I knew very little about nutrition or weight loss when I began my high school wrestling career. I didn’t know about the importance of proper nutrition and proper hydration. I had no idea about the number of calories in certain foods. I didn’t know a deep fried fish square on a bun had more calories than a hamburger because I thought that fish was healthy. I had no clue about the different roles that the various nutrients played in one’s body.
Wrestling is a sport that involves competitors being in different weight classes. Therefore, some wrestlers find it beneficial to diet thinking they will have a competitive advantage in a lower weight class. This is not always the case but this notion seems to persist. Regardless of whether or not a wrestler decides to cut weight or not he should still practice proper nutrition to ensure that he performs at top level.
A few simple things to keep in mind:
- One pound is equal to approximately 3,500 calories
- If you consume 500 fewer calories per day then you will lose one pound per week (500 calories per day x 7 days = 3,500 calories per week equating to one pound)
- One gram of carbohydrate has four calories
- One gram of protein has four calories
- One gram of fat has nine calories
- Your body’s preferred source of fuel is carbohydrates like bread, cereals, rice, potatoes, and pasta
- Adequate fiber can help you feel full when dieting
- Remember to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated
A simple formula regarding weight loss, weight gain, and weight maintenance:
- Take your body weight times 10 to find the number of calories to eat per day to lose weight (e.g. a wrestler weighing 150 lbs. would need to consume 1,500 calories per day to lose weight)
- Take your body weight times 15 to find the number of calories to maintain your weight (e.g. if a wrestler cuts down to 120 lbs. he could then eat approximately 1,800 calories per day and still maintain that weight)
- If you want to gain weight then take your body weight times 20 to find the number of calories needed each day to gain weight
As you can see, fat contains more than twice the number of calories per gram than carbohydrate or protein. So, if you want to lose weight then cutting down on fats will help. Fat is not all bad. Fat helps in the production of hormones like testosterone and does many other good things in the body so do not eliminate it entirely.
When I wrestled in high school, I ate a lot of fruit, potatoes, plain unsweetened oatmeal, plain unbuttered bread and toast, vegetables, milk, yogurt, and lean meat.
Your body’s muscles need adequate glycogen for energy. Your brain’s primary source of fuel is glucose. In other words, you need to consume adequate carbohydrates to have energy and to be mentally focused.
When I was cutting weight in high school I would become very weak and had trouble concentrating. I now know this is because I had no glycogen and no glucose, which my body was in vital need of.
Keep in mind that your pre competition meal should be light and carbohydrate based as well.
Low calorie diets can lead to muscle loss. You cannot be as strong and powerful if you are losing muscle mass. Some researchers also believe that very low calorie diets can cause one’s metabolism to drop because the body senses a famine situation and goes into starvation mode. Therefore, if you choose to lose weight to be more competitive do not go on a drastic low calorie diet.
Whether you diet or not, be sure to get these six key nutrients:
If you eat a wide variety of food, you should be able to meet your nutritional requirements. Educate yourself about proper nutrition. Read books and articles. Consider buying a food scale and a calorie-counting book if you decide to lose weight.
Do not neglect the importance of nutrition in addition to proper technique and good conditioning in your quest to be a successful wrestler.