Last Updated on January 28, 2024

Rapid weight loss before competition is commonplace among bodybuilders to bring out more muscular definition and, in some cases, to compete at a lower weight class similar to wrestlers, boxers, and other sports where competition is divided by bodyweight. Sometimes the “extra” weight is in the form of excess water and sometimes it is in the form of too much fat.

Fat burning weight loss is a slow process, so dehydration is usually the quickest way to lose weight (water weight) through aerobically-induced sweating or by the use of diuretics. Countless studies have shown the physical dangers of dehydration (see “Dying to win – the dangers of dehydration”).

Now, a new study appearing in the April issue of The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research official research journal of the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) and reported in Newswise, shows that rapid weight loss can also cause decrements in aspects of psychological functioning.

The research by Risto H.J. Marttinen, M.A., and colleagues of California State University, Fullerton specifically studied the physical and psychological effects of weight cutting among collegiate wrestlers, but the results could be applicable to other sports where rapid weight loss is prevalent. In this case, wrestlers who lost the most weight —four percent or more—had significantly higher levels of confusion on the day of their match.

Under NCAA rules, wrestlers are only allowed to lose up to 1.5 percent of their body weight per week to control the extreme weight loss practices so commonplace in the past.

Perhaps natural bodybuilding might consider adopting such a rule in the future for those organizations using weight classes or, in the alternative, establish all competitive classes by height so that athletes are compared more closely to their natural somatotype without practicing dangerous dieting and dehydration simply to make a lower weight class.