I knew very little about nutrition or weight loss when I started my high school wrestling career. I didn’t know the importance of good nutrition and hydration. I had no idea how many calories were in certain foods. I didn’t know that a rack of fried fish on a bun had more calories than a burger because I thought fish was healthy. I had no idea of the different roles different nutrients played in the body.
Wrestling is a sport that involves competitors from different weight classes. Therefore, some wrestlers find it beneficial to diet in the belief that they will have a competitive advantage at a lower weight class. This is not always the case, but this notion seems to persist. Regardless of whether a wrestler decides whether or not to lose weight or not, he should always practice proper nutrition to ensure he performs at the highest level.
A few simple things to keep in mind:
- One pound is approximately 3,500 calories
- If you eat 500 calories less per day, you will lose one pound per week (500 calories per day x 7 days = 3,500 calories per week equals one pound)
- One gram of carbohydrate contains four calories
- One gram of protein contains four calories
- One gram of fat contains nine calories
- Your body’s preferred fuel source is carbohydrates like bread, cereal, rice, potatoes, and pasta
- Adequate amount of fiber can help you feel full while dieting
- Remember to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated
A simple formula for weight loss, weight gain and weight maintenance:
- Take your body weight multiplied by 10 to find the number of calories to eat per day to lose weight (for example, a wrestler weighing 150 pounds should eat 1,500 calories per day to lose weight)
- Take your body weight multiplied by 15 to find the number of calories needed to maintain your weight (for example, if a wrestler reduced to 120 pounds, then they could eat about 1,800 calories a day and maintain that weight)
- If you want to gain weight, take your body weight multiplied by 20 to find the number of calories needed each day to gain weight.
As you can see, fat contains more than twice as many calories per gram as carbohydrates or protein. So if you want to lose weight, cutting fat will help. Fat isn’t all bad. Fat helps in the production of hormones like testosterone and does many other good things in the body, so don’t eliminate it completely.
When I struggled in high school, I ate lots of fruits, potatoes, plain unsweetened oatmeal, plain unbuttered bread and toast, vegetables, milk, yogurt, and lean meat.
The muscles in your body need enough glycogen to produce energy. Your brain’s main source of fuel is glucose. In other words, you need to eat enough carbs to have energy and be mentally focused.
When I was losing weight in high school, I became very weak and had trouble concentrating. I know now that it was because I had no glycogen or glucose, which my body craved.
Keep in mind that your pre-competition meal should also be light and carbohydrate-based.
Low-calorie diets can lead to muscle loss. You cannot be as strong and powerful if you lose muscle mass. Some researchers also believe that very low-calorie diets can cause metabolism to crash because the body senses starvation and goes into starvation mode. So if you’re choosing to lose weight to be more competitive, don’t go on a drastic calorie-restricted diet.
Whether you’re dieting or not, make sure you’re getting these six key nutrients:
If you eat a wide variety of foods, you should be able to meet your nutritional needs. Learn about good nutrition. Read books and articles. Consider buying a food scale and calorie counting book if you decide to lose weight.
Don’t overlook the importance of nutrition in addition to good technique and conditioning in your quest to become a successful wrestler.