Proper nutrition is essential for any athlete, but becomes a more relevant topic when discussing sports with weight classes for competition. Athletes who participate in sports with specific weight classes can often become victim to focusing on their weight rather than their sport. Wrestling is notorious for athletes who have been injured and in some instances have died because of unsafe practices when cutting weight by rapidly dehydrating themselves. Wrestling can be a safe and rewarding sport, if weight control is achieved through proper diet and exercise.
“Cutting” weight through rapid water loss is something that is actively discouraged in youth wrestling. The sport of wrestling should focus on the overall well-being and health of our youth athletes, and needs to include a discussion of weight maintenance issues. Wrestling requires a great deal of physical conditioning and youth athletes’ primary focus should be on being in good shape. The process of rapid weight loss through dehydration should be avoided in all athletes. More mature and experienced athletes can safely lose weight at a rate of approximately 1 to 2 pounds per week by appropriately balancing the number of calories consumed with the number of calories burned through exercise. Part of being in good shape is maintaining a healthy body weight based upon height, age, and body fat percentage.
Wrestlers need to eat! Athletes should avoid fasting before a performance—your body needs fuel to perform. What and how much depends on how soon before competition weigh-ins occur. A wrestler should eat the day before, night before, and morning of competition. A pre-competition meal should ideally occur at least 3 to 4 hours before competition.
During the season, it is important to consume ANSWER enough calories and not worry about restricting caloric intake. Athletes should eat a balanced diet to maintain their health and fitness throughout the season. Complex carbohydrates are an important nutrient for replenishing energy lost during exercise, but plenty of protein is also required to aid muscle recovery. The key to staying strong and gaining strength without gaining weight is to control your caloric intake early on during the season. Once the workout intensity picks up and a good body weight is established, weight lifting should still be encouraged. However, weight lifting during the season should be designed as a circuit style lift geared towards muscle conditioning and endurance rather than pure strength and power.