DCU student warns against the dangers of rapid weight loss in sport

Roisin Maguire

DCU student and boxer Terry McEntee warns people over rapid weight loss techniques in sport.

The practice of rapid weight loss in order to either make a certain weight in sports competitions is a practice followed by many athletes but is a cause for concern, according to McEntee.

“With boxing, rapid weight loss can be a big factor in the sport”, said McEntee

He also said that he has witnessed “time and time again in boxing where people with little experience will dehydrate too much for weigh-ins and will end up feeling sick and dizzy as they don’t understand the concept”.

He mentioned that DCU’s boxing society “don’t encourage anyone to drop weight quickly” and they would prefer if their boxers managed their weight over a period of time through cardio.

Research from Dr Brendan Egan of DCU’s School of Health & Human Performance is also being conducted over this practice. A survey on 30 male mixed martial arts fighters was conducted, 15 being professional and 15 being amateur.

Egan’s research states that “Water loading and hot salt baths are amongst the most commonly used methods of RWL despite little research on these methods for body mass reduction or effects on performance in weight category sports.”

His research also mentions that coaches and mentors were “more influential” when giving such advice compared to medical professionals. “Fellow fighters and coaches/mentors were “very influential” on RWL practices of these athletes, with doctors, dietitians, and physical trainers said to be “not influential”.

His report states that the most common form of RWL is water loading, hot salt baths and fasting for 24 hours. “Water loading and hot salt baths are amongst the most commonly used methods of RWL despite little research on these methods for body mass reduction or effects on performance in weight category sports.”

However, when speaking to Egan, he said that he has not yet discovered the safety risks associated with RWL. He said, “there are several evidence-based approaches that an athlete can use to safely lose weight during a training camp, and then in the 48 hours or so engage in so-called rapid weight loss practices. The majority of these practices/methods relate to manipulation of gut contents and hydration status so having a well-formulated recovery (i.e. weight regain) plan from weigh-in until competition is key to performance.”

Roisin Maguire

Image Credit: Sathishaa Mohan