Dehydration and Combat Athletes

By 22nd January 2017April 23rd, 2017No Comments
Training Cave Boxing Gym & Personal Training

It is no secret amongst people that are either involved in fight sports or just fans that most combat athletes will drop way below there ‘walking around’ weight to compete.

Some fighters do it a lot more than others. In some sports the competitors can weigh in the day before the event, giving them time to put as much weight back on as they need to. So by the time the bell rings they are much heavier than they were at the weigh in.

Sports science has developed and moved on so much over the years but for some reason fight sports still seem to be stuck in the dark ages when it comes to certain areas of developing a fighter. I love and prefer a lot of old school methods when it comes to physical training, but I am completely against some of the methods used by fighters to make the weight.

One of the reasons why I started to dig deep into learning about the human body, training, nutrition and the whole science behind it was because I wasn’t happy with the way I went about things when I was fighting competitively myself.

I, like many fighters, struggled to make my weight class for competitions. So I would ‘cut weight’ the only way I knew how. I would stick on my sauna suit and I would run, train, run and train. I wouldn’t really eat or drink much. This is an old school mentality. I wish I’d have known better. What I didn’t know at the time was, I was dehydrating myself to the extreme and being dehydrated is not a good state for the body to be in.

I am going to provide you with some information that I have picked up from books and courses that I have done. Most notably and what caught my attention more than anything was a presentation on dehydration given by a man called Kevin Fulthorpe . This very important talk was given while I was on my professional boxing trainers course. I have been in touch with Kevin since to refresh myself.

This information has come from notes I have made over a period of time, it is not my own research and has mostly been written by someone else. But for me to find out exactly where it all came from, it might be almost impossible!


  • Being dehydrated puts a progressive strain on the cardiovascular system, the extra strain on the heart, lungs and circulatory system makes exercise harder.
  • When total body water volume is running low, there’s less blood available for circulation. When there’s less blood available for circulation your body’s delivery of oxygen and nutrients is compromised. Less oxygen to muscles means less performance.
  • Dehydration also leads to muscle cramps, extreme fatigue, headaches and nausea.
  • Our perception of effort is increased for the same work load when we are dehydrated, we feel more fatigued than we would do if we was hydrated.
  • Dehydration reduces mental functioning. It has a negative effect on our decision making, reaction times, concentration, anticipation and skill delivery.
  • 2% dehydration can impair performance.
  • 5% dehydration leads to a 30% reduction in aerobic capacity.
  • A water loss of 9-12% of a persons body weight can result in death.

FIGHTERS please take note now, I could have listed many more points but I think the notes I have included should be enough to make you think hard about the way you go about losing weight. If those points aren’t enough to sway you, here are some notes I took from the professional boxing trainers course:

  • The body is made up on average of 60% water, roughly 42 litres of fluid. This fluid is split into three compartments.
  • When the body becomes depleted of fluid, it tends to be from two of the compartments first, one being the most important. The fluid that surrounds the BRAIN.
  • When this compartment becomes depleted the brain will work less efficiently and the person will not be able to think as quickly.
  • This fluid also cushions the brain against DAMAGE when a person receives a blow to the head.
  • As the brain moves more under impact there is a chance of injury to the blood vessels surrounding the brain and therefore more chance of serious BRAIN INJURY.

Fighters should not use fluid depletion as a way to reduce the numbers on the scales. If a fighter weighs themselves BEFORE training, they should weigh the exact same or more AFTER training because they will have kept themselves hydrated by drinking water throughout the session. If the numbers on the scales have gone down, the fighter has only lost water weight.

We need to lose FAT not water to safely drop our weight. We lose fat by eating a balanced diet and exercising hard. Wearing a sauna suit or just dehydrating ourselves STOPS us from being able to exercise hard. Also the more dehydrated we become, the less our body is able to sweat therefore we are fighting a losing battle wearing sauna suits.

You might be reading this and thinking ‘Jack hasn’t a clue, what if we have to take a fight at the last minute’. My opinion is simple, I feel if the weight cant be lost safely then the fighter shouldn’t compete. BUT if the fighter is always eating well, in the gym and keeping themselves HYDRATED then they are better equipped to drop a few pounds at the last minute to make the weight safely.

Combat athletes generally have short careers compared to other sports. I retired from professional boxing at 23 years old. If you are a young fighter reading this please be smart about how you go about your training, not just in the gym but also what you do outside of it, your trainers can’t baby sit you 24/7.

Throughout the last couple of years I have been passionate about learning everything I can to do with training and nutrition. Grabbing and keeping every little bit of information I can pick up from people. I feel as a boxing coach now, it is my responsibility that I teach the fighters the right and wrong ways to meet there chosen weight classes. Unfortunately though not everyone listens and it can be a lot for a 13 year old boxer to take in.

I hope that if you are a fighter or coach reading this, you can take some points and use them. You may want to save this and keep coming back to it. I am no expert but I have a keen interest on this subject, you are more than welcome to contact me if you want more information.

Here is a short blog I wrote a while back, it has some easy points on how you can tell if you are dehydrated and also the benefits of drinking water.

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