I have a fight in Isaan on the 9th of February on the card of a big promotion from Kiatpetch, who promotes fights for Channel 7 – which are probably the best fights in Thailand now days – and the event will be broadcast on Channel 11, although I don’t believe my fight will be televised. The fight was arranged at 45 kg, lower than what I normally fight at (I walk around at about 47 kg) and so this is the first time I’ve had to “make weight” in a long time.
Years ago I got really good advice from Darrin Davis who has been very supportive of me over the years. He is the husband and coach of Muay Thai and MMA pro fighter Amy Davis who fights around my same weight at 105 lbs, and he told me once how to cut water weight without having to exert oneself too much physically. In a nutshell, you drink a great deal of water for a few days to get your body accustomed to expelling it, then you cut the water down and your body doesn’t adjust right away, so it keeps expelling water as if you’re drinking too much and you end up in a water deficit, thus cutting weight in water.
Losing Weight versus Cutting Weight
An important note on losing weight versus cutting weight. Losing weight is a longer term reduction in fat or muscle and change in body composition through a gradual process (like 1.5 to 2 lbs per week), whereas cutting weight is a short term elimination of excess water in order to quickly (and temporarily) reduce overall weight without much change to body composition and ideally without reduction of muscle mass because the weight is all water. When cutting weight the reduction can be drastic – some guys lose 17-30 lbs in a very short amount of time – but the reduction is also very short lived and once rehydration takes place the weight should be almost entirely reverted to pre-cut numbers.
I’m cutting weight. My weight only needs to be a certain number when I step on the scale and I want my body to be in a dehydrated state for as little time as possible. So I used Darrin’s technique (which I’ve come to suspect is a competitive weight lifter and body-builder trick) a week prior to my actual fight in order to see how easily I can get down to 45 kg. My experiment went like this:
Upon hearing my fight would be at 45 kg I stepped on the scale and weighed 47.5 kg. My coaches all made happy sounds and repeated over and over again, “easy”. Apparently a 2.5 kg weight drop (5.5 lbs) is no big deal at all.
The next few days, before starting my experiment, my weight went up a bit to about 48 kg and I don’t know why, but it freaked me out. Maybe I had more salt than usual, maybe I’d just drunk water prior to weighing myself and wasn’t paying attention, maybe it was hormones. Who knows? But I wasn’t happy.
The Five Day Process
Sunday – First Day of High Water Intake: I intended to weigh myself in on Friday morning, so I began my heavy intake of water six days out. For the next three days I’ll be drinking 2 gallons of water every day (I’ve heard folks say 3 gallons of water, which I reckon is for larger persons than myself – Darrin advised me based on his experience with Amy and we’re similar size, so if you’re maybe 150 lbs or larger, 3 gallons might be more appropriate).
I actually started drinking the water only after breakfast and well into the day, maybe beginning at about noon. This made the intake difficult because the less time you have to do it, the more you have to drink at a time and I became uncomfortable. I had to finish two large 1.5 liter bottles in the hours before bed and it sucked. Not a happy camper that day. Eating as usual.
Monday – Second Day of High Water Intake: This second day of drinking a lot of water was easier. Not only did I start much earlier, at about 6 AM because I was up for training, but I was also training twice in the day and I tend to drink a great deal of water during training just normally. Because I was measuring my intake I drank out of my 1.5 liter bottle instead of my cup that I usually just refill again and again during training, but I comfortably drank an entire 1.5 liter bottle during my 3 hour morning training session and reckon I probably do that on any regular day. With two sessions in a day, that’s already almost half my water intake right there and when I have a private boxing lesson with Neung that’s even more water taken care of while I’m sweating it out and it’s much more comfortable than just guzzling water at home. Between sessions I made a point to drink water at increments of 10 slugs (swallows) every 15 minutes and was finished with all my water before bedtime. Eating as usual.
Tuesday – Third and Last Day of High Water Intake: Again, very easy day of drinking water. I put a little bit of lime juice in my water about half the time, just for flavor but I notice it does have a slight diuretic effect. I’m also not drinking anything other than water with the exception of a morning coffee, but I simply don’t have “room” for tea or juices that I normally enjoy with meals. At this point I’m paying attention to sodium in my diet and cutting it down. I eat eggs for breakfast every morning but I’ve eliminated the one piece of toast I have with it and instead of rice, meat and vegetables for dinner I’m getting a large salad from the salad bar and adding hard boiled eggs and tuna to that.
