Cutting weight, the good, the bad and the ugly
In fighting sports, where fighters are separated per weight categories, everyone is looking for the bigger edge on their opponent. People are looking to be at the top of their weight category and be physically stronger then their opponents. In a sport as technical as bjj, strength isn’t everything, there are many factors contributing to the success of a fighter; technique, health, cardio, hydration, psychology and physical.
Picking your weight category as a white belt can be very hard. Should I drop weight? Should I bulk up? Will losing my water weight give me an advantage against my opponents? The more you compete, the more you will identify yourself with the appropriate weight category for you.
For women, this decision is even harder, it is harder for us to lose weight fast and I DO NOT recommend this tactic at all. If you Google weight loss, you will have pages and pages of different ways to lose weight. Most of these searches are unhealthy, dangerous and are NOT beneficial. There is NO fast healthy way to lose a lot of weight. There is absolutely no reason why you should wear a garbage bag to lose that extra 5-10lb of water weight the day before the competition. You will fight tired, dehydrated and weak (the contrary effect of what you want to be). If you do things right, you should be at your strongest the day of.
Our bodies are different then men, our hormones fluctuate during monthly cycles and there is always a time during the month where we retain more water (we all know what I am talking about…..the bloating sensation). We have to respect our body and if you are planning on cutting weight, be sure to have a very long slow cut (I am talking months). You have to let your body adjust; you need to keep your muscles and strength strong.
What people don’t understand, competition isn’t just about the weight cut. You will naturally get stronger, leaner, faster, better cardio and naturally lose the weight while you train BJJ. BJJ in itself will help you lose weight. If you are a competitor, you are the first one to show up, and the last one to leave. You drill as hard as you can and roll as much as people let you (or until they turn off the lights on you ;)).
As a white belt, I competed in the light division (under 141.5lbs), and as I got fitter I naturally fell in the feather weight division (under 129 lbs). As I took competition more seriously as a blue belt, I started training specifically for BJJ competitions and eating right (never a diet), it takes me 2 month to gradually lose 5lbs to be comfortable and strong in the light feather division (under 118 lbs). This means, no alcohol, no fast food, no cookies, cakes, candy and I am very careful not to eat too much potatoes and bread. At times, this can be hard I absolutely LOVE cookies .
Carbs are good, your body needs carbs, have it before and after training, your muscles need this. Don’t have a carb over load at night. Eat very green, salad and vegetables are good for you at any time during the day. Chicken, fish and meat are good source of protein. Beware of salt content, salt is absolutely everywhere and we get a overload of salt. Salt is what will make you retain water and get that bloated sensation. I have some eating tips in my post eat well, stay strong.
The important message here is you do not need to cut weight to win and if you are cutting, do it right, talk to your instructor if they have experience in this domain, I am lucky enough that my instructors are very good at this. Most of the time, you should NOT go on a diet or water diet to cut weight. You just need to be careful of what you put in your body and train as hard as you can.
Here is a terrific post about the pressure of competition and fitness and what harm you can do to yourself if you push to hard the fitness life style, by Shelsea Montes, IFBB bikini pro (Click Here). It is different then competitive BJJ but the outcome can be the same.
BJJ is about being healthy, strong and confident. There is no million dollar bonus attached to any of the gold medals, don’t ever compromise your health for it Competition is the perfect place to learn and become a better jiu jitsu practitioner and show off your skills. Also it is a great place to identify all the holes in your game, it is an awesome learning tool.