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Can I Cut for MMA and Feel/Look Good?


#1

Hey friends,
I love my body and I love my sport. I am a competitive amateur MMA fighter that loves to stand up and strike! I also love my muscles - lifting heavy is my shit. So when the time comes to cut weight, I'm always bummed by the thought of putting down the heavy barbell for the next few months as I cut my weight.
The last few weight cuts have not been a joy for me. I walk around at 150 lbs. and fight at 135 lbs. By the time I reach my competition weight, my body looks a little dry and sad. My question to other MMA fighters and lifters is, is there any way that I can have the best of both worlds? Do you have any strategies for cutting weight without losing muscle?


#2

I think this is a great question and one I’ve put a lot of thought into myself.
I think that strength training has to be kept in the training program to some extent, for strength maintainance, health and even the psychological factor.

I’ve questioned a lot of peoploe on this topic; the general consensus is; the more disciplined we are (and the closer we stay to competition weight) the more we can get away with lifting and the less muscle we sacrifice come game time.

I hate to be one of the nutrition pedants, but it does come down to the fuel we take in in our everyday lives.
If food is good all the time and we don’t jump too high on the scales we can keep lifting.
I love to lift 4x a week, but if my weight jumps I’ll cut it to 3x or even 2x full body sessions.
I can then increase conditioning or sparring relative to the lbs I need to shed.

I definitely adjust my caloric intake and composition when whittling down.
For me BCAA’s intra-workout are playing a key role in retaining what muscle I have.


#3

If you cut out all strength training, increase your cardio/conditioning, and are in a caloric deficiet of course your body is going to dump some of it’s muscle mass. Muscle is an expensive tissue (meaning it costs calories to maintain) and so if the body doesn’t have a good reason to hold onto it, it would much rather dump it rather than dump it’s “emergency fund” (adipose tissue/fat).

Also, like Donny said, the greater the cut you have to make and the less time you give yourself to make it, the more muscle mass you’re likely to lose in the process. Even bodybuilders, who’s entire sport is based on having the most amount of muscle with the least amount of adipose tissue possible, lose muscle while cutting for a show. Of course banned substances can skew this and the untested guys will lose less than the tested/natural guys, but that doesn’t really apply to combat sport athletes. Most of the natural guys try to stay much leaner and stay closer to their stage weight throughout the year as a result.

If your goal is to maintain as much muscle as possible, then I would echo that you need to prioritize diet, continue to strength train (at least until closer to fight time), and try to stay closer to your fighting weight where you can cut to your fighting weight primarily by shedding water weight (which you should be able to replenish fairly quickly/easily). Even then cutting weight is not very healthy for the body, but there are certainly ways to make it “more” or “less” healthy and it’s something that is probably just a necessary evil for those competing in the sport at this point.

Good luck.


#4

hmm-

I think the OP is female which changes a few things.

first- cutting for BB comp - is another animal altogether, and those protocols
may be effective - really are not practical for fighters.

cutting is something you have to practice.
just like drilling - and or any other element in this sport
practice breeds proficiency.
making weight is a big part of wrestling , mma etc and I am well versed in doing so
when competing - I have cut 12lb 2x a week - day of weigh ins- usually an hour at best before a match.
and it takes a while to figure it out with the least impact.

15lbs is a pretty big cut
particularly if you are female
women will often stop menstruating with very low body fat and or low fluids.

you need to figure out
your body comp
what a 2 to 3 week clean up or tightening your diet can do
and what a true cut feels like-
managing a cut becomes easy with practice

careful rehydration - and anti acids ( tums) help allot
but you also have to manage - how much it may or may not drain you
and then the fun things like having to pee like crazy ( literally (
as you rehydrate


#5

[quote]donnydarkoirl wrote:

I’ve questioned a lot of peoploe on this topic; the general consensus is; the more disciplined we are (and the closer we stay to competition weight) the more we can get away with lifting and the less muscle we sacrifice come game time.

