to learn what makes you feel the best through the week and on Saturday. If I can (I usually can), I'll add a cup or two of coffee every day. Gives me a bit of normalcy during the week.
Step 6: Rehydrating
This is this most important part of the entire fight process. I once messed this up and spent the whole tournament constipated. It was one of the worst performances of my career.
I prefer to have two quarts of water and a quart of coconut water on me when I weigh in. As soon as I step off the scale, drink one of those quarts of water. Over the next hour, drink the other quart of water and that coconut water. After that, you wanna shoot for about a quart of water for every hour you're awake the rest of the evening. For a BJJ tournament, you want to wake up in the morning and do the same thing. For a fight, you need to cut back on the water 2-4 hours before the fight so that you don't piss yourself in the cage.
As far as food goes, I like to have a quick snack as soon as I weigh in. That gets a little food in me and gets the process going. Maybe a granola bar or an apple and almonds.
This next bit is important: Before you eat anything else (after your quick snack), eat a salad with an oil-based dressing. Trust me on this. This will prevent you from getting constipated from the sheer amount of food you're about to eat. Everyone has their favorite post-weigh-in foods, but this salad is so important. It doesn't even have to be big. Another option (and I hate to even say it) is decaf coffee. If you can handle the caffeine that late at night (especially the night before a competition), kudos to you. I can't, so I stick to decaf if I decide to have a cup.
After the salad, I like to eat a lot of small, well-balanced meals. Sweet potatoes, eggs, chicken, ground beef, broccoli, and fruit. Go heavy on the salt and heavy on the carbs, and make everything whole foods. Remember, you've been dehydrated and starved all week. Eating whole foods here will give your body the micro- and macronutrients it needs to perform at max capacity on Saturday. I pretty much eat every hour as long as I'm awake. And take your vitamins!
My tournament breakfast is usually steel cut oats, almond butter, a couple eggs, and a whole bunch of coffee. After that, it's off to go simulate murder with my friends.
That pretty much covers it. The weight cut is a huge reason why we've put so much time and energy into making sure our coffee is good enough to drink black. Cream and sugar will destroy your cut, but black coffee won't. We wanted to give our customers - especially our BJJ customers - a drink that they could enjoy even in the steepest weight cuts.
If you've got anything you'd like to add, drop a comment below! I always love hearing different techniques people like to use to cut weight. We all have a different process that works, this is merely one of them. I'm always open to new suggestions that might make it more effective or less awful.