Wrestlers' Diet
A Healthy Guide to Weight Control

INTRODUCTION

 

Wrestlers who cut weight often deny themselves the very nutrients they need to perform well. Many wrestlers either don't care about proper nutrition or they simply do not know any better. Wrestlers often think of food and water only in terms of gaining weight. They forget that food provides nutrients to fuel their bodies. However, the scientific facts are simple: poor nutrition will hamper performance. The body cannot function at its best when it lacks vital nutrients. Consider these points:

Wrestlers who cut weight often deny themselves the very nutrients they need to perform well. The body cannot function at its best when it lacks vital nutrients.

DETERMINING YOUR
WRESTLING WEIGHT

 

There are several factors to consider when deciding your "best" wrestling weight, but the most important is: How much weight can you safely lose and still perform well? The weight class you choose should not be so low that you have to sacrifice good nutrition for the sake of making weight. In addition to the adverse physical effects of trying to cut too much weight, unhealthy weight loss practices affect you psychologically; the more you worry about your weight, the less you concentrate on your wrestling. Here is how to determine your "minimum" safe weight for competition.

Percent Body Fat

Body fat percentage can be determined by measuring the thickness of certain skinfolds on the body. Many health care professionals will be able to perform these measurements for you. The results of the skinfold measurements will give you a good estimate of what percent of your body is fat. For example, if the results indicate a body fat reading of 14% , that simply means that 14% of your body is fat. Such measurements are only estimates, and the error is about +-2%. In this example, you could be 12% to 16% fat (14%+-2%).

The goal of safe weight loss is to lose excess fat weight. Not all fat on your body can be considered "excess" fat. A certain amount of fat is essential for use as energy, to act as a shock absorber for your internal organs, to insulate your body from the cold, and to store certain nutrients.

Minimum Body Fat

Seven percent body fat is considered the lowest healthy level of fat content for teenage males. Body fat measurments can help you determine how much fat you can lose in order to drop to 7% (See Appendix C). If you drop below 7%, you will likely lose muscle tissue, strength, and endurance. Keep in mind that 7% is not a magic number. It is just a guideline for you to follow. Most wrestlers perform very well at a higher percentage of body fat. So, if you are now 10% body fat, there is no reason to believe that you'll wrestle better at 7% body fat. Many health care professionals will be able to help you determine your minimal wrestling weight.

There are several factors to consider when deciding your "best wrestling weight," but the most important is: how much weight can you safely lose and still perform well? The goal of safe weight loss is to lose excess fat weight. Not all fat on your body can be considered "excess" fat.

 

PRINCIPLES OF GOOD NUTRITION

 

Cutting and Maintaining Weight

Once you've determined your weight class, you should next develop a plan for making and maintaing the weight. Plan your diet to lose not more than 2-3 pound each week. For example, if you determine you want to lose 10 pounds, allow at least 5 weeks (2 lbs./week) to accomplish your goal. If you plan ahead, the gradual reduction in weight can be easily accomplished. Also, to achieve your goal, you must understand the principles of good nutrition.

Food Pyramid

Wrestlers can achieve a balanced diet by following the dietary guidelines provided in the food pyramid. The training table guidelines listed below indicate the minimum number of servings from each food group for each day. The menus in Appendix A show examples of these recommendations.

The pyramid is divided into 4 levels according to the needs of your body. The base of the pyramid contains foods including grains such as oats, rice and wheat, and the breads, cereals, noodles and pasta made from them. Try to choose 6-11 servings of these products each day to ensure a solid foundation for your diet. Foods from this group are high in complex carbohydrates, which are the main energy source for training and other body functions.

The next level of nutrition in the food pyramid includes foods from the vegetable and fruit groups. These foods include all fresh, frozen, canned and dried fruits and vegetables and juice. These groups are loaded with vitamins and minerals, carbohydrates and fiber. It is recommended that your diet consists of 3-5 servings of vegetables and 2-4 servings of fruit each day to ensure an ample supply of vitamins, minerals and carbohydrates.

