The struggles of ‘making weight’ in sport and why women find it harder than men

Manipulation of body weight, often to extreme lengths, comes with risks, as shown last month when UFC fighter Julija Stoliarenko’s fight with Julia Avila was called off after the Lithuanian collapsed twice at the weigh-in.

“The problem wasn’t my weight loss,” she said afterwards. “I gained weight too soon. As everyone knows, when trying to lose weight, you can’t stay at that weight for too long because you’re already on the verge of dehydration.”

Stoliarenko has pushed her body to the limit and it’s a situation judoka Livesey, who is competing in the -63kg category at this summer’s Olympics, can also understand after watching a teammate do it three years ago collapsed with an eating disorder. As a result, she delved into her own crash diet methods.

“It’s not a way of living,” she says. “If I hadn’t gotten the help of a nutritionist back then, I wouldn’t be where I am now.”

With athletes under pressure to gain weight to compete, it’s not surprising to hear stories of individuals ending up on the wrong side of health – making good practice even more important.

“I always tell myself we’re going to weigh each other,” says British lightweight rower Imogen Grant telegraph sports. Encouragingly, her approach and that of teammate Emily Craig, with whom she won the silver medal in the women’s lightweight doubles sculls at the last European Championships, clearly stems from experience, not blind faith.

“It’s all about balance,” adds Craig. “It’s about figuring out what works for you. For me I will cut out sugar and that tends to lower my body weight. Around a race weekend you go into more actual food weight. defecation [getting rid of food waste that can include use of laxatives] and cut fibers.”

In women’s light rowing, the team average must be 57 kg with no rower exceeding 59 kg, although team policy is to aim for 57 kg each. There are “about 10 to 12 days during the season” where they’re actually at race weight. Having a support network — nutritionists to talk about how to fuel up properly and psychologists to help with food-related concerns — is clearly invaluable when you’re part of an elite team.

Unlike most jockeys, who often end up sweating or starving for a ride, Hollie Doyle, at 5’11, actually faced the opposite problem, becoming too skinny amidst her heavy workload while attempting to break into the pro ranks , and thus risked an adverse impact on her riding. The struggles of ‘making weight’ in sport and why women find it harder than men

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