NEW podcast EPISODE with a taekwondo passionate professional.
Erica Stephens @nutritionfortaekwondo is an Accredited Sports Dietitian who works with athletes of all kinds of sports. Boxing, Muay Thai, Cricket, and many others.
Of course she also works with taekwondo athletes. She even has written a book about specific nutrition for the sport of taekwondo.
She has a Master of Nutrition and Dietetics (2010) and the world renowned International Olympic Committee Diploma in Sports Nutrition (2016).
Erica was a former Australian National Team taekwondo athlete that represented her country internationally and made the Australian Olympic Shadow Team for the 2004 Athens Olympics.
Erica stopped training taekwondo to focus on her studies, and she is passionate about using the combination of her academic and sports experience to help others.
If you are interested in nutrition for taekwondo, health care, Aldous Huxley, weight cutting and fasting. This interview is for you.
Disclaimer: Weight-cutting is a dangerous practice. By no way we are encouraging anybody to do it. The purpose of this article and interview is to promote discussion about the topic. Before doing it look for professional advice.
How to rehydrate after weight cutting?
I was curious about this, because I’ve heard that the best way to recover after weight cutting was just with small and continuous swallows. Apparently that was the best way to do it.
Erica shares with us that the rehydration protocol should be specific for how much weight was cutted.
About the small swallows they don’t make any difference. You should rehydrate drinking normally, just avoiding to drink in an exaggerated way that could make you throw up.
Is there an age from which weight cutting could be less risky?
Weight cutting is risky. But weight cutting at a young age is very dangerous. To do it can compromise metabolic functions, grow and long term age.
An 18 year old can be legally adult in some countries and can be responsible for his acts. Does this mean that an 18 year old should cut weight?
Erica mentions that although as an 18 year old you can be legally an adult. There are still some physiological processes going on. And that nobody should cut weight under 21 or 20 years old.
I think in this area we have a lot of work to do. Because as we have weight divisions in youth taekwondo, it’s common that weight cutting happens, with all its potential damage.
Fighting against extreme weight cutting
I asked Erica about possible strategies to fight extreme weight cutting in taekwondo. She answered that a very successful program was made by the NCAA in college wrestling.
NCAA encourages athletes to just lose 1.5% of total body weight per week. Now they have a mandatory assessment of body fat and hydration as a condition to compete. Also every school has to establish in which class a wrestler will compete for the season.
Maybe we are still far of it, but maybe if technology give us in the future a way to monitor athlete weight cutting in the future we could fight against it better.
The 5 percent rule
One of the World Taekwondo strategies to fight extreme weight cutting is the random weigh-in the morning of the competition.
If you are selected for the random weigh-in, you only are allowed to weight less than 5% than the division limit.
Erica shares with us that at this moment there is not enough evidence if the rule is working. First I thought that it could be potentially more damaging because athletes could not be fully recovered but Erica mentions that is not only to lose weight what damages, but also the bounce after making weight.
Because you make your body go for two extreme weights. So, the rule may reduce the potential damage of the bounce.
At least it is a first attempt to do something. Maybe not perfect but it shows will to fight against extreme weight cutting.
Intermittent fasting and high performance athletes
In the last years (although is an ancient practice) it is more common to hear about intermittent fasting and its possible benefits.
But an athlete can possibly be benefited from this practice?
Erica mentions that high performance athletes require a lot of energy. In a sport like taekwondo you need to have that energy immediately.
So, intermittent practice is not the best tool for a taekwondo high performance athlete. You want to perform the best in competition, and to do that you have to also perform your best in training.
If you don’t have enough energy, your performance at training will be deficient and so your performance at competition.
The most important thing about helping others
Erica likes to read about everything. Not only her area of expertise. Even that sometimes what she reads is not related to nutrition, it has helped her in her practice.
She shared with us that there is a study made for psychologists that concludes that the most important thing to help another person is not the academic background, the expertise, or the books the psychologists have read.
The most important thing is rapport. The ability to get along with the other, to empathize.
Erica shared with us that reading has helped her to improve this ability by talking with her patients about any topic in which they are interested. It is not necessary to be an expert in that topic, the most important thing is to show interest.
Please enjoy the interview and share with us your thoughts on the comments.