The next level of nutrition in the food pyramid consists of 2 food groups: the dairy products, including milk, yogurt and cheese; and the meat products, including meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs and nuts. These groups are rich in proteins, calcium, zinc, iron, and vitamins, and are essential for healthy bones and muscles. Choose low fat dairy products and lean (low fat) meat products to get the full advantage of these foods without excess fat calories. Your diet should include 2-3 low fat servings from the dairy group each day, as well as 2-3 servings from the meat group each day. Appendis A give some examples.

The top of the food pyramid includes nutrients that should be used sparingly in your diet, including fats, oils, and sweets. Many of these nutrients are already present in foods previously discussed and are often added in processed foods. Be careful in your selection of foods and check food label for added sugars and fats that can add calories to your diet without significantly increasing their nutritional value.

TRAINING TABLE GUIDELINES

 

 

Calories

A "calorie" is a unit used to describe the energy content of foods. Your body requires energy, and the food you eat supplies that energy. When you take in more food calories than you use, those extra calories are stored as fat, and you gain weight. Weight loss occurs when you consume fewer calories than you use. This causes your body to utilize its stored fat for energy, and you lose weight as a result. Losing weight gradually helps assure that mostly fat will be lost. Losing weight too quickly will cause you to lose muscle and water in addition to fat, sapping your strength and endurance in the process. Gradual weight loss is best accomplished by combining your training with a slight reduction in food intake. Remember, your body requires a certain amount of enery and nutrients just to keep you alive and healthy.

For this reason, your caloric intake should not fall below 1,700-2,000 calories per day.

In planning your diet, it will be helpful to estimate how many calories you need each day. Caloric needs differ from wrestler to wrestler depending upon body size and activity level. You can estimate the minimum number of calories you need each day by using the graph in Figure 1. Appendix A contains examples of 2,000 calorie menus to help you plan your diet. Appendix B can help you plan to eat wisely at fast-food restaurants.

Gradual weight loss is best accomplished by combining your training with a slight reduction in food intake. Remember, your body requires a certain amount of energy and nutrients just to keep you alive and healthy.

NUTRIENTS

Your body depends upon a constant supply of nutrients to keep it functioning. There are six essential groups of nutrients your body needs every day: water, carbohydrates, protein, fats, vitamins, and minerals. These nutrients work together to build and fuel your body.

WATER

The most important nutrient for any athlete is water. Your body is 60-70% water. Water is absolutely essential for optimal health and peak performance. You may be surprised to know that dehydration is a major cause of decreased performance. Some wrestlers are more sensitive to dehydration than others. A fluid loss of 2-3% of your weight can quickly occur during intense training. Even modest levels of dehydration should be avoided because dehydration harms performance.

It is important to drink plenty of fluid during practice and between matches. Not only will you feel better, but you may also find you have more endurance. During physical activity, thirst is not an adequate signal of need for fluid. Follow the fluid guidelines listed below:

CARBOHYDRATES

Carbohydrates are the main food source for your body and should make up 55-65% of the total calories you consume. Excellent sources of carbohydrates include breads, pasta, cereals, fruits and vegetables.

FATS

Everyone needs a little fat is their diets, and wrestlers and no exception. Fat should make up about 20-30% of the calories you consume. Most of the fat we consume is naturally found in foods (meats, nuts, and dairy products) or added during the preparation of food (e.g. fried foods). Sources of additional fat include margarine, peanut butter, and salad dressings.

PROTEIN

Protein is used for growth and repair of all the cells in your body. Good sources of protein are meat, fish, and poultry. Many plant foods, like beans and nuts, are good protein sources, too. However, nuts are also high in fat and so should be eaten only in small quantities. Your diet should provide 12-15% of its calories as protein. The typical American diet provides more than enough protein, so you don't need to worry too much about your protein intake.

VITAMINS AND MINERALS

If you eat a balanced diet from the four basic food groups, you will consume all the vitamins and minerals your body needs. Including ample portions of fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet will help ensure an adequate intake of vitamins and minerals. Vitamin and mineral supplements are usually unnecessary, but if you like to have the added "insurance" of taking a supplement, choose a vitamin and mineral supplement that does not exceed 100% of the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for each nutrient.

If you eat a balanced diet from the four basic food groups, you will consume all the vitamins and minerals your body needs. Including ample portions of fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet will help ensure an adequate intake of vitamins and minerals.

