A Competitive Advantage?

Can weight loss give an athlete competitive advantage?

Some sports require an athlete to quickly lose weight, or "cut" weight, to compete in a lower weight category and gain a competitive advantage. An athlete may use weight loss methods like fasting, vomiting, laxatives or diuretics; or dehydration methods such as exercising in a rubber suit while spitting, using a sauna or steam bath, or restricting fluids. After the competition, the athlete will binge, eating huge amounts of food and calories to gain back lost weight. This is a vicious cycle where weight is constantly changing, throwing the functions of the body out of balance.

Losing and gaining weight this quickly can cause many health problems like electrolyte imbalance, decrease in performance, decreased strength, decreased muscle endurance, decreased blood volume, muscle breakdown, and even death. Even though many athletes and coaches believe that losing weight can actually give an athlete a competitive advantage, repeated fluctuations in weight can deteriorate the functions of the body, leaving an athlete at a higher risk of injury. The desire to lose weight may not only hurt an athlete’s performance, but it can seriously affect their perception of body and food, leading to a higher chance of developing an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia.