Match in 2 hours.
All I want to do today is to conquer my fears and give everything I’ve got. No matter the outcome, if I grow in this way, I win. And someday, I will have the results to reflect these internal victories, which are more fundamental than the external ones.
People are asking how this went.
Well first I want to talk about the weight cut. If you’re not interested in the ins and outs of weight cutting, you can scroll to the end of this post just to learn how I did.
I was 194 around this time three months ago.
I stepped on the scale yesterday morning 20 pounds lighter.
Then (not shown), I competed in the afternoon at 188.
Lots of people say that weight cuts like this are not necessary for beginner jiu-jitsu competitions. That’s true, but so what? It was an interesting and challenging experience. And I don’t regret it at all and will definitely do it again. It was fun and I am so stoked I did it.
Danny also answered some critical questions at the beginning of the process.
I listen to Danny’s podcast all the time. It’s a great way to find new and interesting science and scientists in a variety of nutrition, health, and sports performance sciences.
Danny knows his stuff inside and out so I reached out to him at the beginning before anyone else, and that was a great decision.
Then there was Tylor Whelan, who was available to answer countless questions throughout the process and guide me through what I needed to do and do safely.
His instagram is here, and the pictures of the fighters that he has prepared are incredible:
He seems to have been trained by or associated with George Lockhart (a guy huge in UFC), and the level of detail he went into when answering my questions plus the instagram feed made me pretty confident to listen to his advice at the very last minute.
In the span of about 24 hours, I lost 10 pounds of water weight. It wasn’t much, but it was my first water cut ever, and it went (mostly) seamlessly.
The strategy. First I want to point out that this was a strategy that I came up with reading a bunch of online content. I’m not sure if Tylor or Danny would use this exactly, but they OK’d it as not completely idiotic. I do think it is mostly consistent with what they would use.
First I started with a water and sodium load. Over the week leading up to competition, I drank 8 liters of water per day and 5g of salt per day. Several days before competition, I cut sodium to 1g/day.
Then, the day before competition, I cut water to 2 liters per day and sodium to as little as possible.
This downregulated the hormones that retain salt and water (ADH and aldosterone for you nerds). Then, in the final days, I would reverse this state. The hormones retaining salt and water would still be low, but so would my salt and water intake.
So I would continue excreting salt and water at a high rate but not be taking any in. Hence, “drying out”.
Several days before competition, I also cut fiber to lowish levels and went on a mostly carnivorous diet.
Two days before competition, I also drank Senna tea. This had a mild laxative effect that would clear my gut of a few more pounds.
The day before competition, I cut to about 800 calories/day to get rid of the rest of my glycogen. I had been lowish carb most of the week, but I really wanted to bleed the rest out.
Since glycogen in the muscle and liver also pulls water in, reducing glycogen via calorie/carbohydrate restriction also causes a large loss of water (~5 pounds at the most depleted).
Here’s where things sucked. The night before competition, I took two very hot baths at 107-109 degrees. I am not accustomed to hot baths and I felt like I was going to die.
I only lost about 1.5 pounds, probably because they were too short because I had to get out from light-headedness.
I was at around 178 pounds at this time, then went to bed because we ran out of hot water.
Tylor and Danny had both recommended sauna not hot bath for this reason.
Before bed, I ate some berries and fruit. I took some dandelion root (a mild diuretic). I woke up at 4AM the next morning. … And I weighed more than I had when I had started the night before: almost 180 pounds. Omfg.
We did two cycles of hot bath. I would go in for about 15 minutes (could not tolerate more and felt like I was going to pass out in the bathtub). After each cycle, we would bury me in hot wet towels to keep me hot and sweating before the next cycle.
Throughout this process, I prayed to God many times because it was so incredibly miserable. I guess I don’t have much tolerance to heat or am a big baby, but this was just hard!
My daughter hugged and kissed me during this and this helped so much. Shout out to Miya.
In this way, I got down to 176.4.
