My MMA Journey

My Amateur MMA Journey, Part 9: Casually Cutting Weight for Jiu-Jitsu

Generally speaking, it’s not necessary to cut weight for jiu-jitsu. Unlike other fight sports, it’s typically recommended that you go into a jiu-jitsu competition at your ordinary weight: it is an asset, after all.

If you are planning on cutting a significant amount of weight, it’s best to do so a few months before your match so that you can train for it at your new weight. Basically, if you train at 130 pounds and lose ten right before the fight, you’ll have ten fewer pounds of strength than you’re used to having when you roll and that’s something you want to avoid.

My reason for casually dropping a few pounds is that I happen to be just above the threshold of the leve or lightweight division. The next category after that is everything above, so if I compete in “No Gi” and I don’t cut lightweight I could very well end up getting crushed by someone twice my size–something I don’t particularly enjoy when it comes to grappling.

There are more weight divisions for competing with a gi but my problem in that category is that the gi I’m training in is too big for me. It’s quite heavy too, and you have to weigh in wearing your gi on the day of the competition.

Buying a nice light and well-fitted gi would be great, only they’re quite expensive and I’d only use it for two months or so before going abroad. Light as they may come, a gi is not the sort of outfit for which I have space in my ’round-the-world suitcase so it simply doesn’t make sense for me to buy one.

Anyway, with a gi on I’d be safely below light heavyweight and pass for medio but, in summary, I’m quite certain I’ll be going for “No Gi” and that brings us back to cutting weight.

I started at 130 pounds or about 59 kilos a week or so ago and I’ve since lost something like one kilo. The weight limit for no-gi leve (lightweight division) is 56.5 so with weeks to go I’ve got another kilo-and-a-half to lose. Crunch time.

Can I just say that I hate dieting?

I feel like the whole point of being fit and having a bunch of active hobbies is that you can eat and drink whatever you like, whenever you like. When you’re healthy, your body tends to crave healthy food anyway so that’s a pretty good safeguard.

As much as I’m long over dieting or losing weight just to reach some golden number, I am OK with cutting weight for a good cause. Thus, although I dislike the ordeal, I’ve had to get into some fairly serious casual dieting.

This has been my fairly successful three-pronged battle plan so far: counting calories, eating protein and plants, and doing fight form circuit training at my new favorite MMA gym in Manila. That is, of course, in addition to training jiu-jitsu, which I do about four nights a week, all right here at Fitness Unlimited.


1. Counting Calories

I can’t tell you how much I hate that I’m saying this but I’ve started counting calories.

It is probably one of the least pleasant things one can spend their time doing but, let’s face it, it’s effective. I’ve only done it once before and while it worked as far as dropping the pounds it felt entirely like not living.

To be honest, it’s been easier for me this time around, so there’s some luck. Regardless, I would never do it as a permanent part of my life. I do strongly believe that one’s life should not be controlled by a number of any sort.

So far, a little over a week of calorie counting has gotten me almost half the way to achieving my goal. I would consider a month of doing so plenty effective for hitting a weight target and walking away with a better idea of what calories mean and how they affect your body and weight.

What I like about cutting weight for a sport is that, even though you have to limit your calorie intake, you’re forced to seek out calories with the highest possible nutritional density.

You’ll be hungry after training and you won’t be able to load up on whatever food can make it to you fastest. (That’s you, pizza!)

Instead, you have to pick and plan your meals carefully and make sure you’re getting all the nutrition you need to stay strong without exceeding your calorie limit. Anything that’s full of sugar or empty calories will be a hard and easy no.

Figuring out how many calories you should be eating to hit your weight target is a simple calculation, by the way.

I weigh this much, I exercise this much, and I want to lose this much weight: how many calories should I consume per day? If you’re using an app like MyFitnessPal it’ll work it all out for you and there are plenty of online calculators as well.


