Wrestling can be one of the greatest sports in which an athlete can participate. The athlete learns balance, control, discipline and above all, self-confidence which can last a lifetime. However, weight management is one aspect of wrestling which can prove troublesome for many grapplers, and can even lead to health problems for some. Let’s examine some ways to properly manage body weight for wrestlers.
Sit through a body fat analysis and see just how lean you are. If you are sitting at 25% body fat, then you can lose a dozen pounds and still be in reasonably good shape. However, if you are at 7% body fat (very lean and ripped already) and attempt to lose 10 or 12 pounds, you are going to seriously be eating into your muscle and yes, even water stores. Make your weight management goals reasonable, even if means you aren’t competing in the weight class you desire. You won’t be losing as much muscle and strength each week – you’ll be stronger and faster, even if wrestling against bigger competitors.
Watch the Water!
Many wrestlers will use temperature or plastic means to quickly drop water from their body in order to make weight. While these methods will never quite go away, they are not ideal means for managing weight. By reducing your water, you may be affecting your body more than you realize. A simple 3% reduction in body water will cause an 8% decline in speed, and a 10% loss in muscle strength. Yes, you are making weight, but you are a lesser grappler as a result. Therefore you should work to keep your body fat levels as low as possible. The less water you have to lose before a match, the less the reduction in strength and speed you will experience. A lot of wrestlers will just shrug off the performance ability reduction because “well, the other guy is dried out too”. However, if you are able to make weight without dropping water, suddenly you have a measurable advantage over your opponent going into the match! Stay hydrated all week and reduce your water as little as possible in order to make weight.
The reading on the scale matters a great deal to wrestlers, and everything in your body affects what that scale reads. If you aren’t consuming adequate amounts of fiber, your body will be unable to remove waste as fast as what would be optimal – meaning you’re holding it on your body (and on the scale), which works against your goals of making weight. You should be consuming 25 to 35 grams of fiber per day for optimum internal function. Also, avoiding foods such as white bread and other enriched flour products will help you keep things moving as efficiently as possible!
Eat for energy!
Choosing the right kinds of carbohydrates will ensure you have the energy to run, lift, run, drill, run, spar, and run some more! Stick with pasta, rice, beans, and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Avoid highly processed carbohydrate sources. Two sweet potatoes and a stack of broccoli is infinitely better for your training, recovery and weight management than a stack of white-flour pancakes, even if the calorie content of the two dishes is similar. Choose pure, minimally processed carb sources. Your body is a machine – fuel it like one!
Protein for recovery
You’re taking quite a pounding – on the mats, on the running track, and in the weight room. Protein provides your body with amino acids, the building blocks of recovery. Choose nutrient-rich, unprocessed protein sources such as fish, chicken, lean beef and eggs. Avoid bacon, sausage, and processed protein foods. Try to consume 1.0 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight each day. Keep your fiber high when eating lots of protein for optimal digestion assurance.
Above all, remember that your body needs breaks. You’re always in a battle with whatever body weight your body WANTS to be, and what you are MAKING it stand at, so keep that in mind. You will need to back off the strict dieting and water management each year for a few months. And at some point, you will need to grow into higher weight classes, as your muscles mature and youo grow older (and wiser!) Keep one ear to common sense, and both eyes looking forward to learning everything you can about managing your body weight effectively for wrestling!