Individualised dietary strategies for Olympic combat sports: Acute weight loss, recovery and competition nutrition

Eur J Sport Sci. 2017 Jul;17(6):727-740. doi: 10.1080/17461391.2017.1297489. Epub 2017 Mar 19.


Olympic combat sports separate athletes into weight divisions, in an attempt to reduce size, strength, range and/or leverage disparities between competitors. Official weigh-ins are conducted anywhere from 3 and up to 24 h prior to competition ensuring athletes meet weight requirements (i.e. have 'made weight'). Fighters commonly aim to compete in weight divisions lower than their day-to-day weight, achieved via chronic and acute manipulations of body mass (BM). Although these manipulations may impair health and absolute performance, their strategic use can improve competitive success. Key considerations are the acute manipulations around weigh-in, which differ in importance, magnitude and methods depending on the requirements of the individual combat sport and the weigh-in regulations. In particular, the time available for recovery following weigh-in/before competition will determine what degree of acute BM loss can be implemented and reversed. Increased exercise and restricted food and fluid intake are undertaken to decrease body water and gut contents reducing BM. When taken to the extreme, severe weight-making practices can be hazardous, and efforts have been made to reduce their prevalence. Indeed some have called for the abolition of these practices altogether. In lieu of adequate strategies to achieve this, and the pragmatic recognition of the likely continuation of these practices as long as regulations allow, this review summarises guidelines for athletes and coaches for manipulating BM and optimising post weigh-in recovery, to achieve better health and performance outcomes across the different Olympic combat sports.

Keywords: Body composition; competition; nutrition; recovery; weight.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Athletes
  • Body Weight*
  • Boxing / physiology*
  • Diet*
  • Humans
  • Martial Arts / physiology*
  • Sports Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Weight Loss*