I definitely adjust my caloric intake and composition when whittling down.
For me BCAA’s intra-workout are playing a key role in retaining what muscle I have.[/quote]

Thanks for your response - super helpful!
You do make a good point… I’ve had five cage appearances now and every time after all of the fighting is done I swear I’ll stay 5-7 pounds to my fight weight… But after I reward myself with all of the food I missed out on during my cut, I’m right back where I started. I need to get more disciplined with that.

Tell me more about BCAA’s. That’s one think that I am not taking. I like to stick to my protein supplement, my CLA, and my multivitamin. What do BCAA’s do for the body?


#6

Yes, absolutely cutting for a BB’ing/Figure/Bikini competition entails different protocols and different goals. My point was simply that even those who’s sole purpose is to maintain as much muscle as possible (BB’ers) still lose some muscle mass during their cut, so it’s unrealistic to expect that a fighter would not lose some as well. It was also to point out that those natural physique athletes who cannot rely on banned substances to assist them in maintaining muscle generally stay fairly close to their target cut weight in the offseason, so as a fighter looking to maintain muscle mass this is generally also a good idea.

I wasn’t trying to suggest that a fighter copies the same protocols as a physique athlete to make weight for their fights.


#7

[quote]brotardscience wrote:
you need to figure out
your body comp
what a 2 to 3 week clean up or tightening your diet can do
and what a true cut feels like-
managing a cut becomes easy with practice

careful rehydration - and anti acids ( tums) help allot
but you also have to manage - how much it may or may not drain you
and then the fun things like having to pee like crazy ( literally (
as you rehydrate

[/quote]

Yes! That was an important thing I should have mentioned - cutting for a female has to be different. Maybe some other female MMA fighters are floating around here? I’d love to hear from a fellow female fighter about their experiences cutting.
But even so, thank you for your response. The biggest - and in no way at all healthy - cut that I have ever done was 22 lbs in roughly a week and a half. That threw of my body so, so bad… That was when I was fighting at 135 lbs, whereas now I fight at 145 lbs.
Your recommendation of practicing for weight cuts is genius - that’s the only way to get better, right? Great advice


#8

[quote]Sentoguy wrote:
Yes, absolutely cutting for a BB’ing/Figure/Bikini competition entails different protocols and different goals. My point was simply that even those who’s sole purpose is to maintain as much muscle as possible (BB’ers) still lose some muscle mass during their cut, so it’s unrealistic to expect that a fighter would not lose some as well.[/quote]

Right, and thank you for mentioning that! I had my fingers crossed that there was a way that I could cut all of my weight in fat and water without any muscle loss. So I know that I will lose some, but now the goal is to lose as little as possible.


#9

[quote]Sentoguy wrote:
Yes, absolutely cutting for a BB’ing/Figure/Bikini competition entails different protocols and different goals. My point was simply that even those who’s sole purpose is to maintain as much muscle as possible (BB’ers) still lose some muscle mass during their cut, so it’s unrealistic to expect that a fighter would not lose some as well. It was also to point out that those natural physique athletes who cannot rely on banned substances to assist them in maintaining muscle generally stay fairly close to their target cut weight in the offseason, so as a fighter looking to maintain muscle mass this is generally also a good idea.

I wasn’t trying to suggest that a fighter copies the same protocols as a physique athlete to make weight for their fights.[/quote]

Sento- let me be clear that I wasn’t trying to misrepresent your post,
I know that sometimes there are some very literal people here

your remarks as usual are sound and substantial.


#10

[quote]NikkiUp wrote:

[quote]Sentoguy wrote:
Yes, absolutely cutting for a BB’ing/Figure/Bikini competition entails different protocols and different goals. My point was simply that even those who’s sole purpose is to maintain as much muscle as possible (BB’ers) still lose some muscle mass during their cut, so it’s unrealistic to expect that a fighter would not lose some as well.[/quote]

Right, and thank you for mentioning that! I had my fingers crossed that there was a way that I could cut all of my weight in fat and water without any muscle loss. So I know that I will lose some, but now the goal is to lose as little as possible.[/quote]

You are welcome.
25lbs is a big cut for a smallish athlete.

