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UFC: Iain Kidd's Backstage Fight Week Diary with Fitness VT, Day 3

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Our own Iain Kidd and leading weight management specialist, George Lockhart are in Las Vegas this week to manage the weight cuts of a plethora of fighters. This is your inside look at how the Fitness VT team works.

Fitness VT Team
Fitness VT Team
Iain Kidd

This is Day 3 of Iain's Fight Week Diary, and despite his lack of a decent night's sleep, he isn't showing any real signs of wear & tear (unless you count the 4 paragraph manifesto on why it would be a bad idea for anyone to try and survive on the cheese that the moon is obviously made of that I ended up deleting). Make sure you check back daily for new entries and photos, as well as exclusive interviews.

When we last left off it was 5:20am on Wednesday morning and I was finishing up my writing. I eventually got to sleep around 6:30am, while George, Spencer and John finished up the prep for the day.

Here's how much sleep everyone got that night: Clancy and Shonna both took shifts in the room with us, and got about 3-4 hours sleep each. I managed to grab about 2 and a half. George, Spencer and John got none. This feels like the new normal.

At 10:30am Clancy, Shonna and I meet up with George, Spencer and John at the MGM. From now on, we'll refer to these as team Reload and team weight-cut. Because Clancy, Shonna and myself would be primarily helping fighters who weigh in reload, and the others would be helping the fighters still cutting. Imaginative, no?

This entry will be primarily following the Reload team, mostly because as the team I was in today, it's the one I have the most details for. Prepare for some extra science in this entry as a bonus.

At 11am team Reload gets their reload bags together and sorted. Each bag contains 3 custom made shakes consisting of water, coconut water, table salt and a small amount of Rockstar Energy. That sounds crazy, but there is a method to the madness. Each of those ingredients has a specific reloading function in the body, even the Rockstar. The team calculated the exact amount of sodium, potassium and glycogen in need of replenishment using a formula that takes the fighter's weight before and after the cut, while calculating how much weight was lost from the different potential sources.

To keep it very simple, the fighter's body will lose weight in 3 main ways during a cut. The first way is body fat due to being in a calorie deficit for several days in a row. This accounts for some of the weight lost, but only a small minority, typically under a couple of pounds. The second source is water bound to glycogen. Each gram of glycogen holds 3 grams of water. That means when you calculate how much glycogen the fighter will have depleted at weigh in time, you also know how much water bound to glycogen they lost and vice versa. The last source of weight being cut is water bound to sodium, which has 4 molecules of water for every molecule of sodium. Potassium is drained alongside sodium, so that also has to be replenished.

The actual math involved is long and kind of arduous to do by hand, to be honest, but Spencer has created a program to calculate it automatically by simply entering the input numbers and data required, which is extremely helpful. The math behind it comes from what the team like to call George's magic notebook. On the outside it looks like a plain black notebook, but inside is a litany of dense formulae with very little explanation or description, and a disturbing number of sketches of no U-turn signs being destroyed in various ways.

The math in this book is behind the systems on, which is an online diet, nutrition and weight-cut program created and run primarily by George and Spencer. It's designed to work for average people wanting to lose weight or get in shape, as well as athletes who need their nutrition to be on point down to the gram.

Using a few of the formulas in the book, you can find out what was lost from the body, and as a result, what needs to be replenished. As every fighter is different in weight, workout intensity, sweat salinity, body fat percentage and other factors, George and his team create shakes specifically for the fighters with the exact amounts of the various things they need.

The math behind it comes from what the team like to call George's magic notebook. On the outside it looks like a plain black notebook, but inside is a litany of dense formulae with very little explanation or description, and a disturbing number of sketches of no U-turn signs being destroyed in various ways. -Iain Kidd

Part of the problem with reloading is avoiding digestive discomfort from the sodium loading. If the body receives too much sodium too quickly, it tries to expel the excess sodium rapidly, and not from the fun side of the body. The truth is that everybody has so many unmeasurable variations in their body which affect how they process sodium after a weight cut, that it's tricky to get it exact on the first attempt. Fortunately, the discomfort is pretty easily rectified once you know it is occurring, typically being resolved with some small changes in the timing of the intake.

The reload bags contain those three shakes, as well as dates, snap peas and some baby yogurt. For the sake of brevity I'll explain the purpose and reason behind each of those in future entries. The shakes work best when ice cold, so the Reload team make the first of many trips to the ice machine at this time.