Not low enough!
There was no way I was going to do another cycle. So I wrapped my whole body in garbage bags and several layers of clothing and jackets.
We couldn’t find my beanie so I wore one of Miya’s.
BTW I’m making this face in this photo as a joke. I really wasn’t so miserable. My wife found all of this incredibly funny.
Meanwhile I kept complaining to Tylor that I was going to kill myself for a white belt division jiu-jitsu competition, but he assured me that this cut was very mild. Apparently many UFC fighters will cut 20-30 pounds the week before competition. Jesus.
OK but anyway so I went jogging with my bear beanie and hood up and got a headache and my heart rate went up a lot faster than normal, but it was mostly pleasant and easy. I easily sweated off 2 pounds in about 20 minutes.
I just alternated jogging and walking and made sure my HR stayed in the 165-175 range.
This will be my method next time!!!!!! Very easy!!!
And bam, I came back, urinated like 10 mL of dark yellow urine and weighed in on two different scales. Both put me at 174.2-174.4. I was going to make it.
We ran off to weigh in, and I made weight with shorts and t-shirt on easily. 174.4
We had 8 hours before staging.
I rehydrated with pedialyte, coconut water, maltose, sucrose, ~5g creatine taken every hour, water, glutamine, and pea protein.
Pedialyte and coconut water are pretty standard.
The rationale for the maltose was from my bodybuilding days: maltose has a higher glycemic index than dextrose and will therefore in theory spike blood glucose and replete glycogen faster.
I’m not sure if people still believe that, but that’s what I went with.
Sucrose was there to provide glucose and fructose. Fructose when taken in addition to glucose will increase the rate of absorption.
I think that there is a transportation rate limit in the GI tract for glucose, so when you add fructose, you bypass that limit and get more energy substrate in.
Glutamine causes faster water absorption, which @NutritionDanny talked about on his page.
And creatine was there to replete creatine, which I had stopped taking the week before to drop weight.
I’m not sure what the maximum uptake of creatine is and I didn’t have time to look it up in detail, so I just went with taking a lot.
The protein was there along with the maltose and sucrose to increase the rate of glycogen repletion. I took in about a 1:4 gram ratio of protein to carbohydrate.
I took in almost 3 liters in the first 2 hours, or 6.5 pounds of water.
I was nauseous and tired and just laid in my room first the first hour (we went home after weigh-ins).
The fatigue was sleep deprivation and the insulin spike after breaking the fast.
Here’s the crazy thing. Or not so crazy. But it was really interesting to observe. No matter how much water I took in, I still wasn’t peeing. My body was just absorbing and bodyweight was pretty rapidly increasing.
The pedialyte and coconut water was preventing major electrolyte imbalances while I rapidly rehydrated. I had no cognitive symptoms and felt fine. Maybe a little weird but fine.
Whenever the stomach discomfort passed, I ate lentils, sardines, potatoes, which is what I usually eat. But I couldn’t eat much and didn’t have the biggest appetite. I also ate 3 ucan bars.
I meditated for 20 minutes and focused on my goal: staying calm and giving everything I could. I tried to get my mind away from feeling a need to win and put it instead on doing my best.
That’s when I wrote this:
I was having flatulence and very mild diarrhea. Like, diarrhea with barely any excretion. Nothing watery. It was very weird.
My guesses are residual effects of the Senna tea, maltose, sucrose, excess rehydration, or excess creatine. I just don’t know and want to troubleshoot this and dial in my understanding of the physiology here. I will need to spend some time reading papers and talking to people.
Anyway, it was very mild but I was worried it would get worse. It didn’t though and all GI symptoms had completely subsided by the time I got to staging.
One of the guys in our division looked around and asked everyone, “hey is this the 175-pound division?” He poked me in particular and asked if I was 175 pounds. I nodded.
I started getting paranoid that I would get disqualified. Then I heard the ref joking with some guys that they would be doing mat-side weigh-ins and half the guys joked that they were screwed. So I wasn’t the only one doing this. That made me feel better lol.
I did not take any coffee all day to keep the nerves calm. I felt very calm and focused. Still, my mind raced through scenarios, but I tried to calm it.
My body was starting to adrenaline dump and I was feeling weak, so I did Zazen-style meditation while in staging. Except standing.
It’s important to note that during my first competition in April, I got really freaked out, adrenaline dumped, and gassed in like the first 30 seconds of my match, and my limbs all turned to jello. I was mounted and I just fought off submissions the entire match.
It was pathetic and really shook me up, and I wanted to avoid the same outcome this time. I didn’t go to this tournament in to win. Of course I wanted to win, but if I could just keep my shit together and perform well, that would be a victory for me.
Between matches I would jog in place and jump up and down. Avoiding things going from 0-100 mph in seconds was one way I wanted to avoid gasing. So I kept my heart rate up. Then I was called.
Some college kid. A bunch of his friends had come to watch and root for him. I had Miya cheering for me so that didn’t matter. I felt calm and wished him luck.
We started and he pulled guard immediately.
I felt super confident defending against guard, because it’s what I always play. I stood up with him in closed guard. I didn’t want to go too straight though, because I was afraid of the sweep, which had happened to me recently during sparring.
So he grabbed my collar and was able to pull me down.
He then tried an armbar and I stacked him. He then tried to triangle and I blocked it, but I couldn’t pass. He tried sweep after sweep and I kept blocking them. It felt like an endless series of sweep attempts that I blocked, but I couldn’t pass.
It was intense but my breathing was good and my cardio is strong. We also have some crazy fucks at my gym that roll as hard as this guy was going, so I felt OK. My approach is usually to hold on for the first 3-4 minutes, gas them, then destroy them.
With 2 minutes left, with no points from anyone, he got a penalty for knee reaping. I thought it would be a DQ but it was only a penalty. But I was doing good and he was down.
With 1:30 left, he finally got a sweep and mounted. I tried to escape but he locked it in. We fought over the position and he tried subs but couldn’t make anything work. His coach kept telling him to just hold it and play safe.
I put him in guard at the very end, but he got those points, and I lost.
He would later go on to win first place in the division of 17 competitors. He also competed at blue belt for no-gi and took second place there. So it was a bummer that my first match was against the best guy in the division, but that’s how it goes sometimes.
Some of the guys afterward said that it was an “awesome match” to watch. And I overheard his buddies ask him how he was doing, and he responded that he was exhausted. So I gave him a good match.
Aiko didn’t get a chance to record the match, because of our crazy 2-year-old… but I think I gave a pretty good account of it…
Overall, I was incredibly pleased with my performance. I kept cool. I went against a guy almost half my age who won the division and it was a close match. I performed way, way, way, way better than I did at my first tournament. And I learned a little about weight cutting.
So my game plan until my next tournament in ~6 months is to keep investing in my guard game: the better I can get at guard, the more I can use it and defend against it.
But more importantly, I want to invest time practicing against guard players and learning how to counter attacks from the guard and go on the offensive to pass. If I had had a bit more practice there, I would have been able to put more pressure during this match.
And this will only strengthen my own guard game as well.
I will be using Grappler’s Guide (by Jason Scully) to help me with this. Which is so amazing and has been such an incredible resource.
It goes without saying that I also really want to keep working on takedowns and standing game as well. That’s something that’s so fundamental to jiu-jitsu and fighting in general and a lot of people neglect it, and I don’t want to do that. I want to feel rock-solid standing.
I also would like to gain another 5 pounds of muscle and lose 5 pounds of fat and try to see if I can get down to a 6-minute mile. I can then compete in the same division as an even beastlier version of myself.
But the focus is clearly on the BJJ technique, given that time is limited….
I hope the few of you who have gotten through this post have enjoyed! It is just the journaling of a hobbyist. But since a few of you asked…