Ive had a few bigger cuts- in the 20 lb range and competed in a tournament-
and it sucked a little.

As for a practice cut- I think you have to do it.
but Id also recomend having your own mini meet or match

Try the cut- rehydrate- see how you cope with that
and go a few hard rounds not too long after.
then take a good look at your recovery

I tended to cramp a bit and later feel like I had a massive headache
and hang over.
most of the time - you have to pace that recovery and have a match or two while still
getting sorted.
( same day weigh in)

If your a dude walking around at 150
8lbs in say two hours is pretty manageable
if you weih 185 or more - you could do it in an hour
but you have to be hydrated for this to be able to sweat or leech out that much water

As a women - something like 6lbs in two hours is totally possible

people carrying more size- meaning 200lbs plus
15 lbs is like lint and a good bowel movement

that all being said I also have to mention something Robert A would say

Im not a dr. but cutting weight is dangerous and a health risk

staying in a state of dryness- either from diet or dehydration
is pretty rough on the body and its dangerous
Im probably a cutting jedi - and the shit is no good for you.
concussions- liver damage insulin issues are all pretty common.


#11

[quote]NikkiUp wrote:
Thanks for your response - super helpful!
You do make a good point… I’ve had five cage appearances now and every time after all of the fighting is done I swear I’ll stay 5-7 pounds to my fight weight… But after I reward myself with all of the food I missed out on during my cut, I’m right back where I started. I need to get more disciplined with that.

Tell me more about BCAA’s. That’s one think that I am not taking. I like to stick to my protein supplement, my CLA, and my multivitamin. What do BCAA’s do for the body?
[/quote]
No problem; I can relate and I understand the sentiments you’re having.

I’m pretty similar; when I cut for a weigh in I get very lean.
If I stick to disciplined foods after I won’t bounce back more than 5lbs.
I don’t though… with the mental decompression post fight, its so easy just to go food-ninja and destroy every meal in your path.

BCAA’s are something I’ve only really learned about and advocated in the last 2 years. (Forgive the kindergartn-science here as I’m an idiot.)

Obviously foods are broken down into Protein, Carbs and Fat; with Protein being the big contributor to muscle composition and growth.
BCAA’s are like simple little lego bricks. They’re can be used pretty much anywhere and really quickly. Thats why our body relies on BCAA’s in times of physical or mental stress.
There are 3 BCAA’s we need to get from our diet; Leucine, Iso-leucine and Valine. They make up like 30% of skeletal muscle and our body cannot produce them; we need to get them in.

When we train really hard our bodies turn to our reserves to keep us going. This can cause catabolism (the breakdown of muscle for fuel.) So sipping BCAA’s during a workout stimulates insuilin release and stops the body feeding on itself.
The BCAA’s keep you fueled throughout your training; I feel sharper and mentally better sipping throughout a workout.

Not being funny, but sometimes when I go to work I’m just mentally drained; like I’m one branch down the tree from a monkey and when you work with lots of numbers, thats not cool.
If I get flu or if I’m just jacked with fatigue, sometimes I sip it with ice during the day; like lemonade. I find it works really well and gets my brain going.
I’m using ON’s brand at the moment as there are no flavours or additives; but Cellucor have a really nice version with some caffeine and a really nice taste.


#12

NikkiUp,

I can’t improve on the substance of the advice from Sento, brotardscience, and donnydarkoirl.

Pay particular attention to brotard and donny. Brotard has a really, REALLY extensive background cutting weight and competing at high levels in grappling. He made weight and then performed against national level competition in wrestling and judo.

Donny is a very highly ranked pro boxer. So they both have experience with not just the suck of cutting, but the getting it done after.

I am just going to add a little to the sciency/Why on Donny’s last post so that if you read more you don’t get off track.

[quote]donnydarkoirl wrote:

[quote]NikkiUp wrote:
Thanks for your response - super helpful!
You do make a good point… I’ve had five cage appearances now and every time after all of the fighting is done I swear I’ll stay 5-7 pounds to my fight weight… But after I reward myself with all of the food I missed out on during my cut, I’m right back where I started. I need to get more disciplined with that.

