Dehydration (i.e. cutting water weight) is one of the key ways to cut weight for a match. Almost all boxers, professional and amateur, dehydrate to some degree in order to make weight. In this article, I will explain how to effectively dehydrate and re-hydrate in amateur boxing and give some general strategies and tips. However, before you learn how to dehydrate and re-hydrate, you should first know how much weight you should cut.
Why Dehydrate for a Match?
Ideally, you want to be as fit and strong for your weight class as possible. What does this mean? Two things: 1) maximizing the weight that helps you perform (i.e. muscle) and 2) minimizing the weight that does not help (i.e. fat, waste, water). However, although water is essential to performance, as long as there is enough time to re-hydrate, you will suffer a slight, if any, performance loss. So, any fighter who wants to optimize their performance should cut water weight for their weigh-in. (It’s non-negotiable, really.)
Another (excellent) reason to dehydrate is that it helps boxers make weight. For example, a boxer has a match tomorrow and is half a pound over their weight class limit. They could easily lose that half-pound via cutting water weight.
How to Dehydrate: General Strategies and Tips
- Sweat via exercise, spa (e.g. sauna, hot tub), or general exposure to heat.
- Invest in a sauna suit (neoprene or heavy duty PVC). Gym sweats may do the trick, but its not as effective. Keep in mind, the faster you sweat, the less you have to exercise, and the more time you have for recovery. And sitting in a sauna requires no work, but there might not always be one available. So, it is smart to invest in a good sauna suit.
- The rate at which you sweat (i.e. pounds perspired per hour) depends on many factors (e.g. natural tendency to sweat, sodium levels, hydration). So, through trial and error, it is up to the athlete to figure out how much they have to do to sweat how much they have to lose.
- Drink approx. 2 gallons of water each day, then taper your water intake as the weigh-ins approach.
- This strategy trains your body to release water. You’ll start sweating and urinating in abundance. For more information about this strategy, click here (forthcoming).
- Here’s a model schedule: the process starts 7 days before weigh-ins. For days 1-3, drink 2 gallons. On day 4, taper down to 1 gallon, then 0.5 gallons on day 5, then .25 on day 6. Drink no water on day 7 (the day before weigh-ins).
- Reduce your sodium levels.
- Here are a few ways you can do this: eat less salt, eat more potassium (i.e. fruits, veggies), avoid processed foods and preservatives, and drink more water.
- Use a natural diuretic.
- There are all kinds of natural diuretics, but we recommend caffeine (i.e. coffee, tea) because it helps decrease perceptual fatigue (in other words, how tired you feel.) You can also try asparagus, celery, dandelion extract, etc.
How to Re-hydrate:
- As soon as you weigh in, drink a hypotonic solution (i.e. a drink low in carbohydrates).
- A hypotonic solution (less than 4g carbs per 100mL) is most effective at creating an environment where water flows into your bloodstream. (1)
- The more you drink, the faster you process the fluids. And although your body will not absorb all the water you drink, the faster you process the fluids, the faster you re-hydrate. (1)
- We recommend Pedialyte or a store-brand equivalent. These drinks are hypotonic, easily available, inexpensive, and provide an excellent mix of electrolytes.
- Eat foods high in electrolytes.
- It is important to replenish your electrolytes after dehydrating. Electrolytes are key to performance, so in order to ensure that you will not suffer a performance loss after dehydrating you must replenish your levels of sodium, potassium, chloride, etc. The average athlete loses 950 mg of sodium per liter of sweat. Chloride loss ranges from 710 mg to 2840 mg, and potassium loss ranges from 160 mg to 390 mg. (2)
- Common foods include: yogurt, salted nuts, veggies, soups, and fruits.
Dehydration is a short-term strategy for cutting weight. When done right, there may be no performance loss! Also, these methods can all be used at the same time. However, dehydration in general is very unhealthy, and an athlete may face the risk of serious damage to their body if they go overboard. Therefore, in general, it is best to use dehydration as a supplement to your weight management and to rely on more healthy ways to cut weight. (forthcoming,)