Ever so often, for a variety of reasons, the athlete is faced with the problem of dropping a few pounds very rapidly. Some teams have weight checks based on what the eoaches have decided is the player’s ideal playing weight. Various professional teams check weights periodically, some weekly, and others monthly, and slap a fine on the athlete who is over the limit. Colleges or high schools usually do not fine players, but often keep them out of the line-up if they fail to meet specific weight requirements.
The players generally need to knock off 2, 3, or 4 pounds quickly without tapping into their strength. Ideally, they would prefer to drop the weight overnight so as not to have to go on a two or three week diet or sit in a steam room for five straight days.
The problem is not a new one to those in sports which have weight classifications such as boxing, wrestling, and weightlifting. These athletes usually train three or four pounds over the class limit and knock off the excess the last 24 to 48 hours before weigh-in. The lost weight is usually in the form of body fluids and are quickly replaced as soon as the scale is satisfied.
Various studies have been conducted, especially on wrestlers, to see if this quick weight loss had adverse effects on their performance. One of the most complete, conducted by Roger Singer and Steven Weiss of Illinois State University was reported in the May, 1968 edition of Research Quarterly. The ten subjects studied showed that up to 7% of body weight may be lost without adversely affecting factors apparently related to wrestling performance – strength, cardiovascular endurance, and response time.” These same three factors relate very directly to the sport of football.
So an athlete can drop some quick pounds and not be adversely affected – if he goes about dropping the excess bodyweight correctly. There are right and wrong ways of losing these extra pounds.
Let’s examine a couple of the wrong ways first. The taking of diuretics is a wrong way. Diuretics play havoc with many of your essential nutrients, especially potassium. The diure- tics do increase the urine output but only temporarily as the cells quickly try to retain water because of the lack of potassium.
A person deficient in potassium will experience fatigue because of the rapid drop in blood sugar level. When potassium is low in the cells, the blood sugar is correspond- ingly low. If too many diuretics are taken the muscles will fail to contract properly, the pulse rate drops, fatigue and intestinal pains develop. All in all, it’s not a wise route to take when attempting to lose weight.
Another poor avenue to follow is to stop eating complete- ly. Fasting before competition is not a wise idea for the athlete. Some individuals deprive themselves oi all foods for two or three days prior to the weigh-in. When it comes time to perform they are so listless that they can barely get their gear on. Fasting is great for meditation but not for those engaged in strenuous physical activities.
The right way revolves around counting carbohydrates. Stop eating all carbohydrates, limit your other foods to a moderate intake, and eliminate all fluids for the final twenty-four hours before you weigh-in. How long before weigh-in you begin this routine depends entirely on how much weight you have to drop. If, for example, you have to lose six pounds in six days and the weigh-in is on Saturday at 12 noon, then on Monday you should stop eating all carbohydrate foods. This act alone may be sufficient for you to drop three quarters of a pound to a pound a day and may be enough for you to make the desired weight without eliminating fluids the last 24 hours.
If, however, by Thursday you are still about three pounds over limit, cut back on the protein foods a bit more. I still want you to continue eating and generally, you can eat all the protein foods that you wish and still make weigh-in satisfactorily. On Friday, exactly 24 hours before weigh-in, stop taking in all fluids. You will not have to steam or run the body fluids out as they will be used internally. You will drop two or three pounds the last day in this manner. The lungs, for example, utilizes a great deal of fluids, so the weight will drop without any overt action on your part. Should you find that you make the desired weight well before weigh-in then you can start eating some carbohydrate foods and drinking fluids before the weight check.
As soon as you make the weigh-in, drink some liquids which contain potassium, sodium, and chlorine so as to insure yourself of supplying your body with these essential nutrients before the game or practice session.
By dropping excess weight in this manner you will retain all of your strength and endurance and still meet the necessary requirements of the coaches. Be sure that you are taking all of your vitamins and minerals during this dieting period as you are not securing the normal quantity from your diet as you usually would.