Tell me more about BCAA’s. That’s one think that I am not taking. I like to stick to my protein supplement, my CLA, and my multivitamin. What do BCAA’s do for the body?
[/quote]
No problem; I can relate and I understand the sentiments you’re having.

I’m pretty similar; when I cut for a weigh in I get very lean.
If I stick to disciplined foods after I won’t bounce back more than 5lbs.
I don’t though… with the mental decompression post fight, its so easy just to go food-ninja and destroy every meal in your path.

BCAA’s are something I’ve only really learned about and advocated in the last 2 years. (Forgive the kindergartn-science here as I’m an idiot.)
[/quote]

Donny is not at all an idiot. He is a crafty pro who fights at a high level. Someone who was an idiot would get knocked the fuck out trying what he accomplishes in the ring.

The amino’s that we cannot make from protein sources are the Essential Amino Acids(phenylalanine, valine, threonine, tryptophan, methionine, leucine, isoleucine, lysine, and histidine). Some additional amino acids can be said to be conditionally essential, meaning that during certain times/situations the bodies ability to manufacture them is lost or retarded. This is usually during times of great physiological stress.

The Branched Chain Amino Acids are named for their structure and as donny pointed out they are among the essential amino acids. Muscle is made from them, and you have to get them directly from diet. Reasons for supplementing with only the BCAA’s vs all the essential amino’s varies from the basic “make sure you have enough bricks to build muscle” to rationales that lean more on physiology. There is also a decent amount of data suggesting that additional, supplemental leucine at meal times increases protein synthesis and blunts catabolism. Amino acids in general, and some in specific are often thought to have neuro stimulatory effects (energy and make you think more gooder). Tyrosine is often included in energy drinks for this effect.

Pay attention about the insulin thing. Donny doesn’t have any problems, but some folks notice blood suger issues with taking something insulinogenic when carb depleted. Of course it isn’t like a dash of Gatorade/Sports Drink powder in the mix is going keep you from getting into heaven. Just be aware.

[quote]
The BCAA’s keep you fueled throughout your training; I feel sharper and mentally better sipping throughout a workout.

Not being funny, but sometimes when I go to work I’m just mentally drained; like I’m one branch down the tree from a monkey and when you work with lots of numbers, thats not cool.
If I get flu or if I’m just jacked with fatigue, sometimes I sip it with ice during the day; like lemonade. I find it works really well and gets my brain going.
I’m using ON’s brand at the moment as there are no flavours or additives; but Cellucor have a really nice version with some caffeine and a really nice taste.[/quote]

Biotest makes several products using amino acids/for peri workout.

I cannot speak about Indigo or Plazma however they do have a bunch of other products.

Power Drive is a Tyrosine Supplement

Both just Leucine

And BCAA’s

One thing I will note if you are going to do the “sip all day” thing. They are called amino acids. Constantly bathing your teeth in acidic liquid, especially if you hold a mouthpiece over them is perhaps not the best idea. I am not stating it is a huge risk, but I have tried some mixes of amino’s/proteins that were so damn bitter that I swore they were basically stomach acid. I would totally pay a bit more to avoid that.

I hope some of that helped.

Regards,

Robert A


#13

Nikki-

I am not as experienced in cutting weight as these other guys, but I still would like to weigh in. I was an amateur MMA’er a few years back, but I only cut weight 2-3 times, from 200-205ish down to 190 and 185. Instead of waiting till that close to the fight to lose the weight, I dieted down over several weeks (forget exactly how long, but it was at least 4-5 weeks).

That put me within 5 pounds of my goal, so it was an easy (relatively) water cut to make weight. Have a refeed/rehydrate plan as well, especially if it is a same-day weigh-in. The dieting portion was as easy as cutting back on my portions at meals - I didn’t count macros at all, just continued to prioritize protein. I don’t remember either of them being very painful.

Then again, if you are taking fights on short notice you wouldn’t be able to follow that tactic.