Sunday, October 11, 2015

Why not compete at 'walking around weight'

Many years ago, I was in Europe cutting weight before a tournament and the team manager, as usual, appointed due to being someone's friend rather than any actual qualifications, made the comment,

"I don't see why you are starving yourself. Why don't you people just compete at whatever you weigh?"

Now, for many reasons, including referring to the athletes on the team as 'you people',  this person was an idiot.

1984 World Team Photo. Thanks to Jean Kanokogi
(By the way, the manager in the photo above was the late Elizabeth Lee, definitely not an idiot.)

Recently, someone else, definitely not an idiot who recently brought up the question of why people can't compete at their walking around weight is mixed martial artist Roxanne Modafferi.

So, let me answer that question:

It's somewhat like the prisoner's dilemma. In case you don't know, that is a problem where acting in your best interest depends on knowing what other people will do. The typical example is two people arrested for a crime and offered a bargain - confess and testify against your partner for a lighter sentence. If neither of you confess, both of you may go free. However, if you don't confess and your partner in crime does, you'll get a longer sentence.

How does this relate to making weight? Well, if NO ONE cuts weight, then if you go in at your 'walking around weight', you can expect to be about equal in strength and size to your competition.

However, if you don't cut weight and your opponent does, you may weigh 125 pounds and be fighting someone who normally weighs 140 pounds but did not eat for two days before the weigh-in and sweated off 10 pounds by jogging in the sauna. If you are close to equal in skill and conditioning, that extra 11% in size your opponent has can be the tipping point.

Since everyone assumes that their competitors will be cutting weight, everyone cuts weight.

Almost everyone. In the picture above, the person to my left is Lynn Roethke. We weighed the exact same weight and Lynn competed at 61 kg, the division above me. If you asked me (and you ARE reading my blog), her biggest asset was her speed, which was an even bigger asset in a heavier division. I wasn't that much faster than the average person, but I was stronger, which is an even bigger advantage in a lighter division.

So, not EVERYONE cuts weight, but everyone does seek to optimize their advantages, which usually involves cutting weight. Certainly, as an athlete, there is zero advantage to having extra fat on you.

Speaking of idiots ... I have been hearing nonsense all of my life about how cutting weight, or even competing in sports, causes women to be sterile, have miscarriages, etc. No. It doesn't. 

The eight women on that team had 13 children, that I know of. I'm pretty sure there were more than 13 but I haven't kept in contact with everyone. The two who didn't have children  never married because, as far as I know, they never felt like it.

Yes, if your body fat percentage drops too low, you quit having your period. It's not a permanent condition! Once you put weight back on, you start up again and if you follow the normal procedure for these things (ask your mom to explain it to you), presto - baby!



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16 comments:

Suq Mahdiq said...

Just wanted to say I like reading your blog posts...I think the info you provide is interesting..keep it up

Cuivre said...

As a farm kid, I found out that a college level science can be applied to ANYTHING. One of the skills taught to farm kids is "Body Condition Scoring" of brood cows (1-10 scale). Those cows on either end of the scale are not reproductively sound- at that particular point in time. Return to clcylicity in mammals following parturition is dependent on having an acceptable body condition so the ovaries and the endocrine system can start saying "Things are good! I'm ready to reproduce again!" The same principle applies to humans- those anonymous competitors who say cutting weight will damage their long term reproduction might be better off worrying about what exogenous male hormones they might be purposefully exposing themself to. (snark alert ;-)). Now, cutting weight, much less fighting WHILE pregnant is a whole different subject!

Anonymous said...

I like to categorize people too...just like you do.
8 people have died weight cutting since 1996 that I know of. All were diagnosed by the coroner as having met their demise by renal failure or heart attack. All were under the age of 25. Almost all showed early signs of compromised cognition and inevitable brain damage.
Weight cutting is dangerous....yes, much more dangerous than an arm bar or a liver shot or a strike to the head. I now see why you have to remind everyone that you are a Phd before every blog but, many are finding it harder and harder to believe.
Who is the real idiot here?

Westin Iroh said...

Great blog as usual. I dislike seeing anyone as nice as Roxanne fight. People like her (and your daughter, the Virgin Lelu one) don't really deserve to be hit in their faces. It bugs the life out of me when I hear disturbing things about people like that, but at least the waiting game for me to get off of the bench and step in is basically over. Apparently, it's not a moment too soon.

Brody P said...

Hi Ann Maria just had a follow up question about that, I just watched season 18 of the ultimate fighter. Where Ronda was coaching and one of her fighters could not make the weight at 135, he weighed 140. Granted he ate crappy food and brought it on himself and quit. This also happened in the Miesha Tate camp so this is is a problem for people. The two fighters were Anthony Guiterras and Cody Bollinger i believe so why not have the fighters fight at a similar weight say 138 and 140, So you can still have them cut weight but not be the exact same. What really is the difference about them being weighed to the latter because cutting 15 or 20 pounds in a week or so took an emotional toll and they both cracked and getting kicked off the show?

Anonymous said...

"Cichorei Kano" from the judo forum had a nice idea. If the competition divisions resp. weight categories will be defined at competition day regarding the current weight of the competitors,
there would be no need or advantage to cut weight extremely, because always there
is a good chance to be the one with the lowest weight in a division...

Regards Fritz

John Lichtenstein said...

