DUBLIN, Feb. 17, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- The practice of rapid weight loss (RWL) in order to "make weight" for competition is common across a range of weight category sports; however the sources of information in support of these practices, specifically among mixed martial arts (MMA) athletes and powerlifters, is a cause for concern, according to research from Dublin City University.
The research, involving lead academics Dr Brendan Egan, David Nolan and John Connor from the School of Health and Human Performance profiled over 260 athletes engaging in RWL prior to competing. They found that the practices varied considerably between sports in terms of both methods and magnitude; but common to both sports was that much of the practices were influenced by coaches and fellow athletes, whereas medical and health professionals including dietitians had minimal contributions.
The findings have prompted calls for a more comprehensive examination of the trends, with a view to establishing protocols to safeguard athlete wellbeing and also for governing sports bodies to assume a role in advising athletes and coaches.
Rapid weight loss is frequently carried out in sports that have weight class restrictions, and includes wrestling, judo, boxing, taekwondo, horse riding, rowing, and the aforementioned MMA and powerlifting. Generally speaking, it involves athletes cutting weight in the 48 hours before competition through a variety of means that reduce food contents from the gut and overall body water content through dehydration.
The practices vary between sports, depending on factors such as the time from weigh-in to competition and the historical/cultural practices of the sport.
Drinking up to ten litres of water per day in a process known as water loading, lengthy fasting periods, immersion in hot salt water baths, and time in the sauna were some of the most frequent methods employed for rapid weight loss by these athletes.
A major difference between powerlifters and MMA fighters is the time from weigh-in to competition being two hours versus thirty hours respectively. Therefore, the difference in time to adequately replenish fuel and fluid stores after weigh-in (termed Rapid Weight Gain) may explain why MMA fighters lose on average 8% of their body weight shortly before weigh-in whereas this is closer to 3% of body weight for powerlifters.
Dr Brendan Egan, DCU School of Health and Human Performance said:
"Rapid weight loss practices have been around for a long time in these sports, and as long as there are weight categories, athletes will look to gain a competitive advantage using these practices. It is important to understand which methods are being used, and how widely they are being used, and in turn understand which individuals are most influential in providing information to athletes about these practices.
Clearly there is scope to improve the quality of information provided to athletes across a range of sports, but there is also a lot more research needed on the effectiveness and safety of the methods presently being used."
Notes to editors:
Dr Brendan Egan is available for media comment upon request
Self Reported Prevalence, Magnitude and Methods of Rapid Weight Loss in Male and Female Powerliftersauthored by David Nolan, DCU School of Health and Human Performance, Arthur E Lynch, Dept of Physical Education and Sport Sciences, University of Limerick and Brendan Egan, DCU School of Health and Human Performance and Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, Pensacola, Florida was published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research in January 2020.
Prevalence, magnitude and methods of rapid weight loss reported by mixed martial arts athletes in Irelandauthored by John Connor and Brendan Egan of the DCU School of Health and Human Performance is published in the Journal, Sports (Basel) in September 2019
SOURCE Dublin City University (DCU)