 

EATING BEFORE TRAINING
OR COMPETITION

 

When you eat can often be as important as what you eat before competition and between matches in a tournament. When you eat a regular meal, it takes about three hours for the food to be completely digested and absorbed. As a result, meals are best eaten three to four hours before competition. For athletes too nervous to consume solid foods before competition, special sports nutrition supplements may be an option. Carbohydrate supplements and liquid-nutrition supplements can be taken up to one hour before training or competition, but you should experiment with such products to make certain that you do not experience discomfort. A properly-formulated sports drink can be consumed before, during, and following training or competition to help minimize dehydration and provide a source of energy to working muscles.

METHODS OF WEIGHT CONTROL
THAT SHOULD BE AVOIDED

 

Dehydration

Weight loss in wrestling usually occurs in a short period of time and consists primarily of water loss. If you lose weight faster than 2-3 pounds per week, you are likely losing water (and perhaps muscle tissue). Unfortunately, when you rehydrate after weigh-in, your body absorbs water at a relatively slow rate: only about 2 pints per hour, and it takes up to 48 hours for the water balance in your tissues to be restored. The ill effects of dehydration include a decrease in muscular strength and endurance, a decrease in blood flow to muscle tissues, and an impaired ability to properly regulate your body temperature. Therefore, it is recommended that:

Weight loss in wrestlers usually occurs in a short period of time and consists primarily of water loss. If you lose weight faster than 2-3 pounds per week, you are likely losing water (and perhaps muscle tissue).

Fasting

When you do not eat at all (fasting), your body uses its stored nutrients, and weight loss will certainly result. However, fasting quickly reduces your blood sugar, which in turn robs your brain and muscles of their most important energy source. Fasting can cause your muscles to use muscle proteins for energy, even if fat is available. Eat at least the minimum calories your body requires each day so you can maintain your energy and strength while losing weight.

Yo-Yo Dieting

The greater the peaks and valleys in your body weight, the more difficult it is for your body to function correctly. Studies have shown that alternating between feast and famine may cause your body to use food more efficiently (hanging on more tightly to each calorie). Yo-yo dieting just makes cutting weight more difficult.

Diet Pills

Using diuretics (water pills) and laxatives to lose weight will dehydrate your body and rob your body of important nutrients. Diet pills can cause many adverse physical as well as psychological effects. Avoid using any of these types of products to lose or maintain weight.

SUMMARY

 

Research has shown that practicing proper methods of weight control is essential to maximizing your athletic performance. Peak physical performance can only occur when the body is supplied with an adequate amount of essential nutrients. Using improper methods of weight control will decrease your level of performance. The Wrestler's Diet provides the necessary information to help you achieve the highest level of performance possible. The psychological advantages of maintaining good nutritional practices are great: you'll wrestle better if you feel good physically and mentally. You will also wrestle better knowing that you have done everything possible to be at your best.

Peak physical performance can only occur when the body is supplied with an adequate amount of essential nutrients. Using improper methods of weight control will decrease your level of performance.

 

APPENDIX A Sample Menus and Snacks: 2,000 Calories

Breakfast

Blender Drink

Banana, 1..................... 100

Milk, 1 cup 2%.............. 120

Peanut Butter, 1t........... 95

Toast, 1 slice............................. 70

Jam, 1t...................................... 15

Calories.................................... 400

Lunch

Hamburger on Bun

Bun............................... 120

Grnd. Beef, 2 oz........... 120

Catsup, 1T.................... 20

French Fries.............................. 220

Milk, 1 cup 2%.......................... 120

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies(2)

