Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Making the weight for judo

Hungry? Losing weight for an upcoming event? Read this blog from Lauren Jackson, a judoka and Sports Science graduate. Lauren is the Judospace Communications Assistant.

It is 4 weeks before a major competition and the scales read 5kg over the category allowance, to move up a weight category or to drop weight? This is a difficult yet commonly faced scenario for judo players, regularly resulting in athletes undergoing rapid weight loss in the run up to a competition (Coufalova et al., 2013). 

Why? Because being at the bottom of a weight category can seem like a disadvantage, because change is risky and sometimes because of the social connotations associated with weight gain (especially for those more sensitive about body image, in particular female athletes). For some players this rapid weight loss is seen as something that has to be done and commonly achieved through food and fluid restriction and sweating off. Understanding the adverse effects that are associated with cutting weight can help a judo player make an educated decision about what is the right decision or weight category for them. 

Here is the key information that all judo players need to know about what happens when they undergo rapid weight-loss. Rapid weight loss has been associated with: 

1. Reduction in strength, posture, dynamic balance and perceived exertion (Jlid et al., 2013). 
2. Negative mood profiles (Caulfield et al., 2008) which have negative effects on performance (Lane et al., 2001)
3. Reduced cognitive function (Labadarious et al., 2007) which will threaten performance and increase injury risk.
4. Side effects such as dizziness, tiredness and headache (Dolan et al., 2011; Labadarious et al., 2007)

Rapid weight loss has been associated with reduction in strength, posture, dynamic balance and perceived exertion.

The results achieved in training are sacrificed for the sake of weight loss. The negative experiences of the cutting strategies can put a player off competing in the future and an accumulation of these factors will increase probability of drop out.

Extreme weight loss methods have been passed down through generations of judo players that have developed from a cultural rather than scientific rationale. I will consider weight loss through dehydration in a future blog. Those judoka attempting weight loss over a few weeks through diet and exercise should consider the following:

Is weight loss the right option?  Players should only attempt weight loss if they are carrying useless mass, i.e. they have sufficient body fat to drop the required amount of weight. Scenarios in which excessive fat may accumulate include as a result of a habitual energy imbalance (the player consumes more energy than they use up) or during injury when a player is less physically active. Younger players should not be attempting weight loss due to weight gained as a result of growing.  

When weight loss is the chosen option it requires analysis and manipulation of current diet/training.  Manipulation should acknowledge the following:

  1. Weight maintenance is achieved by energy balance (energy intake matches energy expenditure). Athletes with a moderate to high training volume (more than 3x40 minutes per week) will require +2500kcals a day (Leutholtz et al., 2001). The first thing to consider is whether the player is over consuming and if so to what extent, it is of importance to stop the player from eating excessively to prevent unwanted weight gain.  Energy demand is mediated by activity level, size and muscle mass – if you are unsure about the correct energy demands all changes to intake should be small and gradual.
  2. To lose weight there must be an energy deficit (energy expenditure must outweigh energy intake). Aim for weight-loss effects from the smallest amount of deficit then when a plateau is reached total intake can be reduced further, (e.g. about 100kcal/day every 2-3 weeks) this will keep weight loss gradual. High deficits should be avoided as they increase the breakdown of lean body mass (muscle) rather than fat-loss (Garthe et al., 2011) and create hormonal adaptations to combat fat-loss (Trexler., 2014).  
  3. For athletes completing above moderate levels of training a diet with a higher carbohydrate and protein intake is recommended however too much carbohydrate or fat in the diet may be causing unwanted weight gain. For athletes, as intensity and volume increases as does carbohydate and protein intake. (Kreider et al., 2010)
  4. Frequent ingestion of protein during a deficit period will help to satisfy satiety and minimise LBM (lean body mass) breakdown (Mettler et al., 2010). This cannot be completely prevented during a high energy deficit and carbohydrate must be ingested in sufficient amount to supply the body with the optimum fuel source. 
  5. Increasing energy expenditure is another way to create an energy deficit. Additional training sessions or physical conditioning can promote maintenance of muscle during weight-loss (Bryner et al., 1999). 

It is difficult to predict the rate at which weight loss will occur, larger players will lose weight more rapidly than a leaner player – however would need to plan for more time to lose a greater amount of weight. Monitor the weight loss to help make realistic targets, think about the long term targets rather than just the next competition. 

Manipulation should be determined by the initial behaviour and physical condition of the player in addition to their previous attempts of weight loss and strategy preferences. 

Be sure to monitor the effects on the player. A change in habitual behaviour could lead to increased fatigue, physical weakness or cognitive impairment which will affect performance in training and competition and can increase injury risk.

Monitor the weight loss to help make realistic targets, think about the long term targets rather than just the next competition. 

All individuals have different body types and demands meaning there is no one answer for all players. As a coach, if you are in doubt of what is best for an individual then seek further professional help before giving any advice to the athletes.

I believe that if we want the best performance from judoka, a change in the social acceptance of extreme weight making strategies is needed. One way is through increased education of more optimal methods to manage weight for judo. 

As a coach you may be balancing the long term health of the athlete against the expectation of another medal, at what may be a minor competition.

As an athlete you want your optimal performance. Your energy balance and hydration levels are important contributors to you delivering that performance.

At Judospace we try to help the education of athletes, coaches and federations.

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Bryner, R., Ullrich, I., Sauers, J., Donley, D., Hornsby, G., Kolar, M. & Yeater, R. (1999). Effects of resistance vs. aerobic training combined with an 800 calorie liquid diet on lean body mass and resting metabolic rate. Journal of American College of Nutrition, 18, 115-121. 

Coufalova, K., Prokesova, E., Maly, T. & Heller, J. (2013). Body weight reduction in combat sports. Archives of Budo, 9, 267-272.

Dolan, E., O'Connor, H., McGoldrick, A., O'Loughlin, G., Lyons, D., & Warrington, G. (2011). Nutritional, lifestyle, and weight control practices of professional jockeys. Journal of sports sciences, 29, 791-799.

Garthe, I., Raastad, T., Refsnes, P., Koivisto, A. & Sundgot-Borgen, J. (2011). Effect of two different weight-loss rates on body composition and strength and power-related performance in elite athletes. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 21, 97-104. 

Jlid, M. C., Maffulli, N., Elloumi, M., Moalla, W. & Paillard, T. (2013). Rapid weight loss alters muscular performance and perceived exertion as well as postural control in elite wrestlers. Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, 53, 620-627.

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Labadarios, D., Kotze, J., Momberg, D., & Kotze, T. J. (1993). Jockeys and their practices in South Africa. World review of nutrition and dietetics, 71, 97.

Leutholtz, B. & Kreider, R. (2001). Exercise and Sport Nutrition. Nutritional Health, Humana Press, 207-239

Mettler, S., Mitchell, N. & Tipton K. (2010). Increased protein intake reduces lean body mass loss during weight loss in athletes. Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 42, 326-337. 

Trexler, E. T., Smith-Ryan, A. E. & Norton, L. E. (2014). Metabolic adaptation to weight loss: implications for the athlete. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 11, 7.