Boxers warned about rapid weight loss

Dr Stephen Selepe hard at work examining Eric Kapia Mukadi ahead of a boxing match.
Dr Stephen Selepe hard at work examining Eric Kapia Mukadi ahead of a boxing match.
Image: Nick Lourens

It is common for boxers to try any means to lose weight in order to compete in a lighter weight division against smaller opponents.

Some boxers engage in extremely dangerous, rapid weight loss practices in the hours and days before weigh-ins.

Dr Stephen Selepe, who examines boxers on behalf of Boxing South Africa (BSA), said these practices can negatively affect performance and compromise boxers' health.

"Extreme dehydration, vomiting, starvation, laxative and diuretic use all significantly decrease performance and can be dangerous to health, so they are strongly discouraged."

Selepe said in order to get the most from training sessions, boxers need to ensure they are properly fuelled and hydrated.

"Ensuring intake of a wide variety of fruits and vegetables will provide much of the vitamins and minerals required to prevent illness and promote good health and recovery. Consuming adequate carbohydrate- containing foods such bread, grains and cereals, particularly before and after training sessions, will help fuel and promote recovery."

He said protein intake of meat, meat alternatives and dairy should be spread over the day in several moderate servings as well as after training, to best facilitate recovery and growth, rather than larger servings at one or two main meals.

Achieving a fully hydrated body weight no more than two to three percent above their division's competitive weight limit at least one week out from competition is ideal for most fighters and will prevent extreme weight loss.

Many fighters conscious of their weight will not adequately replace body fluids after training as this will show up as increased body weight on the scales.

However, dehydration can lead to decreased power output, reduced aerobic or physical capacity, impaired reaction time and affect cognitive performance. Furthermore, it can worsen the consequences of concussion or head injury.

"Ensuring fighters are properly hydrated daily at training is critical. Fighters are advised to drink fluids with all meals and snacks and drink during training."

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