(2 1/2" diameter)....................... 120

Calories.................................... 760

Dinner

Roast Pork, 3 oz........................ 220

Baked Potato............................ 100

Broccoli, 1 stalk ........................ 20

Margarine, 2t............................. 70

Bread, 1 slice............................ 70

Sliced peaches, 1 cup............... 130

Milk, 1 cup 2%.......................... 120

Calories.................................... 730

Snack

Lo-cal Pudding, 1 cup................ 130

Total Calories.......................... 2020

Breakfast

Grapefruit Juice, 6 oz................ 75

Unsweetened Cereal,

1 cup......................................... 110

Banana, 1 medium.................... 100

Milk, 1 cup 2%.......................... 120

Toast, 1 slice............................. 70

Margarine, 1t............................. 35

Jam, 1t...................................... 15

Calories.................................... 525

Lunch

Chicken Salad Sandwich

Bread, 2 slices.............. 140

Chicken Breast, 2 oz..... 120

Lo Cal Dressing, 1T....... 30

Milk, 1 cup 2%.......................... 120

Apple, 1 medium....................... 80

Calories.................................... 490

Dinner

Chili, 2 cups.............................. 600

Saltine Crackers, 12.................. 160

Milk, 1 cup 2%.......................... 120

Carrot and Celery Sticks............ 10

Calories.................................... 890

Snack

Orange, 1 medium..................... 80

Total Calories.......................... 2025

Breakfast

Apple Juice, 6 oz...................... 90

Oatmeal, 1 cup......................... 145

Raisins, 1T................................ 30

Milk, 1 cup 2%.......................... 120

Toast, 1 slice............................. 70

Margarine.................................. 35

Calories.................................... 490

Lunch

"Sloppy Joe"

Hamburger Filling, 2 oz............. 200

Bun........................................... 140

Carrot and Celery Sticks............ 10

Milk, 1 cup 2%.......................... 120

Chocolate Chip Cookie

1 small...................................... 50

Calories.................................... 520

Dinner

Turkey Tacos

Taco Shells, 3............... 210

Picante Sauce, 2 oz...... 30

American Cheese,

4 oz. shredded.............. 220

Ground Turkey, 4 oz...... 310

Lettuce, Onion,

Tomato, etc................... 10

Milk, 1 cup 2%.......................... 120

Calories.................................... 900

Snack

Orange, 1 medium..................... 80

Total Calories...........................1990

Breakfast

Orange Juice 6 oz. 80

English Muffin 140

Peanut Butter, 1T 90

Banana, 1 medium 100

Milk, 1 cup 2% 120

Calories 530

Lunch

Cheese Pizza, 2 slices.............. 400

Milk, 1 cup 2%.......................... 120

Apple, 1 medium....................... 80

Calories 600

Dinner

Chicken and Noodles,

1 cup......................................... 300

Cooked Carrots, 1/2 cup............ 25

Lettuce Salad............................ 10

Dressing, 1T.............................. 60

Milk, 1 cup 2%.......................... 120

Calories.................................... 515

Snack

Milk, 1 cup 2% 120

Fig Bars, 5 250

Calories 370

Total Calories 2015

Breakfast

French Toast,

2 slices..................................... 300

Syrup, 2 oz................................ 200

Strawberries, 4 oz.,

unsweetened............................. 25

Milk, 1 cup 2%...........................120

Calories.................................... 645

Lunch

Turkey Sandwich

Bread, 2 slices.......................... 140

Turkey Breast, 3 oz................... 105

Lettuce, Tomato Slices............... 5

Lo-cal Mayonnaise, 1T............... 30

Milk, 1 cup 2%.......................... 120

Calories.................................... 400

Dinner

Beef Stew, 2 cups..................... 400

Dinner Roll, 1............................ 70

Margarine, 1t............................. 35

Applesauce, 4 oz....................... 55

Milk, 1 cup 2%.......................... 120

Lo-cal Pudding, 1 cup................ 130

Vanilla Wafers, 6....................... 100

Calories.................................... 910

Snack

Popcorn, 2 cups, no butter......... 60

Diet Soda, 12 oz........................ 0

Calories.................................... 60

 

Total Calories.......................... 2015

 

Breakfast

Cantaloupe, 1/4 60

Egg, poached 75

Toast, 2 slices 140

Margarine, 1t 35

Jam, 2t 30

Milk, 1 cup 2% 120

Calories 460

Lunch

Tuna Pocket

Pita Bread, 1................. 120

Tuna, 3 oz.................... 100

Lo-cal Mayonnaise, 2T.. 60

Lettuce, tomato slices... 5

Pretzels, 1 oz............................ 110

Milk, 1 cup 2%.......................... 120

Calories.................................... 515

Dinner

Broiled Turkey Breast,

3 oz........................................... 130

Wild Rice Pilaf, 1 cup................ 270

Spinach Salad........................... 15

Dressing, 1T.............................. 60

Angel Food Cake, 1 slice........... 125

Chocolate Syrup, 2T.................. 75

Milk, 1 cup 2%.......................... 120

Calories.................................... 795

Snack

Pineapple, 1 cup....................... 150

Graham Crackers, 3 squares..... 80

Calories.................................... 23

 

