What Fighters Know That You Don’t: 5 Facts for Losing Fat

How do fighters get lean, but stay muscular and strong? Here are 5 things new research shows will have you lose fat and still be able to perform at your sport.

A recent study in the Strength and Conditioning Journal explored methods fighters employ to make weight – still largely unchartered waters – and a few simple facts stood out.

Fact 1:

If looking to drop body fat to assist in making weight, consuming carbohydrate within four hours of exercise will limit lipid oxidation and usage. This is compounded if the carbohydrates are rated highly on the glycemic scale as insulin attenuates lipolysis so much that it appears to limit fat oxidation.

Lesson: If looking to drop fat don’t eat quick acting carbohydrate too close to training.

Fact 2:

While there is some evidence to show fat oxidation is improved in conditions of limited carbohydrate availability it is also important to note this same condition also increases the rate of potential amino acid oxidation, meaning if you are relying on fasted training to boost fat loss you are likely going to cause muscle wastage too. If your goal is making a certain weight to perform it is unlikely you are going to want to diminish force production at the same time.

Lesson: Make sure to keep the intensity low during fat cutting workouts, otherwise you may cause muscle wastage too. Evidence shows that above intensities of 65% Vo2Max carbohydrate utilization dominates while fat oxidation decreases. Bodybuilders have known this for years – walking and other very low intensity exercise is best for getting shredded while preserving precious muscle mass.

Fact 3:

Interestingly, as moderate intensity exercise becomes longer in duration the rate of fatty acid oxidation seems to increase while showing a corresponding drop in carbohydrate usage. Current research is showing that lipid activation is increased during training if not supported by carbohydrate intake as traditionally thought. However, given that protein breakdown may occur under such situations it is recommended to increase or supplement protein intake.

Lesson: To prevent muscle wastage you can supplement Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) or use a long lasting protein blend including casein during training.

Fact 4:

By splitting training sessions up there is an opportunity to increase fat burning even more. Fat storage increases as the day goes on but it is possible to continue fat utilization and minimise fat storage by continuing to encourage the body to work later in the day when fat storage is usually at it’s highest.

Lesson: Minimise fat storage by splitting workouts into two halves performed morning and night.

Fact 5:

The tradition of early morning, fasted, moderate intensity cardiovascular activity has been shown to positively influence fat use. Given the lack of a possible pre-workout carbohydrate meal, the low availability of blood sugar for the exercise session is more likely to enhance adaptation of skeletal muscle and insulin sensitivity while, as explained before, maximizing fat oxidation.

Lesson: Make morning sessions easier and save the hard sessions for later in the day once you’ve topped up your fuel tank.


If you’re looking to drop fat the best route is early morning, moderate intensity cardiovascular work. By limiting your carbohydrate activity and forcing your body to use fat stores you encourage your body to burn fat more effectively. If you’re worried about muscle wastage supplement BCAAs into your water bottle for during the workout. Hard, intense sessions are best saved for later in the day when your energy stores have been increased during the day.