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Jeff Weber, MS, CSCS
Director OAK Athletic Development

Wrestlers that regularly tend to cut weight often deny their bodies the needed nutrients to perform on the mat. The reality is most youth wrestlers know very little about performance nutrition and are commonly lacking in key nutrients which fuel performance. The undeniable facts are very straight forward: poor nutrition will limit performance; there is simply no way around it. Commonly used cutting strategies that need to be avoided are: Self dehydration- Dehydration of only 1-2% begins to negatively affect function and performance. The bigger the loss the larger the overall affect on your body’s ability to perform and function. Fasting- When there is no incoming fuel source, the body begins to use stored nutrients and weight loss will occur, but fasting can cause your blood sugar to drop, which in turn robs your brain and muscles of available energy to fuel performance. If your muscles do not have adequate fuel not only will they perform at a subpar level but you will risk the loss of muscle, making yourself weaker.

Yo-Yo dieting - Consistent eating habits are the best way to maintain a healthy body weight. Regular extreme fluctuations in eating habits can take a toll on your body’s metabolic system and in-turn make it more difficult to bit weight when needed.

Diet pills - Using water pills and laxatives are a sure way to become dehydrated and rob your body of very important nutrients. In addition, diet pills can have many adverse effects. It is strongly advised to avoid these types of products.

The best method to make and keep weight begins with deciding what your “best” wrestling weight should be. The number one question you should be asking is, “what is the maximal amount of weight I can lose and still perform like I want?” You should never have to sacrifice your health or good nutrition to make a weight class.

To identify your “minimum” safe weight for competition it is advised to have your body fat tested. If possible it is recommended to use one of the more accurate testing methods such as the BOD POD to test body composition levels. The goal of safe weight loss should be to lose “excess” fat weight on your body. The body fat test will allow you to see exactly how much fat you have on your frame and how much you could safely lose. The leaner a wrestler is the less weight they can lose before: 1) they start to lose muscle, 2) their body fat levels dangerously low, past essential levels. Six to seven percent body fat is considered the lowest healthy level of a teenage male. If a teenage male drops below this level they are likely to lose muscle, strength and endurance.

Once you have determined a weight class you should develop an eating plan for making and maintaining your ideal weight. If you have decided your ideal weight is 10 pounds lighter than you currently weigh, plan on losing no more than 2-3 pounds per week at max. Eating a balanced diet on a consistent basis is the best method to aide performance and wrestle at your “best” weight.

Nutritional requirements are broken down between water, carbohydrates, protein and fat, vitamins and minerals in the daily diet. Primary considerations for the high school wrestler are:

  1. Rehydrate lost fluids from practice. One regularly used method is to weigh before and after practice to determine how much water needs to be consumed to get back to normal hydration levels.
  2. Aim for complex carbohydrates breads, grains, pasta
  3. Focus on getting lean protein every meal
  4. Work on including more healthy fats in your daily diet such as nuts, fatty fish, dairy and olive oil.
  5. Eat enough for your goal. The average teenage male needs about 15-19 calories per day to maintain weight. In a two hour practice upwards of 1200 calories can be burned up.
  6. Be consistent and strive to develop supportive habits and routines