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UFC: Iain Kidd's Fitness VT Fight Week Diary, Day One

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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.

This series will be shadowing leading weight management specialist, George Lockhart through one of the busiest weeks the UFC has ever had. Three events in one week, including one of the biggest UFC PPVs of all time and over a dozen fighters having to be fed, supplemented, tracked and assisted. This is the inside scoop on what goes into helping the fighters make weight.

A weight cut week typically follows 3 stages. First you have the "quiet" day, 3 days out from the weigh-in. Today, fighters are just eating properly and managing their water intake after 4pm. Day 2 is when it starts getting crazy. Now the cuts start for real, and day 3 is weigh in day, where the fighters have to both make weight and have their post weigh-in reload started.

This weekend is crazy because there are 3 cards, so three groups of fighters, Group 1 weighs in on Wednesday, group 2 on Thursday and group 3 on Friday. That means Tuesday is day 2 for group 1, and day 1 for group 2. Wednesday is day 1 for group 3, day 2 for group 2 and day 3 for group 1. Below is what happened on day 1 for group 1. Something to bear in mind as you read this, is that this is the quietest day of the week.

George arrives at the hotel at about 2am Sunday night and passes out around 3am. At 6am his alarm goes off and he drags himself out of bed to go grocery shopping for the day, grabbing a selection of vegetables and chicken.

By 9am he's up and cooking meals for fighters. Today is mostly chicken breast cut up and cooked with turmeric to create an amazing smelling curry for the fighters. Turmeric has numerous benefits for everyone, but especially for fighters. It acts as a natural anti-inflammatory, but doesn't have the same negative effects as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen or naproxen. It crosses the blood-brain barrier to help protect brain function and is also useful for liver function. Basically, it's the perfect food for a body undergoing the stress of a weight cut.

About half of George's team is here at this point. There's George, his girlfriend and videographer Clancy, his business partner in FitnessVT and all-around helpful guy in Spencer, and for the coming week I'm embedded in with George as well. The rest of his team arrive later.

By 11am we arrive at the MGM to feed some of the fighters. We're laden with 4 gallon jugs of water, a six-pack bag full of food, some supplements, including uva ursi and dandelion root as safe, natural diuretics and melatonin as a sleep aid.

We arrive first at Phillipe Nover's room and he looks great. He's super energetic and joking around with George's whole team. George has only worked with Phillipe once before, but they're clearly already very comfortable with each other, and when George gives him his food and supplementation, Nover takes them as George prescribes without question. Phillipe informs George that he has deliberately come in lighter for this fight, as he's trying to ensure his cut is as healthy as possible in light of the IV ban.

George asks Phillipe to drink a gallon and a half of water before 4pm to water load the body and make it easier to drain water later. Cutting water too early makes your body have a hormonal response convincing it to hold onto what water it has less. Drinking excess water has the opposite effect, convincing your body to remove excess water. It takes a few days for your body to fully adjust to this change, so only starting to restrict water intake 48 hours before the weigh in allows the fighter to remove the water much more easily and without punishing the kidneys and other organs nearly as much as other methods.

Next we head off to see Paige VanZant, who is also in great spirits and sitting watching some TV with her mom. This is the first time George has worked with Paige, so he explains the process to her in much more detail, including all of the supplements, which includes explaining exactly what they are, and that they are completely legal and not banned supplements.

He gets some information on her previous cuts to find out how her body copes with cuts and how she has reloaded in the past. The way she has cut for some fights in the past isn't exactly scientific, and she clearly didn't enjoy it, but that means she doesn't have any attachments to previous bad habits to overcome.

He gives Paige broadly the same advice as Phillipe, and tells her to keep the temperature in her room low, especially as she gets closer to the cut. This is to help keep the blood thicker and control the hormonal response which causes the body to hold onto water when the blood becomes thin. She is also to stop drinking water regularly at 4pm. After that she should only drink ice cold water, whenever she is thirsty, and until she stops being thirsty.

George gives her some natural diuretics, and explains his policy of not leaving them with fighters. Essentially, when a fighter is cutting weight their attention can wander very easily and they can forget they already took pills, or to not take them. Later he would expand on that; some fighters panic about making weight and decide to take some extra pills on their own, which is very not good.

At 12pm George fields a ton of phone calls from fighters and team members arriving today and tomorrow, and starts to arrange when to meet them. Chad Mendes is coming in at 2:30pm.

At 12:30pm we all head out to grab some food, our first meal of the day. George orders an omelet, and starts adding extras "Jalapenos, black beans, avocado, ham" The waiter stops him, "Sir, are you aware these toppings aren't free?" "I know... Sausage, Bacon..." George ends up with a $30 omelet that is about 30% egg.

