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The Weight List with George Lockhart & Iain Kidd: Oral vs. IV re-hydration (full transcript)

The Weight List features MMA nutritionist & weight cutting expert, George Lockhart answering fan questions about weight cutting, dieting and nutrition. Our own super research-nut, Iain Kidd accompanies him in breaking down the information in an easily digestible format.

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A fresh, new series from the Three Amigos Podcast is now available in transcription form. The Weight List is a quick, 10-15 minute segment recorded each week and features MMA nutritionist & weight cutting expert, George Lockhart answering fan questions about weight cutting, dieting and nutrition. Our own super research-nut, Iain Kidd accompanies him in breaking down the information in an easily digestible format.

We are 5 episodes in already, but have decided to start transcribing these segments for Bloody Elbow readers. We hope you enjoy these very informative Q & A sessions. If you'd like to contribute questions, you can put them in the comments section or check out the end of this article for more methods of submitting your own queries.

Iain Kidd: For this initial episode we have a big topic that has been on everyone's mind since the UFC announced they were banning IV re-hydration. That policy is now in force and the questions we have been getting a lot is what kind of a difference is the IV ban going to make? How important is IV re-hydration, and are guys going to miss it?

The first question I have for you George, is, do you think IV re-hydration is superior to oral re-hydration?

George Lockhart: No, I don't. To be honest, I actually think that oral re-hydration makes a lot easier to control what is going into the body, and can actually be better than an IV.

Iain: I absolutely agree. Jeff Novitzky, who is heading up the UFC's drug testing program, came out and said that the evidence points to oral re-hydration being better. For those who don't know, George and I are writing a book on weight cutting, and during the research for that back I've discovered that he's right. There's not a lot of research out there; it's mostly small-scale studies on cyclists, but they all agree that oral re-hydration is equal or superior to IV re-hydration.

George, you've worked with UFC champions on down, what kind of misconceptions do fighters typically have about IV re-hydration?

George: The obvious one is that they think the IV is better. I think a lot of the time it's more of a psychological advantage than anything. There are guys I have worked with who lost like three pounds the week of the weight cut, and because they've always used one, they think they need it. It's like a guy's lucky socks. Because they felt great for this one fight, they feel like they need to do everything the same way they again, including using an IV. Like you said though, the science shows otherwise.

Iain: Something we've seen recently is fighters who have been cutting weight so badly that they end up sick. In those circumstances a fighter does need an IV. Now the only time a fighter needs an IV is if they physically can't hold fluids down. I'm of the opinion that if you get to that point, if you're throwing everything you drink back up, you're probably too sick to safely fight the next day and your fight should be pulled anyway. What's your take on that?

George: You're absolutely right. The thing is, even if you do everything well during fight camp, if you mess up the timing during your weight cut it can have a big negative effect on you, and cause you to hold onto water. 

The cool thing is that USADA came out with a disclaimer saying if you get to the point that you have to go to the ER, you can do that. I talked to Jeff Novitzky and he wanted to make this really clear; if you need to go to the ER, you don't have to clear that with anybody. You can go there after you weigh in and get an IV.

Those are extreme circumstances, but like you said, that's why the IV was made; for when you can't hold water down. For me, in the military it was for when you had to get in the fight quick-fast and in a hurry without the time to sit and drink a solution. We'd patch an IV to somebody's arm and tape it to the top of their shoulder so they could keep moving in the fight and keep hydrated.

Iain: A lot of people have this misconception about re-hydration that you just need a saline bag with water and salt and that's everything you need to fully re-hydrate. In reality one of the reasons that oral re-hydration is superior is that it gives you the ability to be much more exact about refilling the body's requirements for different minerals and nutrients. Can you tell us a little bit about the different things that need to be considered during the re-hydration process?

George: A lot of people think, ‘oh, I'll just drink a saline solution,' which will have a lot of negative impacts if you don't need that much salt. One 1,000ml bag of saline has about 8,000mg-9,000mg of sodium chloride. What we need to take into account is how much did you sweat, and are you a light, medium or heavy sweater when it comes to sodium? When some people are done working out they have salt crystals all over them and end up with a white shirt. That's a heavy sodium sweater. If your sweat doesn't taste like salt you're probably a light sweater.

For every pound of water that you lose, you're losing about 500mg of sodium, so when we reload we want to find out exactly how much water you cut. Not the overall weight, because we have to take the glycogen lost and stuff into account, but the amount of water. Once you have the number of pounds lost in water, and you know how the person sweats, you know just how much sodium they need to reload.

We use the WHO re-hydration standards at FitnessVT, but we do some things a little bit differently because not only are we reloading sodium salts and magnesium, but we're also reloading carbohydrates in a specific way. With that being said, I need to know exactly how much sodium I lost before I know how much I need to reload. If I need 5,000mg of sodium chloride, I'd probably need about 2,300mg of potassium. If you do that in one shake, that shake isn't an isotonic solution, so your blood can't accept it. If I have too much sodium, it's like drinking seawater. The salt content is so high that it'll actually draw water outside of the cells and you'll dehydrate instead of re-hydrate.

If you start drinking a solution with too much salt you start dehydrating yourself even more. The amount of water in the solution is extremely important, and the amount of solution is extremely important. When it comes to IVs guys are like, ‘oh, I'll take two bags, because the first one went in really quickly,' he just took in about 18,000mg of sodium. Then he'll go to the restaurant and start putting salt on his food and end up with a crazy imbalance.

We just worked with Daniel Cormier (who re-hydrated orally) and he said he felt better than ever. He said he felt like he was getting stronger in the fifth round than he was in the first round.

Iain: We should probably take a second to explain exactly what a weight cut is, because there's a difference between losing weight or dieting at the start of your camp, or before your camp, and that actual weight cut. You start preparing for the actual weight cut about 2 weeks out, and what you're trying to do with a weight cut is drain the water out of the muscles.

Now, it's hard to drain the water just from the muscles without it also being drained from, for instance, the cerebral spinal fluid around the brain. That can lead to guys being more susceptible to concussions if they don't re-hydrate properly. It can also be drained from around the organs.

With the potential dangers of getting the cut wrong in mind, I want to get your take on what guys should be doing better during weight cuts to be safer.

George: The number one thing I want to tell people is that it is a weight cut. That word cut is important. I'm cutting something out. A lot of people remove sodium 2-3 weeks out, then they remove carbohydrates 2-3 weeks out. Once it comes time to make the actual cut, which will start 3 days before the weigh-in, you have nothing left to cut.

Your body's main goal is survival, so it produces a lot of hormones to tell your body to hold onto water. You'll see guys on the scale with so much more weight he could cut, his muscles are still full of water. What happened is he hasn't cut the weight quickly. If you do it over a longer period of time, your body starts getting negative symptoms and compensating for that.

A good example is being in the desert. When you first get to the desert you start sweating profusely, so your body starts releasing vasopressin to make you hold onto water. If you're cutting water over the course of two weeks, it senses this water loss, and it starts holding onto everything. What you need to do is remember it is a cut. You do it quick-fast and in a hurry. You cut the carbs and the sodium the week of the cut. You prep your body for the cut two weeks out, but you don't start the cut until 3 days before the weigh-ins.

If you'd like to listen to this segment, you can check it out here or via the embedded player below. The episode starts at the 2:04:45 mark of the audio. You can submit questions for the Weight List in the comments below, via email to or via Twitter @iainkidd

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