I am a BJJ blue belt, and have been training for five and a half years. I am an assistant coach, and a national masters gold medalist.
Making Weight for a Same Day Weigh-In
Same day weigh-ins are becoming increasingly common for both wrestling meets and for other forms of submission grappling. At some meets and tournaments, you will have to weigh-in the morning of the event and the amount of time you have between weighing in and competing could be anything from a few minutes to a few hours.
Some Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu tournaments have competitors weigh-in as they enter the bullpen and then head onto the mat immediately to compete. The idea of this is to stop people from cutting huge amounts of water weight. If competitors know that they will be competing immediately after weighing in then, in theory, they will register at a weight close to what they walk around at, rather than dehydrating themselves for a contest and rehydrating after making weight.
If you have signed up for an event and are now worried about making weight, try these strategies to cut weight without sacrificing performance.
Know Your Weight so You Can Plan Your Cut
How Much Should You Cut?
The amount that you should cut depends on how far out the event is and how much body fat you have to lose. With same day weigh-ins you should not be aiming to dehydrate yourself unless absolutely necessary.
Deciding How Much to Cut for Weigh-In Day
If you are planning ahead for a same day weigh-in, then the first thing you need to determine is how much you need to cut. To work this out, you should familiarize yourself with the rules of the tournament, including:
- If you are weighing in immediately before stepping onto the mats you do not want to be dehydrated
- If you can weigh in a couple of hours before the tournament you may have some leeway to drop a very small amount of water weight
- Are there test scales you can use?
- Is there an allowance for variation in scales?
- Do you weigh in wearing a uniform, or can you weigh in wearing just underwear if necessary
- Consider the number of matches you will have. If you have big divisions then you may want to aim to cut less than if you know your day will be just one or two matches.
- Look at the weight classes. If you are walking around at the very top of a given weight class and the tournament is not far off, consider staying in that weight class and doing a very slow cut to the next category for a future event.
- On the other hand, if you are only a few pounds over you should be able to cut that in very little time.
Cutting Weight If the Tournament Is Several Weeks Out
If the tournament you are planning to do is several weeks out, then you can afford to spend a couple of weeks dropping body fat.
Conventional wisdom suggests that people aim to lose 1lb of body fat per week, which works out to a 500 calorie deficit per day. It should be easy for an adult male (and for most females too) to lose that much weight while still maintaining good physical performance. Simply put your information into a TDEE calculator and work out roughly how much energy you burn on a given day, before exercise. Log all of the food that you eat (and everything you drink as well) in an app such as MyFitnessPal and aim to eat 500 calories fewer per day than your TDEE.
If you are training for an hour per day, do not 'count' your exercise calories. If you are training for more than an hour per day, consider counting them in MyFitnessPal, but do not increase your calorie intake to cover all of the calories burned from exercise. Eat around 70% of what MyFitnessPal tells you to do. The way that MyFitnessPal counts exercise calories is slightly flawed. If you wrestled for an hour, then MyFitnessPal will tell you that in that hour you burned 'the calories it costs to sit around and do nothing for an hour' PLUS 'the calories burned from wrestling'. This is incorrect because the calories for sitting around were already counted in your TDEE. If you increase your food intake to cover the exercise calories it gives you, then you could end up gaining weight!
If you are a very active female who is already close to her ideal weight, then 1lb per week is probably the most you can expect to lose without having to cut your calories dramatically. Most men, however, have a fast enough metabolism that they may be able to lose 2lb per week without feeling the ill effects. To lose 2lb per week, aim for a 1,000 calorie per day deficit from diet and exercise.
The further out the tournament is, the more weight you can lose over time, and the less stress you will feel in the run-up to the event.
A Food Scale Is a Great Investment
Limit Your Water Cut to 2–3 Percent of Your Bodyweight
For same-day weigh-ins, aim to cut no more than 2-3% of your body weight in water. Anything more and your cardiovascular performance and explosive strength will suffer.
Cutting Weight If the Tournament Is 1-2 Weeks Out
If you are 1-2 weeks out from the tournament and you are more than a few pounds over then, you will need to consider some more aggressive measures, including water loading and a significant calorie deficit.
The amount that you can lose with these aggressive measures will depend on your size, body fat percentage, how much water you are willing to cut, and your gender.
Some people are able to lose 15 lbs in two weeks; others find that around seven is the maximum. That is including both water weight and fat loss.
Losing Fat Without Sacrificing Performance
If you need to lose 10-15lbs of fat, then you will want to start running a significant calorie deficit about two weeks out from the tournament. To retain performance while eating at a huge calorie deficit, you should follow what is known as the protein-sparing modified fast. With this kind of diet, you aim to eat a very high protein diet with a very low number of calories.
- Set your target protein intake at between 1.3 and 2g of protein per lb of bodyweight
- The leaner you are, the more protein you need
- Set your calorie intake at 6 to 8x your bodyweight in lbs
This means if you weigh 150 lbs, you should be eating between 900 and 1,000 calories per day. That's not a lot of calories at all! For a 20-year-old male who is moderately active, a Protein Sparing Modified Fast where you consume 1,000 calories per day should result in fat loss of around 3.5lb per week.
Note that the above figure is fat loss. When you cut down on junk food and eat far fewer calories, you should also find that you lose some water weight and that you lose a bit of weight simply because you are carrying less waste in your bowels. So, your total weight loss could be as much as 5–7 lbs in the first week and then another 3.5 in the second. You should not do a Protein Sparing Modified Fast for more than two weeks when you are cutting weight for a competition.
If you want to maximize the weight loss in that last week, you could switch to protein shakes and soups for your meals. These are filling foods that will not bloat you and leave you with waste in your intestines, so your weight should be more stable, and you won't have to worry about bowel movements.
Be sure to avoid sodium and drink lots of water, especially in the last week.
A protein-sparing modified fast is hard work. You will probably feel rather tired, and you will probably crave a lot of snacks. Stay out of situations where you will want to indulge and try to keep your training to the minimum. Do the skills work you need to stay sharp, but ditch those long runs and reduce your conditioning. Be sure to get plenty of sleep.
Cutting Weight in That Last Week or Few Days
If you are still a couple of pounds over in the last few days running up to the meet or tournament, then you will want to cut some water.
Cut back on solid foods and start avoiding sodium. Drink lots of water in the days running up to the meet, then cut it down as the competition draws closer. For a same day weigh-in (especially one that is immediately before you step on the mat) you do not want to be cutting more than three percent of your body weight as water weight. If you have more than that to cut then consider moving up a weight class. You may be at the bottom of the other weight class, but at least your athletic performance won't suffer.
Hydrate then Cut
- Four days out from the weigh-in, start drinking 2 gallons of water per day
- 16 hours before the weigh-in, stop drinking water
- The night before the weigh-in have a small, low carbohydrate and no sodium dinner
- Take a hot bath, go to bed wearing clothes and sleep under the blankets
- Wake up, weigh yourself
Hopefully, you should be on weight. If you are not on weight, then you can exercise, take a hot bath, or use other strategies to lose weight. Most people should find that between going to bed and getting up the next morning, they will lose 1 lb even without water cutting strategies.
If you can weigh in then have a break before your matches, use that break to slowly rehydrate (don't down a whole bottle of Gatorade, no matter how tempting it is). Sip slowly and refuel. Eat foods that you know you can tolerate well and that are easily digested to give you energy.
If your weigh-in is immediately before your match, try to take a bottle of an electrolyte-rich energy drink mat-side with you. Even fast-acting beverages probably won't help for your first match. However, energy drinks can kick in within 15 minutes of consumption so it might help you for your second match!
Questions & Answers
Question: I've been doing water loading and managed to cut about 2-3kg. I'm competing under 53kg with the gi on (currently 51.2kg with gi) and weigh in is immediately before my match. Is it safe to eat a banana and some energy gel before weigh in?
Answer: If you know that you can consume certain foods or energy products without ill effects, then you should be safe to do so. Try eating those foods immediately before training to see how you respond, since some people feel sick if they eat before vigorous activity.
You cannot gain more than the weight of a piece of food or beverage by eating/drinking it, so people often check their weight while holding the food to make sure it won't take them overweight.
© 2019 Leslie Ann