At around 1:30pm George starts calling his other team members coming in tonight to arrange their rooms, their schedules and everything else. He seems more stressed and miserable at this point of the day than any other, even when he's traveling back and forth to the casino every 2 hours or walking through the labyrinth MGM Grand constantly. Queuing to talk to reception and trying to organize details seems to drain him.

At 3pm the entire group heads back to the MGM to see the newly arrived fighters. We check in with Frankie Edgar, who as always is having no problem making weight and looks fantastic. Next we check in with Chad Mendes, who is perhaps the friendliest man on the planet. After setting him up with his schedule we head out to talk to some other fighters, which is when I discover one of George's most fun idiosyncrasies.

George will occasionally stop talking mid-conversation to look at his phone, and start watching in literal circles. It turns out this is how George deals with new information that impacts on his immediate plans. After a few minutes he has texted enough to let us know the new plans. It turns out the fighters we were going to see are on the move and we have to get a hold of them elsewhere. The fact he literally walks in circles while working out the new plans amuses me no end.

At around 4pm we head out to pick up more water and supplies for the fighters, a trip George will usually make about 3 times a day. Part of his ethos is being available to get the fighters whatever they need, whenever they need it, which sometimes necessitates trips to the grocery store for specific supplies.

At 5pm we get back and head up to see Phillipe Nover and then Paige VanZant again for more meals and a refresher on their weight cut schedule in terms of eating and drinking for the next few hours.

At around 5:45 George has some media obligations to deal with and a meeting with UFC personnel about his role for the week, and bumps into a fighter on the card he isn't working with, but who wants some advice. George takes 30 minutes to answer all of the fighter's questions and then we head back to the hotel at around 7pm

At about 7:30pm we arrive back at the hotel and plan out the next stage of the day, including the fighter's final meals and supplements for the day and picking up the rest of the team as they come in. The plan was to get something to eat, but by the time the discussion was finished it was 8pm, and the MGM is a 30 minute drive. Deciding 30 minutes wasn't enough time to eat we spent the time arranging extra batteries for the now-dead phones we had been carrying around instead.

At 9pm we head down to the MGM gym to reload Chad Mendes, at which point we bump into another of George's partners, here with his own fighter for this week. His name is Dan Leith, and if you recognize that name it's because he was behind Daniel Cormier's successful cut for his victory over Alexander Gustafsson. After a quick chat, the team head out to start feeding the fighters.

10:15pm: We take food up to PVZ who chats a bit about women's body issues and media obligations as she eats, and is still in good spirits. We take supplements to Frankie and talk to his team about the IV ban, as they have some questions about how it will affect fighters and what the science is behind oral re-hydration vs IV re-hydration. George rattles off the relevant factors, going into detail about isotonic re-hydration solutions vs hypotonic and hypertonic solutions, which is much easier to control with an oral re-hydration program.

We take food to Phillipe Nover who is about to turn in for the night, then Chad Mendes. George heads off to pick up the rest of the team from the airport at midnight. They arrive in a little before 00:45 am, and consist of George's long-time friend John and his wife Shonna, who will be helping with the cooking and transporting throughout the week.

At 1am a discussion starts about the best way to make so many shakes for the fighters making weight while also being available to the fighters still cutting weight. This accidentally turns into a 4 hour discussion refining the science behind the FitnessVT program for reloading the body.

In the process of researching for the book I'm writing with George, we have both done a lot of research over the past couple of months, and this is our first chance to compare notes to find out if we have anything that can improve the efficacy of the program.

First, we discuss whether the increased amount of glycogen fighters appear to hold after 2 fights back to back is due primarily to the extra period of intense training, or the actual draining and replenishing of the glycogen stores during the weight cut.

Second, we re-examine the amount of fats and protein in the reload day. The program is primarily concerned with reloading the glycogen depleted by the weight cut, but the methodology for calculating the ideal amount of protein for repairing the muscles catabolized during the ketosis of the weight cutting process was imperfect. We refined that, and also refined a small number which helped to calculate the amount of water lost via sodium during the cut, versus via glycogen. That particular change resulted in a net gain of 0.35% accuracy compared to the old system.

At the end of a long day, and before another long day starting at 6am, George and the team sat down and made refinements to the program which, at best, will make the reload maybe 1-2% more efficient. That's a barely noticeable amount, and it's swamped by independent variables like how a fighter is feeling, how many minutes sleep they got, and even their mental state before the fight.

That 1-2% improvement is what makes George so good at what he does, though. He'll make that 1-2% improvement as often as he can, and slowly but surely it adds up. Being willing to operate in a sleep deprived state to give his athletes the tiniest edge sums up Lockhart in a lot of ways. That's to say nothing of his team who cooked during this time, sorted supplies for the next day, and in the case of Spencer actually coded changes into the FitnessVT online platform and ran through test scenarios to ensure they were working correctly.

Finally, at 4am, we all turn in for the night. Tomorrow starts at 6am for George, and 8am for me. And they said today was the easy day...