Weight Loss Strategies in Combat Sports and Concerning Habits in Mixed Martial Arts

Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2018 Aug 1;13(7):933-939. doi: 10.1123/ijspp.2017-0715. Epub 2018 Jul 27.


Context: Combat sports are typically divided into weight classes, and body-mass manipulation to reach a weight class is commonplace. Previous research suggests that weight loss practices in mixed martial arts (MMA) may be more extreme than in other combat sports.

Purpose: To investigate the magnitude of weight loss and the prevalence of weight loss strategies in different combat sports.

Methods: Competitors (N = 637) from Brazilian jiu-jitsu, boxing, judo, MMA, Muay Thai/kickboxing, taekwondo, and wrestling completed an online questionnaire seeking information regarding their weight loss practices.

Results: Body-mass manipulation was commonly undertaken by all combat-sport athletes, with a particularly high incidence of gradual dieting, increased exercise, and fluid restriction. Skipping meals was higher in taekwondo and wrestling (84%) compared with the other combat sports (∼58%), whereas training in heated rooms and forced oral fluid loss (spitting) was higher in wrestling (83% and 47%, respectively) compared with other combat sports (∼45% and ∼19%, respectively). MMA athletes reported the highest usage of sauna (76%) and water loading (67%) while also reporting the second-highest use of training in rubber/plastic suits (63%).

Conclusions: Body-mass manipulation was present in all combat sports, with the prevalence and magnitude of acute weight loss greater in MMA. The incidence of and practices reported will help support staff be fully aware of the variety of methods these athletes and coaches may use to achieve weight loss. Additionally, the results could aid regulatory bodies in the further development of policies on weight cutting.

Keywords: dehydration; diet; recovery; rehydration; weight cutting.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Boxing / classification
  • Boxing / physiology*
  • Competitive Behavior / physiology*
  • Dehydration / etiology
  • Female
  • Habits
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Martial Arts / classification
  • Martial Arts / physiology*
  • Weight Loss*
  • Wrestling / classification
  • Wrestling / physiology*
  • Young Adult