BJJ: How To Lose Weight Safely Before Competition

Are you trying to figure out how to cut down your weight in time for weigh-in day?

As with most martial arts, BJJ divides competitors into weight classes.

Competitors achieve their desired weight by making significant modifications to their diet, training and lifestyle.

The goal is to get as lean as possible so that you’re able to compete within your desired weight class.

A competitor will then increase their weight between the weigh-in day and competition day in order to maximize strength, increase overall weight and give them an edge over their competition.

There are more and less healthy ways to achieve this weight loss.

In today’s article i’m going to be speaking about how you can safely (but still efficiently) lose weight before your upcoming competition.


Stick to a sustainable diet and training program in the offseason


The first and most important way to make cutting weight easier is to stick to a training and nutrition program in the offseason that doesn’t result in you gaining more fat than is necessary.


This will make things much easier pre-competition as you won’t have to waste extra time losing weight to meet your weight-class requirements.

If the goal is to lose weight and keep it off, then losing a consistent amount of weight over a medium to long period of time tends to easier to stick to.


How to minimize fat you carry in the offseason


To minimize the amount of fat you gain in the off season while still building muscle, stick to a calorie surplus of about 500 calories above your basal metabolic rate BMR.


You can find your BMR by entering your weight and height into this calculator.


This is just a starting point.


The trick to optimal muscle gain and minimize fat gain is to measure your progress meticulously.


You will want a way to measure your fat percentage and it doesn’t matter how you do it as long as it is the same method across all measurements.


You should pay attention to how the number changes over time.


Every method we have of measuring body fat is inaccurate to some degree, but they can reliably tell you whether the number is increasing or decreasing.


You will also want to measure your calories so you know how big your surplus is, and of course, you will also want to measure your weight.


You can track your calories and macronutrient intake here.


Once you know all of these things you can see how much of the weight you gain on a given surplus is muscle versus fat.


The optimum surplus will differ from person to person, and will even differ across time for the same person depending on a myriad of factors including years spent training and diet.


This is why tracking all these different factors, as tedious as it can be, is necessary if you want to optimise your muscle/fat gain and dominate your competition.


How fast can you lose weight?


A pound of fat is roughly equivalent to 3,500 calories.


If your maintenance calories (the weight you need to maintain your weight) are 2500 and you eat in a - 500 caloric deficit per day, you will be undereating 3,500 calories per week which is the equivalent of one pound per week.  


If you decrease your calories by 1000 per day then you’ll lose two pounds.


If you keep decreasing your calories, you will lose more weight.


However, when you decrease your calories too low, your metabolism can slow down as the body responds to decreased calories as a signal of starvation.


Short term rapid caloric restriction can be effective for BJJ competitors looking to lose weight fast.


However, it’s important to not sustain this for a long period of time to the point of extreme fatigue and stress.


A lot of weight can simply be by dehydrating yourself in a controlled manner (more on this soon).

Exercise is good, while too much is bad


The number of calories you burn can be increased by training more.


However, to lose any significant amount of weight (more so than your diet can dictate), you will need to increase your training frequency and/or intensity.


The problem with doing this is that if you’re already in a deficit of energy, you have less calories to put to work.


Given a drastic increase in your training frequency and intensity, this can lead to overtraining, stress and poor recovery (which are factors that aren’t favourable to experience in preparation for a competition.


It’s also important to consider the fact that the lower your body fat percentage is and the higher the intensity of your exercise, the more your body will prefer to burn protein.


This catabolization of protein is especially exacerbated given a reduction in carbohydrate consumption.


Losing weight quickly by cutting water weight


One way that weight can be cut quickly is by shedding water.


The most effective way to do this is counterintuitive.


If you want to lose a lot of water, it makes sense to think that would need to limit your water intake.


But the opposite is true.


When you restrict water your body initiates a hormone response that causes it to hold on to fluid, which increases the water stored between your cells and reduces the amount lost through urination.


In addition to this, dehydration negatively affects physical performance.


Therefore, you want to spend as little time as possible dehydrated prior to your fight, after all, what good is making your weight class if you’re too weak to compete!


How to dehydrate yourself without damaging your health


Start drinking much more water than usual about five days out from competition, 2 gallons or so a day (more or less could be ideal depending on your weight and height). Do this for two days.


During day 1 drink one gallon. During day 2 drink 1 litre. 


16-24 hours before weigh in, stop drinking any water apart from a few sips per day.


When you drink more water than usual this causes your body to produce a hormone response, which encourages your kidneys to produce urine with a high proportion of water.


This causes less water to be retained in the space between cells.


Your body does this because if it didn’t the water content of your body would become too high for optimal function.


When you stop drinking water a day out from competition it takes your body awhile to reverse this hormone response, meaning that you are excreting a lot of water while taking in none.


Some will choose to exacerbate this effect by wearing warm clothing and exercising to make themselves sweat. Some even go into a sauna in order to dehydrate as quickly as possible.


If you choose to go down this road, then be careful, as dehydration can happen quickly and it can be very dangerous if you’re not around someone who can keep an eye on you.


Make sure to pay attention to your body and if you start to feel light headed or dizzy then drink water!


Staying alive is more important than a number on the scale.


Avoid foods which cause bloating


Certain foods and drinks are to be avoided in the days leading up to weigh-in, first and foremost among them is salt.




Foods high in salt should not be eaten while cutting as salt promotes water retention, as do other electrolytes.


This means leaving sports drinks like gatorade in the store and eating your fries unseasoned (although seasonings without sodium should be fine).




High fibre foods also should be avoided a few days out from weigh in as they pass through your digestive tract slowly.


This, surprisingly, means that fruits and vegetables are to be restricted during the cutting period, because while they are good for long term weight loss, in the short term they increase your weight by expanding your gut.


How to recover from a competition cut without gaining excessive amounts of fat


So you’ve gone through the painful process of cutting and made your desired weight class, hooray!


Now it’s time to refuel.


Make sure to drink to replace the fluids you’ve lost so you don't go into the fight dehydrated.


Fuel your body with easily digested foods.


The best foods in this situation are liquid carbs and liquid protein.


The process of cutting isn’t a particularly healthy one, but after this article you should know enough to avoid the most dangerous and counterproductive methods to losing weight before competition.


Losing weight rapidly will always be part of BJJ, but this doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice your health in the process.



Phillip Ghezelbash

Philip Ghezelbash is a personal trainer and writer from Wellington, New Zealand. His mission is to help athletes around the world improve their performance through evidence-based nutrition and training strategies.

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