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Wrestling and eating right: A balancing act

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Finding and keeping the optimum weight during wrestling season requires coaches, athletes and parents to work together. Your goals, in order of priority, should be to remain healthy, perform at your best, enjoy the season and lastly, strategically qualify to fill an open weight class on the roster.

male athlete using machine weights

The driving desire to win often leads wrestlers and coaches down a slippery slope of adopting unhealthy weight loss practices, trying to seek weaker opponents or filling an empty spot on the roster.

Dehydration, dieting, laxatives, food deprivation and excessive exercise are methods that result in weight loss. Unfortunately, they also come at a high cost physically and emotionally, and can negate any advantage of changing weight classes.

Dehydration and excessively restricted food intake causes a loss in endurance, strength, stamina and concentration. A 2 percent loss in weight by dehydration can cause significant loss of performance. For a 150-pound wrestler, that 2 percent loss equates to a weight loss of only three pounds.

Many times a healthy mediocre wrestler will defeat a good wrestler that is nutritionally deprived.

Here are some tips for finding and keeping your optimum weight this season and maintaining nutritionally fit:

  1. Keep in mind that your optimum weight is a safe weight that can be comfortably maintained by eating a healthy, balanced diet. The minimum calories needed per day equals 1,200 kilocalories (kcal).

  2. Trim the fat from your food but don’t skimp on fruits and vegetables and lean proteins. Stay away from fried, greasy foods or those high in refined sugars.

  3. Always stay hydrated. Drink a minimum of 64 ounces of water, juice, milk or sports drink per day. Drink 16 ounces of water or sports drink for each pound lost at a practice by drinking five to six swallows every 15-20 minutes during exercise and the rest soon after.

  4. Always stay hydrated. Drink a minimum of 64 ounces of water, juice, milk or sports drink per day. Drink 16 ounces of water or sports drink for each pound lost at a practice by drinking five to six swallows every 15-20 minutes during exercise and the rest soon after.

  5. Vitamins and minerals are essential to our body’s growth and health. Without them we will suffer performance loss and illness.

  6. The best place for finding healthy foods in the grocery store is along the outermost aisles of the store. Think about it. Fruits, vegetables, fresh breads and grains, meat and dairy are all found in aisles on the outer walls. Refined and prepared foods are found in the middle aisles.

If you find yourself thinking more about food than about improving your wrestling skills, your weight goal and nutritional fitness may not be aligned. To help wrestlers stay healthy and happy throughout the wrestling season, the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) has developed the Wisconsin Wrestling Minimum Weight Program. You may also refer to The Wrestler's Diet (PDF) handbook, reproduced with author permission, by the WIAA.

​​​Share comments or questions on this information email: sports.medicine@marshfieldclinic.org​.


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