Weight-cutting for women—it’s a man’s world!

Weight-cutting is tough for ANYONE. Just ask our founder, Usama Aziz, former Olympian and European MMA champion. He didn’t enjoy weight-cutting much, so when he retired, he went on something of a candy binge (didn’t you, Usama!?) But that’s a story in its own right.

The story here is that MMA and boxing are probably the toughest of all sports when it comes to weigh-ins, requiring massive weight drops—and gains—in a very short time. And that weight-cutting is particularly hard for women.

In this article, we’ll look at some of the rapid weight loss and gain techniques used by both male and female fighters, also explaining why the various methods are different for females.

What is weight-cutting, exactly?

First off, let’s define what we’re talking about. It’s rapid weight loss before a competition. Not a long-term diet aimed at making you slimmer. Also, weight-cutting goes hand-in-hand with weight-gaining, because once you’ve passed weigh-in, you’ll want to replace the energy and weight loss as quickly as possible.

You might be looking at a weight loss of up to 10% of your body weight over a few days and then trying to gain that back in less than 24 hours. Weight-cutting is fast and furious.

How do you do weight-cutting?

highly individual, both from a physiological point of view and in terms of personal preferences. So get into it and do some experimenting to see what works for you in the off season, when it doesn’t matter so much if you hit unexpected challenges.

Here’s some advice on the basic principles of each method.

Reduce your gut content

Try to clear your bowels as much as possible before weigh-in, and you can drop as much as 2kg in weight. You can do this with laxatives if that works for you, but you better find out before it really matters. Some people find it very hard to regain their gut microbiome after laxative use, and that can make you feel very drained and tired as your metabolism doesn’t work as it should.

To reduce your gut content, it’s safer to simply restrict your fibre intake a few days before weigh-in. If you want to do this, go for easily digestible carbs and proteins.

This is a very reliable method, and even though women generally don’t have as much to clear from their guts, and so can’t drop as much in weight as men, it’s still worth including in your weight-cutting regimen.

Lower your carb intake

Once carbs have been digested, whatever isn’t used by the muscles immediately is stored as glycogen, which binds a lot of water. So, you can drop a lot in weight by simply eating less carbs for a few days. Just be aware that the decrease in carb intake should be in relation to your training. If you lower your training load in the week before the fight, lower the carb intake even more. And, if you’re a woman, don’t be too hard on yourself: women have less muscle mass than men, which means less stored glycogen, so you can’t expect to drop as much weight as men do this way, either. Women also tend to retain more water than men, especially during menstruation. This is due to the effect of hormones such as estrogen and progesterone that control the balance of natrium and water in the body. Women can therefore expect natural fluctuations in how their bodies respond to weight-cutting over time.

Do the number 1

Increase your water intake about a week before weigh-in, and you’ll stimulate your urine production. Then, when you’ve only got a few days left, restrict your water intake a lot. You’ll continue peeing a lot, but you won’t be replacing the water—the net effect being dehydration and lower weight.

Limit your salt intake

Salt also binds a lot of water in the body, so you can drop weight simply by lowering your salt intake for a few days. You can go pretty much without salt altogether for a little while—just keep tabs on how you’re feeling. If you sweat a lot, you might need to have at least some electrolytes. Which brings us to the next point.

Sweat it

Take a long sauna bath, do low-intensity training in a heated room or train in sweat suits. Whatever way you can work up a sweat, you can lose weight. Sweat a litre and you’ve dropped 1 kg in weight. Simple. But, again, ladies, don’t be too hard on yourselves—women generally sweat a lot less than men, so you might have to stay in the sauna for a long time after the guys have left for the day.


Intentionally robbing your body of fluids and electrolytes brings health risks. It’s quite possible to cause damage to internal organs if you take it too far. So, significant weight-cutting is best done under the supervision of a health professional.

How do you regain your weight?

You’ll want to start regaining your weight and energy from the moment you’ve passed weigh-in. When you get into the fight, you’ll want the bulk and topped-up energy reserves that you need.

Here’s how to do it.

Drink up!

Try to consume a minimum of 1.5 times the volume of fluid that you’ve lost, because your body won’t absorb everything you down. But take it easy. For best uptake, sip water with some electrolytes more or less constantly rather than gulp down all of it in one go.

Get salty

Remember that you need salts both for body functions and to retain water, electrolytes and weight. Have some salty foods or drinks directly after weigh-in.

Keep it simple

Have a lot of carbs—10-12g per kg of bodyweight per 24 hours—but keep them simple. Eat low-fibre, easily digested carbs to maximise your uptake

Boost your uptake

Take 20g of creatine right after weigh-in, and you’ll help boost your carbohydrate uptake.

Don’t go too heavy on the sweets

You want simple carbohydrates, but don’t drink heaps of overly sweet sports drinks. Keep the sugar content at 8-10% maximum—if you take in too much sugar too quickly, you can actually slow your digestion and draw water away from your muscles and into your gut.

Conclusion—it’s a learning journey

There would be few if any athletes who think that weight-cutting is fun. But it’s a good learning journey. Try the different methods, and you can arrive at very valuable insights into how your particular body reacts, both in terms of energy deficiency and rapid recovery and energy-storing. Also, if you learn to ace weight-cutting, you’ll have a big advantage over any opponent who doesn’t. Because at the end of the day, once you’ve passed weigh-in, this is all about going into the fight as solid and full of energy as ever.

Paul Walden
lobloo Research & Development

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