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Dehydration is a problem in combat sports
Date:5/2/2013

Athletes in combat sports often try to shed body weight in order to compete against lighter and smaller opponents. A new doctoral thesis from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, points to the human body's limited ability to quickly recover following extensive short-term weight loss. Almost half of the studied athletes were severely dehydrated on the morning of their matches. Nevertheless, the athletes seem to focus on the mental advantages of the method.

Stefan Pettersson has studied the very best Swedish athletes in wrestling, taekwondo, judo and boxing. The data was collected via interviews with athletes on the Swedish national teams and by studying about 70 elite athletes' hydration status and food intake on match day.

All studied athletes compete in weight classes. In combat sports, it is generally considered beneficial to first lose a lot of weight prior to weigh-in and then drink and eat a lot before the match, with an ultimate purpose of being able to fight a shorter and lighter opponent than would otherwise be possible. Previous research shows that 80-90 per cent of all athletes in sports with weight classes adhere to this practice.

Athletes commonly abstain from food and drink for up to 24 hours prior to a weigh-in. They also often reduce their food intake for 96 hours in order to deplete stored carbohydrates. This dietary regimen is sometimes combined with sauna sessions intended to rid the body of even more water.

Pettersson's thesis sensibly addresses the perceived performance advantages resulting from the studied practices, but also the problems and demands that the rules in these sports present to athletes with respect to food intake, body weight and hydration. Analyses show that the athletes' ability to quickly recover from the dehydration was far from satisfactory. In fact, almost half of the studied athletes were severely dehydrated on the morning of match day.

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Contact: Stefan Pettersson
stefan.pettersson@ped.gu.se
46-070-205-4751
University of Gothenburg
Source:Eurekalert

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