Making a Weight for a Fight - Meal Plan

In boxing, martial arts, wrestling and MMA, fighters have to get below a target weight in order to fight in a particular weight class. Sometimes this can be a few kilos below your off-season weight, therefore there needs to be a few weeks of strict dieting to lose this excess weight, and at the same time, it's crucial to maintain muscle strength and provide adequate energy for power and hard training.

See Meal Plan for a Fighter to Maximise Power to Weight Ratio to give ideas for the early stages of preparing for a fight.

The last few days will be the most important time for diet manipulation in order to achieve your desired weight, still ensuring there is sufficient energy to perform at your best in the ring. During this time the aim is to deplete muscles of their carbohydrate stores, then reload them with glycogen (the storage form of carbohydrate) for optimal power and energy. However, quite often, the fighter will struggle to make their required weight for their class for the weigh in, so will not be wanting to eat too many carbs or he/she will be too heavy and end up in the class above fighting guys a few kilos heavier.

On the more extreme level fluid manipulation is required as well as carb depletion in order to get the scales down; this may mean fluid restriction and manipulation of sodium (salt) intake. Below is an example meal plan a fighter may adopt on the day of the fight if he/she wakes up and panics that they've still got a little to lose by the time of the weigh in.

Let's assume weigh-in is at 6pm and the fight is after 8pm; the fighter will still be wanting to keep his energy up, or he/she will feel listless in the ring and they'll have been no point to all the preparation over the past weeks. And, despite the fluid manipulation to make the weight, it's imperative that the individual is adequately hydrated by the time they set foot in the ring. Precision is very important here, and the key to this will be during the day keeping carbs low (but not omit them), protein high and fluid/sodium minimal. Then post weigh-in the fighter should consume a variety of quickly and slowly absorbed carbohydrate foods and rehydrate as quickly as possible, without bloating and feeling sluggish in the ring.

The plan below is merely an example, but the kind of thing that professional boxers and elite fighters use. Quite often though, the fighter may be more fortunate and have the weigh in at lunchtime with the fight in the evening, or it's been known for the weigh in to be 24 hours before, meaning that rehydration and carb loading are much easier and performance can be maximised.

1 scoop whey protein in low sodium mineral water
8.00am Breakfast
Porridge: 70g oats + 200ml skimmed milk + 2 tsp sugar
3 egg whites + 1 egg yolk scrambled
100g chicken breast
Large banana
Sip 100ml low sodium mineral water
120g chicken breast
40g basmati rice + tbsp sweetcorn
No drink
120g chicken breast
Small banana
No drink
6.00pm – weigh-in
Immediately post weigh-in
Large Mars bar
250ml bottle isotonic drink
Sip 1.5-2 litres of water during the next 2 hours but avoid bloating
30 mins later
6 oatcake biscuits
1 scoop whey + 30g dextrose in water
30 mins later
250ml bottle isotonic drink
30 mins later
6 oatcakes
Sweets or chocolate
Nothing apart from water 30 mins pre-fight
After fight
Have a good meal of whatever desired to replenish

Carbohydrates need to be low in quantity, regular and of low glycaemic index (GI) (see here) choices during the daytime, like basmati rice, sweet potato and oats (porridge). Following the weigh-in carbs are a mixture of high and low GI sources. The high GI ones are to get the depleted stores up as rapidly as possible before the fight, whilst the low GI choices (oatcakes) are to stop the fighter crashing (running out of energy) in the ring, and give him/her the edge to fight longer.

Before the fight the fighter will be dehydrated, so it's imperative that he/she rehydrates before the fight, as lack of fluid will limit performance more than any other nutrition inadequacy. Commercial isotonic sports drinks may be useful here, as well as sipping water frequently before the fight, sipping is important to avoid bloating. Lightly splashing water on the brow before the fight is a useful hydrating tip as this will help keep him cool and reduce sweating, and hence water loss, and will also help reduce the risk of sweat running into the eyes.

As with all the meal plans this is merely a guide and must not be stuck to rigidly! You must eat a variety of different meats / fish / alternatives, complex carbohydrates, fruit and vegetables every day, and drink plenty of water. Adapt the plan to suit your own needs according to your results in order to attain a steady loss of body fat and respond to how you feel strength-wise. Varying portions from day to day, along with hard training will help maximise progress.

Plans for people with illness or medical conditions in no way should override advice provided specifically for you by your doctor, clinical dietitian or other clinician. We advise that you seek the advice of a suitably qualified physician before commencing any exercise regime, following any dietary or nutritional regimen or beginning the use of any dietary supplements, legal or otherwise. The information provided on the Website is intended as information only and does not constitute advice. Therefore, it must not be relied on to assist in making or refraining from making a decision, or to assist in deciding on a course of action.