Study Documents Harmful Effects of Extreme Weight Cutting in MMA

Adding to the literature supporting the dangers of extreme weight cutting in combat sports, a recent study was published documenting various harmful effects from the practice for a mixed martial artist.

In the recent study, titled Extreme Weight Making Causes Relative Energy Deficiency, Dehydration and Acute Kidney Injury in a Male Mixed Martial Arts Athlete, the authors documented various metrics of an MMA fighter who underwent a phased weight cut including rapid dehydration in the final phase.  The fighter lost a total of 18.1% body mass during the totality of the phased cutting with the rapid cut being responsible for 9.1% of the total loss.

The authors noted harmful effects from this practice including relative energy deficiency, reduced resting metabolic rate, inability to complete performance tests, alterations to endocrine hormones, hypercholesterolemia, hypernatremia and acute kidney injury leading the authors to conclude “These data, therefore, support publicized reports of the harmful (and potentially fatal) effects of extreme weight cutting in mixed martial arts athletes and represent a call for action to governing bodies to safeguard the welfare of mixed martial arts athletes.

The full abstract reads as follows:

The aim of the present case study was to quantify the physiological and metabolic impact of extreme weight cutting by an elite male mixed martial arts athlete. Throughout an 8-week period, we obtained regular assessments of body composition, resting metabolic rate, peak oxygen uptake, and blood clinical chemistry to assess endocrine status, lipid profiles, hydration, and kidney function. The athlete adhered to a “phased” weight loss plan consisting of 7 weeks of reduced energy (ranging from 1,300 to 1,900 kcal/day) intake (Phase 1), 5 days of water loading with 8 L/day for 4 days followed by 250 ml on Day 5 (Phase 2), 20 hr of fasting and dehydration (Phase 3), and 32 hr of rehydration and refueling prior to competition (Phase 4). Body mass declined by 18.1% (80.2 to 65.7 kg) corresponding to changes of 4.4, 2.8, and 7.3 kg in Phases 1, 2, and 3, respectively. We observed clear indices of relative energy deficiency, as evidenced by reduced resting metabolic rate (−331 kcal), inability to complete performance tests, alterations to endocrine hormones (testosterone: ❤ nmol/L), and hypercholesterolemia (>6 mmol/L). Moreover, severe dehydration (reducing body mass by 9.3%) in the final 24 hr prior to weigh-in-induced hypernatremia (plasma sodium: 148 mmol/L) and acute kidney injury (serum creatinine: 177 μmol/L). These data, therefore, support publicized reports of the harmful (and potentially fatal) effects of extreme weight cutting in mixed martial arts athletes and represent a call for action to governing bodies to safeguard the welfare of mixed martial arts athletes.

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