2. Eating Protein and Plants

Now, please, let’s forget about calories for a minute and talk about nutrition.

I’ve always believed that the nutritional quality of what you consume is far more important than caloric quantity and when I’m done counting calories I’ll go back to making sure my food healthy and caring less about how much of it I’m eating.

When you’re exercising, the most important macronutrient is protein, so let’s talk meat versus vegetarian.

Having done small amounts of research that I’ve found quite conclusive to the forming of my personal opinion, I am of the persuasion that the ideal fighter’s diet is based on nuts and vegetables.

Call it hunter-gatherer, call it paleo, call it raw vegan, call it whatever: eating mostly unprocessed, mostly uncooked, mostly plant-based foods that our ancestors would have mostly had access to is the best way to eat.

I see no reason to be ridiculously strict with it though.

Our hunter-gatherer ancestors wouldn’t have had access to vegetables because they didn’t farm? So what? I do and I’m going to eat them.

I can’t get a hold of nuts of some other healthy raw vegan or vegetarian protein? I’ll have fish. I’ll have chicken. Chill. (I eat beef and pork sometimes too but I’m not particularly into that kind of thing.)

Back to chicken for a serious moment: if you’re any kind of fighter, skin is way, way out of the question. There is no chill when it comes to chicken skin. Sorry; I tried.

Let’s get practical. How can you make your meals mostly unprocessed, uncooked, and plant-based?

Well, the other day I hit up Salad Stop and opted for an affordable and nutrition-packed salad bowl with tandoori chicken, chickpeas, and yogurt dressing for only 260 pesos (a little over $5). I think this met the brief quite reasonably and, for 300-some calories, it was quite filling.


Another time, I went for a proper vegetarian salad with tofu and soybeans for the same price, although it did cost me a bit more in calories.

I love seeing places like this open up in the Metro, by the way. We seriously need more options for healthy food around here.

Recently, I had dinner at one of the city’s timeless restaurants for the health-minded, Corner Tree Cafe in Makati, with a very fit and health-conscious vegetarian who reminded me why I once actually was vegetarian for a while: energy.

I don’t know how else to say it: meat weighs you down.

Well, me anyway, and other people too, but maybe not you in particular. You get to make your own choices. I know people who simply cannot be sustained on a vegetarian diet.

Anyway, I’ve even been inspired to go back to, over time, possibly, an entirely vegetarian diet and to learn how to do some of my own vegetarian cooking at some point in the near future.

I’ve long been privileged to have other people cook for me, which really is great. It’s not only because I don’t like to cook but also that I’m legitimately terrible at it.

However, whether or not you enjoy it, know how to do it, or are any good at it, cooking your own food is the best way to control your diet and that’s basically that.


3. Doing Fight Form Circuit Training

This is the final and most intense element of my fight prep but luckily it takes the least amount of time.

The Fight Form circuits at Fitness Unlimited Submission Sport Paranaque are genuinely awesome and I don’t like saying that about too many things.

The coaches there are legit and the circuits they put together every day are killer.

When I enrolled at the gym, I got one month of free circuit training with my jiu-jitsu classes so I started doing the two hand-in-hand.

The circuits are all day and every hour and what works best for me is to get the one right before jiu-jitsu to minimize travel time to the gym and back.

Since I’ve been doing fight form, I haven’t gotten injured while rolling–disregarding all the bruises of course. When I grappled and rolled before, my rib cage and lower back were in a constant state of distress but Fight Form has helped me build some serious core strength.

The other night my partner’s shoulder flew into my ribs as she was practicing a takedown and I was quite certain I would be feeling that for a while. Instead, the initial pain faded quickly and I wasn’t bothered by it a bit.

Fight Form is excellent for conditioning in general and for building arm and leg strength–the latter being especially important for wrestling takedowns, which are, in turn, quite fun to use in jiu-jitsu.


That’s all for tonight. I’ll let you know where I’m at in two weeks when it comes time to compete!


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