By Gavin Allinson
The BJJ weight classes span 6kg, that’s nearly 14lbs in imperial measurements. It’s pretty obvious that you want to be as close to the top of your weight category as possible as there is no point giving away a potential 6kg to your opponents. Many of you will end up being somewhere in the middle of a weight class.
So the options are to put on some extra weight and be at the top of your category or to try to lose some weight and drop into the category below.
Most of the white belts that I have had this discussion with could, in my opinion, drop two weight categories if they wanted to. This might seem impossible for guys new to training, but it is pretty amazing how much fat weight you need to lose before you start looking ripped and shredded. It is usually at around 8% body fat that your six pack starts to show.
The ability to drop down two weight classes is less apparent for blue belts and above because generally they have a couple of year’s training under their belt and often look leaner than the white belt population.
ADVANTAGES OF BEING AT THE TOP OF A LOWER WEIGHT CLASS.
You are more likely to be fighting against smaller opponents than you are currently fighting against in the higher weight category. Also, your opponents are likely to be shorter than you and a lot of them will be lighter than you.
If you drop fat to move into a lower weight class then your strength to weight ratio will have increased. This means that pound for pound you are going to be stronger than you were before.
Excess fat doesn’t provide you with any additional performance advantage, in fact fat has a blood supply and is constantly undergoing metabolic processes; it is not just sitting there waiting for times of starvation so that it can be used as an energy source. So, excess fat slows you down in more ways than one.
Carrying excess fat is likely to cause additional strain on your body organs and increase your likelihood of getting cancer, heart disease and diabetes. No-one knows what the optimal fat level might be for longevity, but I wouldn’t mind betting that it will come out leaner rather than fatter.
Dropping fat and revealing your six pack is likely to give you more confidence and performance in areas away from the mat too.
If you are an ultra heavyweight and are over the 100.5kg mark then you are also likely to be using that to dominate opponents. I would guard against thinking that being 20-30kg overweight is good for your BJJ. That might be the case and you are smashing everyone at your academy, but you are on the fast track to a heart attack.
TAKE A LONG TERM APPROACH.
The biggest mistake I see is people trying to lose too much weight too close to a competition.
Two weeks before a competition they find themselves 3-4kg over where they need to be. It’s not an impossible situation to hit that mark for BJJ but leaving yourself that much to do is going to affect your performance.
There are two processes by which you can drop weight quickly:
1. Dehydration. Cut down your fluid intake, have saunas, hot baths, sweat suits etc.
2. Depleting glycogen. When you reduce your carbohydrate intake over a period of a couple of days you can easily drop 1.5kg – 2.5kg quickly. Carbohydrate is stored as glycogen in your muscles and liver; it is used to provide energy quickly. In order for it to be stored it requires water to hold the glycogen in place, so as you reduce your stored glycogen you lose the water that is associated with it.
If you take this approach and delete your glycogen levels, the common result is to feel that you have no power and you end up gassing really quickly as you won’t be able to fight at your usual intensity.
I wish I had a pound for everyone who has told me:
‘I can’t fight at that weight, I tried it a couple of times but I just had no power’.
What the person has done is they’ve tried to drop too much weight too close to the competition and probably burnt little fat and made little change to their body composition.
-Measure your weight before you start.
-Measure your weight again after 2 days.
-Work out the 2 day difference.
-What is the maximum weight for your category – then subtract the weight of your gi.
Start weight 98kg
After 2 Days 96kg
2 day difference of 2kg
Target weight 94.3 kg
GI weight 1.5kg
– 2 day glycogen loss 2kg
For the above your target scale weight becomes 90.8kg. This allows for the weight of your gi and for you to be able to eat some carbohydrates and refuel yourself.
So, when you are sitting on 96 kg after 2 days and think ‘this is ok, I’ve only got an extra 1.7kg to lose’, actually you really have 5.2kg of fat to lose. You could lose this amount of fat quickly in 2 weeks by really cutting down your carbohydrate levels and training 2 times a day like we outline in The Four Week Fat Loss Program. However, you would better off allowing 3-5 weeks to drop this amount of weight consistently.
GETTING BIGGER- MOVING TO THE TOP OF CLASS
You can simply eat more and put on some extra fat, that’s pretty easy. Let’s presume you want to put on some extra muscle mass though.
In order to build muscle you need to be eating sufficient calories and surplus of that which your body requires for maintenance, a training stimulus that will cause damage to muscle cells and couple that with sufficient rest and recovery. The most efficient training stimulus is to train with weights 3-4 times a week.
Building quality muscle mass is harder to do than losing fat. There are many factors that can influence the speed at which muscle building occurs and the most overlooked and neglected are how well you rest and recover.
But as a rule of thumb, eat clean foods and push hard during your weight training sessions to see decent results, as this option is obviously preferable to simply putting on fat.