Sports Medicine

, Volume 46, Issue 11, pp 1579–1584 | Cite as

It is Time to Ban Rapid Weight Loss from Combat Sports

  • Guilherme G. Artioli
  • Bryan Saunders
  • Rodrigo T. Iglesias
  • Emerson Franchini
Current Opinion


Most competitions in combat sports are divided into weight classes, theoretically allowing for fairer and more evenly contested disputes between athletes of similar body size, strength and agility. It has been well documented that most athletes, regardless of the combat sports discipline, reduce significant amounts of body weight in the days prior to competition to qualify for lighter weight classes. Rapid weight loss is characterised by the reduction of a significant amount of body weight (typically 2–10 %, although larger reductions are often seen) in a few days prior to weigh-in (mostly in the last 2–3 days) achieved by a combination of methods that include starvation, severe restriction of fluid intake and intentional sweating. In doing so, athletes try to gain a competitive advantage against lighter, smaller and weaker opponents. Such a drastic and rapid weight reduction is only achievable via a combination of aggressive strategies that lead to hypohydration and starvation. The negative impact of these procedures on health is well described in the literature. Although the impact of rapid weight loss on performance is debated, there remains robust evidence showing that rapid weight loss may not impair performance, and translates into an actual competitive advantage. In addition to the health and performance implications, rapid weight loss clearly breaches fair play and stands against the spirit of the sport because an athlete unwilling to compete having rapidly reduced weight would face unfair contests against opponents who are ‘artificially’ bigger and stronger. The World Anti-Doping Agency Code states that a prohibited method must meet at least two of the following criteria: (1) enhances performance; (2) endangers an athlete’s health; and (3) violates the spirit of the sport. We herein argue that rapid weight loss clearly meets all three criteria and, therefore, should be banned from the sport. To quote the World Anti-Doping Agency Code, this would “protect the athletes’ fundamental right to participate in a doping-free sport and thus promote health, fairness and equality”.


Weight Class Rapid Weight Loss Fair Play Combat Sport Weight Loss Procedure 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Compliance with Ethical Standards


No sources of funding were used to assist in the preparation of this article.

Conflict of interest

Guilherme G. Artioli, Rodrigo T. Iglesias, Bryan Saunders and Emerson Franchini declare that they have no conflicts of interest relevant to the content of this article.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Guilherme G. Artioli
    • 1
  • Bryan Saunders
    • 1
  • Rodrigo T. Iglesias
    • 2
  • Emerson Franchini
    • 3
  1. 1.Applied Physiology in Nutrition, Exercise and Genetics Research GroupUniversity of Sao PauloSão PauloBrazil
  2. 2.Demarest AdvogadosSão PauloBrazil
  3. 3.Martial Arts and Combat Sports Research GroupUniversity of Sao PauloSão PauloBrazil

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