Effects of bodyweight reduction on sports performance

Sports Med. 1994 Oct;18(4):249-67. doi: 10.2165/00007256-199418040-00004.


Athletes reduce bodyweight for several reasons: to compete in a lower weight class; to improve aesthetic appearance; or to increase physical performance. Rapid bodyweight reduction (dehydration in 12 to 96 hours), typically with fluid restriction and increased exercise, is used by athletes competing in weight-class events. Gradual bodyweight reduction (over > 1 week) is usually achieved by cutting energy intake to 75 to 130 kJ/kg/day. An intake of 100 kJ/kg/day results in a weekly bodyweight loss of roughly 1kg. Aerobic endurance capacity decreases after rapid bodyweight reduction, but might increase after gradual bodyweight reduction. Maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max) measured as L/min is unchanged or decreased after bodyweight loss, but VO2max measured as ml/kg/min may increase after gradual bodyweight reduction. Anaerobic performance and muscle strength are typically decreased after rapid bodyweight reduction with or without 1 to 3 hours rehydration. When tested after 5 to 24 hours of rehydration, performance is maintained at euhydrated levels. A high carbohydrate diet during bodyweight loss may help in maintaining performance. Anaerobic performance is not affected and strength can increase after gradual bodyweight reduction. Reductions in plasma volume, muscle glycogen content and the buffer capacity of the blood explain decreased performance after rapid bodyweight reduction. During gradual bodyweight loss, slow glycogen resynthesis after training, loss of muscle protein and stress fractures (caused by endocrinological disorders) may affect performance. Athletes' bodyweight goals should be individualised rather than by comparing with other athletes. If the time between weigh-in and competition is < 5 hours, rapid bodyweight reduction should not exceed 4% of bodyweight. If the time interval is longer, a bodyweight reduction < or = 8% might be acceptable. A moderate-energy (100 to 120 kJ/kg/day) and high-carbohydrate (60 to 70% of total energy intake) diet is recommended. Gradual bodyweight reduction may be 0.5 to 1.5 kg/week. Energy intake should be 80 to 120 kJ/kg/day, with a high carbohydrate (60 to 70%) and a low fat (15 to 25%) content.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anaerobic Threshold / physiology
  • Dehydration / physiopathology
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / administration & dosage
  • Energy Intake
  • Exercise / physiology
  • Humans
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology
  • Physical Endurance / physiology
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Sports*
  • Weight Loss / physiology*


  • Dietary Carbohydrates