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Weight loss in combat sports: physiological, psychological and performance effects

Emerson Franchini1*, Ciro José Brito2 and Guilherme Giannini Artioli13

Author Affiliations

1 Martial Arts and Combat Sports Research Group, School of Physical Education and Sport, University of São Paulo, Sao Paulo, Brazil

2 Center for Research in Sport Performance and Health (NEDES), Federal University of Sergipe, Sergipe, Brazil

3 Laboratory of Applied Nutrition and Metabolism, School of Physical Education and Sport, University of São Paulo, Sao Paulo, Brazil

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Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2012, 9:52  doi:10.1186/1550-2783-9-52

Published: 13 December 2012



The present article briefly reviews the weight loss processes in combat sports. We aimed to discuss the most relevant aspects of rapid weight loss (RWL) in combat sports.


This review was performed in the databases MedLine, Lilacs, PubMed and SciELO, and organized into sub-topics: (1) prevalence, magnitude and procedures, (2) psychological, physiological and performance effects, (3) possible strategies to avoid decreased performance (4) organizational strategies to avoid such practices.


There was a high prevalence (50%) of RWL, regardless the specific combat discipline. Methods used are harmful to performance and health, such as laxatives, diuretics, use of plastic or rubber suits, and sauna. RWL affects physical and cognitive capacities, and may increase the risk of death.


Recommendations during different training phases, educational and organizational approaches are presented to deal with or to avoid RWL.

Martial arts; Rapid weight loss; Athletic performance; Diuretics; Energy restriction; Weight cycling