The World Championships is coming up, and soon we’ll start seeing athletes dieting and running around in sweat suits. According to a large scale research involving over 800 judo players at all levels, 82% percent of them are engaged in regular weight loss practices.
Most of them lose 2 to 5% of their bodyweight, while 40% is losing between 5 to 10% and some go even further than that and lose more than 10%. Losing weight in judo is so common it almost feels like it’s part of the sport.
Although many fighters are cutting weight few are doing so under the guidance of a dietitian. Ambition and lack of information are the causes of mistakes in the weight cutting process. Without knowing it, athletes are making their weight loss harder for themselves. Here are five common mistakes:
Mistake #1: Sports drink
A lot of athletes keep drinking sports drink during their weight cutting days. But sports drinks contain a relatively high amount of salt, which retains liquid and therefore sabotages their weight cutting efforts.
Mistake #2: Fruit and vegetables
There is a big difference in the method of weight loss over a long period of time and the tactics of weight cutting used during the last couple of days before weigh-in. While eating a lot of fruit and vegetables is a smart way to keep yourself feeling full during a long-term weight loss plan, this is not the right approach for weight cutting periods. Fruit and vegetables contain a lot of fiber and stay for a long time in the intestines. For judo players who need to lose weight for competition this dead weight is the last thing they want.
Mistake #3: Omelette for breakfast
When a competition is far away from home and you find yourself spending a few nights in a hotel, there is always the issue of finding the right food. Eggs for breakfast is a very tempting treat. Eggs are very healthy and contain high quality proteins, but when the hotel’s chef is frying them, there is no telling to how much salt he uses. If you can’t ask the chef to prepare the omelette without salt, you’d better skip it.
Mistake #4: Food on the airplane
Top athletes need to take a plane to go to various IJF World Tour Events. A small snack in the airplane doesn’t seem like it can do much damage to your weight but you’d be surprised. Airplane food always contains a lot of preservatives and additives which will interfere with your weight loss efforts.
Mistake #5: Dehydration too early
Weight cutting can be very stressful, particularly before an important event, when there’s so much weight to lose. Some athletes prefer to play it safe and start dehydrating one week before the competition. This way they reach their weight limit one or two days before the weigh-in and can have peace of mind. But this practice severely damages performance. It’s better to start dehydration as close to weigh-in as possible and spend less time in a dehydrated state.
Amelie Rosseneu is a former international competitor for Belgium and Israel. She is a dietitian and has written a new book: "Making Weight & Everything Else".