What is the difference between cutting weight and losing weight?

Losing weight and cutting weight are two terms that are often used in combat sports. Non-athletes might think they mean the same, but when it comes to combat sports they serve a different goal and have a very different approach. Confusing the two bring much misunderstanding to discussions about weight management. Let’s put some structure in this mess:

Cutting weight
or rapid weight loss
Losing weight
or chronic weight loss
Span Short term Long term
Goal Be at a certain weight at a certain time and gain the weight back as soon as possible afterwards Keep the weight low
What is lost? Water, food in the digestion track, glycogen in the muscles Fat, muscles
Pace Reduction of a lot of body weight (preferably less than 5%) in a few days Weight loss of about 1% of body weight a week


Losing Weight

Losing weight is what many people write down in their New Year resolution. They are a little too chubby for their liking and would like to do something about it. I still don’t understand why people choose to make a change in their diet every time there is a New Year celebration, but I guess they see it as a fresh start. Losing weight should be a change in habits and requires consistency all year round. People that want to lose weight want to reduce their weight and keep it off permanently.

Normally, People who try to lose weight aim to lose fat. This is achieved by eating less calories than you burn. Research shows that it doesn’t really matter how you create this energy deficit. You could just keep your regular diet, but reduce the portion size or you can follow one of the popular diets on the market like intermittent fasting, paleo, Mediterranean diet, low-carbohydrate diet high-fat diet, and so on. Research shows that in the long run the weight loss from those diets is basically the same. As long as you create a certain energy shortage. long-term, you will lose weight. To stay healthy it is advisable not to go too extreme and to make sure to get all necessary nutrients (like vitamins, minerals, essential fat acids and more). The process of losing weight is rather slow, so you need to have some patience. A good pace is around 1% of body weight a week.

Cutting Weight

Cutting weight is something a lot of (professional) athletes do. Weight affects their performance and they prefer to make it temporarily lower when they compete. Combat sports athletes hope to gain a power advantage over the lighter athletes in their category. Ironically this is what almost everyone is doing so no one gets an advantage.

Weight cutting has nothing to do with calories but with the weight of the food and liquid that the body contains. Your body weight is never completely stable, it goes up whenever you eat and drink, and down when you visit the toilet or sweat. There are a few ways to cut weight and each has its advantages, risks and limitations. Most athletes choose to dehydrate their bodies, but you can also choose to reduce the amount of food in your digesting system, the amount of glycogen stored in your muscles or the amount of sodium in your body. To avoid negative side effects weight cutting is done as close as possible to weigh-in. Weight cutting is often described as unhealthy and worrying but without exaggerating and using the right methods it can be relatively harmless.


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