Total Calories 2000

APPENDIX B

EATING OUT WISELY

 

You can maintain your training diet when eating at a restaurant if you are careful about what you order. Pay attention to how foods are prepared. Choose food that is baked, broiled, boiled, or poached. Avoid food that is breaded, fried, or served in gravy. Limit your use of butter, margarine, mayonnaise, sour cream, cream cheese, and regular salad dressings. Instead, use barbeque sauce, ketchup, mustard, relish, and vegetables for toppings. Do not be afraid to ask for food served "your way;" ask for extra vegetables in sandwiches or on pizza, skip the extra cheese or extra meat, request skim or 2% milk, and specify the topping you want.

When you know you will be eating out, carefully choose low-fat foods for your other meals that day. Also, take along your own fresh fruit to munch on after the meal instead of ordering desserts.

When eating a meal at a fast food restaurant, don't make it a dietary disaster. A typical fast food meal is high in fat and low in calcium, vitamin C, and vitamin A. It is difficult to choose a high-carbohydrate meal at a fast food restaurant. Beware or you can eat half of your caloric allotment in one meal. Examples of high carbohydrate, low fat meals at fast food restaurants are shown in Appendix D.

 

APPENDIX C

 

HOW TO CALCULATE YOUR
MINIMUM BODY WEIGHT

 

 

 

1. To Calculate Your Fat Weight:

Multiply your weight in pounds by your percent fat (as a decimal). For example, if you weigh 140 lbs. and are 12% fat:

140X0.12=16.8 lbs of fat

2. To Calculate Your Lean Body Mass:

Subtract your fat weight from your body weight:

140-16.8=123.2 lbs. of lean body mass (LBM)

3. To Calculate Your Minimum Wrestling Weight:

Divide LBM by .93:

123.2divided by.93=132.5 lbs. of body weight at 7% fat

4. To Calculate Your Maximum Fat-Weight Loss:

Subtract your calculated body weight from your present weight:

140-132.5=7.5 lbs. of fat weight to lose

APPENDIX D

Sample Menus - Fast Food Restaurants

 

 

Calories Protein Carbohydrates Fat

Breakfasts

McDonalds

Plain English Muffin (S) 747 17% 56% 25%

Strawberry jam (1 packet)

Scrambled egg (1)

Orange Juice (6 ounces)

2 % milk (1 carton)

or Hot Cakes with 650 11% 66% 25%

butter and 1/2 syrup pack

and orange juice

Lunch/Dinner

Wendy's

Chicken breast Sandwich 719 22% 53% 25%

on muligrain bread

(no mayonnaise)

Baked potato

Sour cream (1 packet)

2 % milk

or Chili (8 ounces) 1,016 16% 57% 25%

Baked potato, plain

Frosty (small)

Side Salad

3/4 cup lettuce

3/4 cup fresh veggies

1/4 cup cottage cheese

Arby's

Jr. Roast Beef on multigrain 695 22% 51% 27%

bread with lettuce and tomato

(no mayonnaise or horseradish)

Side salad*

2 % milk

or Arby's Regular Roast Beef or 970 20% 52% 30%

ham and cheese sandwich

Side salad*

Vanilla shake

*1/2 cup lettuce, 1 cup fresh

veggies, 1/2 cup garbanzo

beans, 1/4 cup cottage cheese

2 tablespoons low-calorie

dressing.

Taco Bell

tostadas* 1,040 18% 56% 27%

1 bean burrito

2 plain tortillas

2% milk

or 1 tostada*

2 bean burritos

1 plain tortilla

2% milk

or 1 tostada*

2 bean burritos

1 plain tortilla

2% milk

*if possible, ask that tostada shell

be plain, not fried

Pizza Hut*

Large Spaghetti 1,023 19% 61% 20%

with meat sauce

Breadsticks

2% milk

or 1/2 medium onion, green 1,126 20% 55% 25%

pepper and cheese pizza

(thin crust)

2 breadsticks

2% milk

*Pizza Hut does have a salad bar.