The Science of Rehydration for Fighters

Published on 11 April 2023 at 00:10

As a fighter, one of the most grueling aspects of the sport is the weight cut leading up to the fight. In order to compete in a certain weight class, fighters must make weight by shedding pounds before they step into the ring or cage. This can be a difficult and sometimes dangerous process, as it requires the fighter to restrict their diet and dehydrate themselves in order to make weight. However, once the weigh-ins are over, the focus immediately shifts to rehydration. Let's explore exactly how fighters rehydrate after weigh ins.

The Importance of Rehydration

Dehydration can have a significant impact on athletic performance, and it is a common side effect of weight cutting. When the body loses fluids, it also loses electrolytes, which are essential for proper muscle function. Dehydration can also cause a decrease in cognitive function, coordination, and reaction time, all of which are critical skills for a fighter.

Rehydration is the process of replenishing the body's fluids and electrolytes after a bout of dehydration. It is essential for athletes to rehydrate properly to ensure optimal performance in their upcoming bout. Insufficient rehydration can lead to fatigue, cramping, reduced power, and even early exhaustion in the ring.

It's worth noting that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to rehydration after weigh-ins. Every fighter has their own specific needs and preferences when it comes to rehydration. Below are some of the most common methods for rehydration used by fighters.


Water is undoubtedly the most straightforward method for rehydration. It is essential for the body to function correctly, and drinking water is the fastest and easiest way to replenish fluids lost during a weight cut. Despite this, it is not uncommon for fighters to avoid drinking water during the weight cut to minimize water retention, which can make it difficult to make weight. Therefore, once weigh-ins are over, fighters will often drink water as their primary source of rehydration.

The amount of water a fighter should drink varies depending on their size, weight, and level of dehydration. A general rule of thumb is to drink at least two cups of water per pound of weight lost during the weight cut. For example, a fighter who loses 10 pounds should aim to drink at least 20 cups of water to fully rehydrate.

Electrolyte Drinks

Electrolyte drinks are another popular method of rehydration for fighters. These drinks contain a mixture of water, sugar, and electrolytes (sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium), which help to replenish the body's fluids and electrolytes quickly.

Some popular electrolyte drinks used by fighters include Gatorade, Pedialyte, and coconut water. These drinks are generally formulated to provide rapid rehydration and are rich in sodium - an essential electrolyte that fighters lose during the weight cut.

Coconut water, in particular, has gained popularity among fighters in recent years due to its high levels of potassium and natural sugar, which helps to rehydrate and replenish lost energy stores. Some fighters will even blend coconut water with other fruits and vegetables to create a custom electrolyte-rich smoothie.

IV Therapy

In some cases, fighters may turn to intravenous (IV) therapy for rehydration. This involves injecting fluids directly into the bloodstream through a vein, bypassing the digestive system altogether. IV therapy can provide rapid rehydration and can be beneficial for fighters who have cut a significant amount of weight.

IV therapy is usually administered by licensed medical professionals and can be customized to provide a specific blend of fluids and electrolytes tailored to the fighter's needs. However, this method of rehydration is not without controversy, as some critics argue that it can be dangerous and potentially lead to complications.


Food can also play a significant role in rehydration, particularly when it comes to replenishing glycogen stores, which are essential for energy during physical activity. However, after a weight cut, the stomach can be more sensitive than usual, so it is important to choose foods that are easy to digest.

Carbohydrates are the most effective macronutrient for replenishing glycogen stores. Foods high in carbohydrates include fruits, pasta, rice, and bread. It's also common for fighters to consume protein-rich foods, like chicken breast or lean ground beef, to help rebuild muscle tissue damaged during the weight cut.

It is also essential to avoid foods high in fats or sodium, as they can slow digestion and cause water retention respectively. These foods can impede the rehydration process and leave fighters feeling bloated, sluggish, and generally unprepared for their upcoming bout.


Rehydration is a crucial step in the weight cutting process for fighters. It can help to restore proper bodily function and cognitive performance while also maximizing energy stores for competition. The methods discussed above are just a few of the most common methods used by fighters, and there are always new strategies being developed.

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