At 11:30am, the Reload team head up to see Paige VanZant and Phillipe Nover, who are weighing in today, to check their weight and talk them through what the process will be and answer any questions they might have. Both fighters are absolutely on point with their weight at this point and the Reload team has an extremely rare gift; some time to eat.

At noon, the Reload team grab some coffee and snacks and go over the plans several times, mentally running through the potential problems and how to resolve them, as well as discussing the science underlying the reload to ensure that information is easily accessible should the fighters want to know.

At 1pm, the Reload team changes out the ice keeping the shakes cool, and head back to the hotel to pick up more bags for the ice, as well as spare batteries for phones to ensure both teams can stay in contact at all times.

At 2pm, the Reload team heads up to Paige VanZant's room to accompany her down to the weigh in area, where they will meet up with Phillipe Nover as well. The strict security for the weigh in area means that Shonna unfortunately has to wait outside until George arrives to check up on the fighters weighing in.

By around 3:30pm George has arrived and goes over the reload procedure again with both camps to ensure they have the details down and check that they make weight OK. As soon as they step off the scale and he is comfortable they are ok, he has to run to get the team Weight-cut fighters fed. Paige & Phillipe's camps now have detailed instructions for the reload and instructions to text or call if they have any questions or concerns, or if the progress isn't going the way they've been told to expect. Typically the fighters are more comfortable around their own camp at this time, and turn down offers to have the nutrition team sit in with them.

At 5pm, both teams actually have a period of time where they should be free, so everyone arranges to meet for some Mexican food at that point. George, as is typical for him, gets called away several times by mini-emergencies, and doesn't actually make it to the restaurant until 6pm.

After actually getting dinner for the first time this week, everyone is in good spirits. John sums it up when he says, "It's great to get to sit down like a little family and break bread for the first time," though that may have been the tacos talking after a fog of starvation.

At 7pm, the plans for the next 5 hours are laid out, and the teams change again. Clancy and Shonna head back to the hotel to cook and prep for tomorrow, which George, Spencer, John and myself head to the workout area to monitor Chad Mendes and Urijah Faber.

When we get in, Chad's partner, Abby Raines runs over to us with a bag of Tupperware containers that previously contained food we delivered to Chad. George told us only two people have ever done that, and both occasions were on this week; Abby Raines and Paige VanZant. In the last entry, I spoke about how accommodating and all-around lovely Paige is, and Abby is the same way.

Chad is doing some serious training to get prepared, while Urijah is alternating between hard training and tackling teammates, and trying out some pretty unique positions and submissions, joking around all the while. During this, the COO of Team Alpha Male, Tommy Schurkamp, is sitting joking around with George and the team. As far as I can tell, everyone universally likes Tommy, and it's easy to see why.

After Urijah finishes up, he spends 30 minutes with George asking questions and going over the cutting process in fine detail. Urijah is well-educated on nutrition, and it showed with the level of his questions. Some fighters like to focus on the fighting and leave the other details like nutrition to the experts, but Urijah is a guy who wants to know how everything to do with his body works.

By now, it's approaching 10pm and we split up yet again. This time George has to go feed and help one of the fighters not staying at the MGM, while John, Spencer and I give the fighters here at the hotel their snacks and food.

By 11:30pm everyone has been spoken to and fed, and it's time for Spencer, John and I to meet up with George to buy another thermometer and drop it off for a fighter. Yes, another thermometer. They are swiftly becoming the bane of my existence.

At 12:45 everyone is back at the hotel and the shakes for tomorrow start being made, while George and I compare research notes on various ways to minimize any digestive distress in future. A few ideas come up, including using coconut water to both give something of a buffer for that sodium, and to give fighters something to quickly quench their thirst when they hop off the scales, as chugging the shakes is a bad idea.

We also discuss some more esoteric possibilities, including the possibility of gaining finer control over the pancreas's digestive enzyme production during the cut to ensure no undigested macronutrient molecules are left in the stomach during weight cuts.

At 3am George, John and Spencer are convinced to go to sleep along with Clancy and Shonna. Unfortunately I still had writing to do, so I'll be lucky to get to sleep by 5am. I'm currently running on 11 and a half hours sleep in the last 113 hours. Still, at least the sleep deprivation can't get any worse... Right?