Weight category sports make up a significant proportion of the events on the Olympic Games program and represent sports with growing participation rates at community and high-performance level. Weight categories are necessary for safety and fair competition in some sports and weight making enjoys a long history and culture in such environments.
Within such sports, athletes routinely attempt to gain a competitive edge by manipulating their body mass to compete in a division that is lighter than their normal training ‘weight’. Although strategies include long term changes in body composition, acute weight loss is typically undertaken in the period immediately before a competition weigh-in via dietary modification, increased exercise, and other strategies that achieve moderate to severe dehydration. Acute weight loss practices may impair performance and result in serious health and safety risks, however there is evidence that chronic and acute weight loss practices can be undertaken safely and in conjunction with competitive success.
A pragmatic approach to making weight involves collaboration between the athlete, coach, and performance support personnel to develop an individualised plan that targets the characteristics of the athlete and their event.
Sporting organisations should play a proactive role in supporting the health, safety and performance of athletes who compete in weight category sports. This role includes the development of weight management policies, support for education activities, providing access to a Core Multidisciplinary Team (CMT) consisting of an accredited sports dietitian (ASD), sports doctor and psychologist, and contribution to an environment and culture that prioritises athlete welfare while supporting performance outcomes.
These Best Practice Guidelines on Making Weight in Weight Category Sports provide contemporary evidence-based information for performance nutrition practitioners to support the performance of athletes while prioritising the health, safety and welfare of all individuals involved in making weight in sport.
High Performance Toolkit
To complement the Best Practice Guidelines, there are a range of resources to support coaches, performance support staff, clinicians, and sporting organisations to ensure the health, safety and performance of athletes who compete in weight category sports.