Wednesday – Reduce Water Intake by 1/2: I’ve been drinking two gallons every day for three days and I’m pretty surprised how quickly I feel thirsty when limited to one gallon. It’s partially because of my training. I blaze through half my water in morning training and then have to start rationing after my evening session. When I get to afternoon training I decide to try running in a sauna jacket, which for me is actually just a super thin raincoat. I sweat pretty well in the jacket on a 5k run and then jumped rope for about 10 minutes. When I took off the jacket and my shoes to weigh myself I was at 46.5 kg. I drank measured water as usual during training and continued to lose weight, leaving the gym at 45.75 kg. I continued to pee at a rate that was close to when I was drinking 2 gallons, which is pretty much how this whole deal works. For dinner I had a salad with three hard boiled eggs and some fruit afterwards, as well as a few unsalted nuts later in the night when I was hungry again (really try to keep this day NO SODIUM). But I was out of water to drink by 10 PM and slept terribly all night.
I had considered wearing a bag or my rain jacket or sweats to bed in order to just sweat until morning and wake up at 45 kg, skipping the entire “dry day” of the process, but decided I’d see what it looked like without doing this.
Thursday – Dry Day: I took the morning off from training because I was quite tired from the week and knew I wouldn’t be training the day before weigh in on the actual fight schedule. I woke up and weighed myself and was really disappointed to see it was 46 kg. I’d hoped I would just be at 45 and be able to stop, go eat breakfast and start drinking again. I skulked back to bed, hoping I would just keep eliminating water throughout the day and wake up at 45 the next morning, which I’m confident would happen. As it were, I was sick of feeling tired at training (which may have to do with water intake changes, dehydration, or just training hard and being at a place where my body is more tired than usual – many factors, no facts), so I decided to just put on my rain jacket and go run it off so I could rehydrate and be strong for afternoon training.
I ran about 3 km and then skipped rope for 10 minutes. I weighed myself and was horrified to see I was still exactly 46 kg. So I put the jacket back on and kept skipping in the sunlight for an additional 20 minutes. At the end of this time Taywin came out to tell me I was going to be interviewed by Thai TV for a spot that would air prior to my fight on the 9th. I took my earphones out and stood there looking at the paper, reading what they wanted me to say in Thai and getting instructions on when to be at training, etc. I was very happy I’d gone to the gym to do this so I could be prepared for the film crew, rather than having it sprung on me. Just standing there talking I noticed I was now dripping sweat from out of the sleeves and bottom of my jacket. I’d forgotten that I tend to sweat more during breaks and when not in motion, rather than while running or skipping or punching things. So I weighed myself again and apparently my body had been waiting to release all this sweat when I’d stopped and I was a clean 45 kg.
Friday – Weigh In Under Normal Circmstances: Normally the “dry day” would be a complete 24 hr day and I’d wake up on Friday for weigh in. Because I’d hit my goal the day before and wanted to have a good afternoon training session my experiment ended midway through the “dry day.” If you still had weight to lose on this day you could employ a number of other strategies to further dehydrate your body (and it’s important that you keep in mind that this is what you’re doing – it’s not a good idea to spend a lot of time in a state of dehydration and you’re going to feel dehydrated, which feels pretty bad).
Additional and/or Supplemental Techniques
Some of these additional tactics include Epsom Salt baths in which two large cartons of Epsom Salts are added to a very hot bath and you soak in it. The water needs to be very hot so your skin doesn’t absorb it and you can cover yourself in Vaseline or better yet the makeup remover Albolene to help prevent this. When you get out of the bath your body will be steaming and you can stand in a cooler area to let that water evaporate. You can also add wintergreen Isopropyl Alcohol to the water (don’t get that bath water in your eyes) to further draw water from the skin. Now you check your weight and get back in the hot tub if you need to lose more and keep checking, or you get immediately into some sweatpants and bundle up and get under a cover and just sweat it out while you sleep. I experimented with this maybe a year ago and someone my size can lose about 4 lbs like this; bigger folks might be able to lose more, but you’d have to go on wrestling or weight lifting forums to read about that.
The Real Thing
I’m going to have to repeat this process next week. Weigh in is the morning of the fight, at about 6:30 AM, so I’ll probably start my high water intake on Monday. I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to try to eliminate the “dry day” all together, but for the sake of wiggle room I’ll probably keep it, even if adjusting it to half a day. I don’t want to be fatigued by dehydrating my body for a longer period of time than is necessary.
When you rehydrate you want to do so without loading your body with sugar by drinking Gatorade or whatever sports drinks might seem like they’ll rehydrate you quickly. I reckon a little salt eaten right away and some water with maybe a banana for the potassium would work really well, but I’ve seen dudes guzzling Pedialyte after stepping on the scale, which is a product designed to help children who are dehydrated from diarrhea. I guess make the call for yourself, but whether it’s weigh in on the same day as the fight or the day before, you want to rehydrate in a steady way and get some glycogen to your muscles with some fruit.
We’ll see how it goes for me next week. I hope to not be as tired during training as I was this week, which could very well be mental more than anything. At least I’ll be ready for it and know not only that I can get down to 45 kg without a great deal of effort, but also that I can definitely fight at the end of the whole process.