There is too much emphasis on weight cutting early on at JV and Varsity.

Max Askren argues that excessive dieting can sap a student of the energy he needs for conditioning work and skill training.

And I suspect it can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food. Not to name names, but a certain LHW champion is 5-11 and must work out 8 hours a day, but needs a nutritionist to live with him so he can come in at 205. What's he doing when the nutritionist is not around? And Big Rig is getting. Those guys learned to cut weight, not to eat healthy.

Dr. AnnMaria said...

Anonymous - If that is your real name ... 8 people dying in 20 years is sad but I think it represents a smaller number than were killed by cows falling on people. I think you proved my point.

jt said...

Manny Pacquiao competes at around the same weight as his walking around weight. But perhaps he is outlier and not the norm.

When he trains for a fight, the problem of the team is to keep his weight up. Because the training burns his fat, and so they feed him multiple times a day so that his weight won't drop.

Craig hawks said...

Well, being the Bear of Little Brain, I need to ask a few questions to be sure I'm understanding this. So, as you address the point of weight cutting, you are also recommending that the athlete assess their own skill set and to the extent possible, the skill set of the opponent to be sure that cutting weight will provide the advantage needed or expected? I think you are also hinting that cutting weight might not be the appropriate "game changer" for every athlete. Each case requires analysis? Let's assume I've got this my close to correct, I've often wondered how one would perform (with a high degree of accuracy) an SA or sports performance. Let's use judo as an example. It's not my area of expertise, but it will do. How many points will we need to measure to assure that a weight cut will be helpful? Is it even possible? Then, using the collected data points, can we predict outcome? Assuming I want to chase this a little more on my own, can you point me to successful research in this area (predicting outcome of sports performance) or even where to poke around to take this farther? Finally, thanks for writing this blog! I find it endlessly educational and entertaining.

Pablo said...

What about having the weight-ins just a couple of hours before a fight? People couldn't do those dramatic weight cuts if there was no time to recover from them before the fight.

Michel Tanguay said...

About the weight. I walk around at 125 LB . I have no fat ( people remark on it 10 times a day ) . Now I consider myself a lot stonger than any other 125 pounder. The only way a person would beat me is if they find a way to delay the fight from the moment we're weighed. The guy would find a way to cheat on water mass and rehydrate so he 'd end up in the ring at 140 lb. Anyway, Ronda wrote that when she jumped from 63 to 70 kg , she realized that larger people are overated ! Please watch the Pacquiao / De la Hoya fight to see how a starving person can lose a fight to a much smaller man !

Anonymous said...

Typical narcissistic personality disorder response....and from a Phd, no less. Comparing an accident to a deliberate, cognitive action reinforces my point, not yours.

Link said...

Let's just say one of the best judo player ever live, Isao Okano, disagrees with you on this. He was
a two-time All Japan Champion (no weigh limit) being one of the smallest man. Of course, he is an
exception as it is incredibly unlikely to repeat such feat. However, the point of judo is to focus on being
technically and tactically superior, especially with one's timing in execution. Certainly physical preparation
and other things are important, but cutting weight is so far below the list it is probably important for
those who fail to improve on all the other factors. Why? It means they failed at judo - maximum efficiency,
minimum effort. Trying to beat a similarly skilled opponent by the sole advantage of being stronger is
the anti-thesis of judo, yes it could work in the short term, but in an absolute term it will not work as
well as better technique, timing and conditioning. All the repeated effort made into cutting weight is
really not very efficient use of one's effort. Not to mention that athletes who cut weight are often in bad mood,
feel weak, and may not recover in time (especially if the weigh-in is the morning of the competition).
Many competitive judo players quit judo altogether after they reach certain age because they are tired
of the frequently weigh cutting that yield some illusion of benefits. I am not sure if this is really the message
you want to encourage among young competitors.

Martin Perry said...

Hi AnnMaria,

I just happened to come across your blog and I find it interesting. Glad to find someone to talk to that is intelligent enough to understand me. I'm 63 and retired 4 years ago from an investment banking firm I started about 15 years ago. So I would like to talk to you about business matters and also other things as well. I never went to college because I never did like school. Although I did graduate from the school of hard knocks as they say. I started several companies over the years from trucking to manufacturing. I did that for 12 years and was getting burned out so I had to think of something less stressful than running companies. So I decided to start my own investment banking firm. I would raise large sums of capital from Wall Street to invest in business acquisitions. I would hire CEO's to run the companies I bought. Now the stress is on them!

Sorry to hear you lost your husband. I know how you feel. I lost my wife 4 years ago from cancer. Yes her loss changed me. We were married for 39 years. She was 18 and I was 20 just back from Vietnam.

I also want to see how much you know about the Bible. I've been a Christian (protestant) since I was 16. We can talk about that but I don't want to argue.

So AnnMaria, if you want to talk to someone that has years of experience in many areas of life, please reply. You can call me Martin.

November 21, 2015

Anonymous said...

"Certainly, as an athlete, there is zero advantage to having extra fat on you."

This is true for the lighter weight categories, but not necessarily for heavyweights. The female heavyweight division is +78kg, but the majority of female judoka in this weight category are around 100kg. Song Yu from China, the reigning world champion, is one such Judoka. Of course there's a balance. Having too much extra weight will slow you down. It is Judo and not Sumo Wrestling.