Performance Nutrition for Wrestlers After Weight Loss

Wrestlers and wrestlers reduce weight for competition so they can have an advantage in combat. Whether you are a young, high school, college, or professional athlete, being the biggest competitor in your weight class can make the difference in winning or losing the game. This often involves a quick weight cut for the weigh-in, followed by repositioning the body to its normal weight or preferably even heavier, hopefully giving you a size and strength advantage. While reducing the weight will get you to the tournament, the restocking process is just as important as it will definitely affect your performance. Eating junk food or fast food straight after a hard diet or fasting is like draining your car’s engine and then refilling it with sand or contaminated gasoline. The first fuel you put into your body after emptying it will be exactly the one used for your first run; The food choices you make will determine whether the mat is glowing or gassing.

When it comes to performance nutrition, timing is as important as what you eat. Athletes who arrive to weigh the day before their competition have a tremendous advantage over those who must compete an hour or two later. Depending on how severe the weight cut is, it can take up to 12 hours (or longer) to fully regain your desired body weight. With the right food, strategy, and planning, this process can be done effectively much faster; however, the longer you have to recover from a heavy weight cut, the better. It is common for high school wrestlers to weigh themselves on Friday afternoon to compete on Friday night, they have to weigh again on Saturday morning for another tournament all Saturday. Often when this is the case, the athlete receives a 1-3 pound allowance. for Saturday’s match, however, this is a situation that needs to be handled with care. Refueling for Friday’s competition needs to be controlled to be effective but not enough to shed your weight loss for the next day.

After weighing, choose foods that absorb quickly and provide the best fuel for your next performance. While protein is extremely necessary during weight loss to prevent muscle loss, it has little place in the replenishment process. Protein will not give you the energy you need to perform on the mat and will only take up space in your stomach. Carbohydrates are the best types of food to eat at an upcoming competition after weight loss. However, avoid simple sugars that are over-processed like candy, cookies, cakes, Little Debbies, etc. Foods like this will give you a rapid, uncontrolled spike of energy followed by a shock of drowsiness and lethargy. Choose carbohydrates from two different categories to replenish your body with a good weight and the best, most usable fuel. Clean, starchy carbohydrates like sweet potatoes and rice are great for filling your muscles with glycogen so the energy released is used up in the next few hours of competition. Breads and bagels are secondary options, however they are sweet and filling and work well too.

For faster energy, the fresh, juicy fruit is great and very rejuvenating for the fighter who has survived an arduous weight cut. Apples, grapes, and oranges are sweet, delicious, and satisfying when in season. Bananas and prunes also contain potassium and natural sugar that will be used for energy in the next hour of performance. Other foods that are good quick energy options to replenish the body are graham crackers, animal crackers, and even yogurt, however these are secondary and should not be filling. While fats are plentiful and satisfying to eat, they should be consumed in very small amounts or even avoided, as they will slow down the absorption of sugars needed for energy. Too many will also give the fighter a feeling of heaviness and sluggishness in his gut. Wrestlers eating peanut butter sandwiches on white bread is a common sight in many tournaments, however this is a mistake. While this meal is sweet, filling, and easy to prepare, peanut butter can get heavy on a fighter’s stomach, while gluten in white bread slows gut motility to a halt.

For the quickest and most complete replenishment after a weight cut, divide your carbohydrates into several small meals and try to resist gorging yourself. Forcing too much food into the gut at one time will give you more than you can handle and cause a temporary blockage, slowing absorption and making the athlete sick, sometimes feeling heavy, lethargic, and even nauseous. If the athlete were to restrict water to make their weight, the first thing they should bring to their mouth should be at least 16 oz. of water, then you can start eating. A great strategy is to combine simple and complex carbohydrates in a controlled volume over a period of time. For example, after drinking water, the first meal would be 1½ to 2 cups of white rice with honey and a piece of fresh fruit. Sixty to ninety minutes later, eat another 1½ cups of white rice + honey, some graham crackers, and more water. For a third meal, eat more carbohydrates mainly; however, go ahead and add some protein too. An example would be another 1½ cups of white rice + honey, a tangerine and 3-4 oz. of lean turkey breast.

Feeding the body small meals of dry carbohydrates combined with drinking water like this will transport glycogen and fluid to the muscles quickly and effectively. After the body has been without food and / or water for 8 to 12 hours (common practice to reduce weight), the fuel that we put directly into it will determine its next performance. Replenishing with this strategy leaves athletes energized and ready to go after the first 1-2 meals; they feel alert and light, not stuck by a bunch of heavy, fat-laden, preservative-laden foods in the gut. Adding a little protein to the third meal helps slow carbohydrate absorption after the muscles have recovered on the first two. This will allow fuel for later, as well as a fuller feel that will last a bit longer. After not eating protein for so long, it is also important to start feeding the body amino acids again to help the muscles recover after racing. The third meal can also contain some fats if you wish, but better with little or no fats as they have little to do with immediate performance and only act to slow it down.

While losing weight may be the thing that gets you into competition, if you don’t have a restocking strategy in place, you’ll feel weak, tired, and unable to perform at your best.

Using a strategy like the one mentioned above will ensure that you fully replenish yourself, feel great, and are ready for your first match. Focus on a mixture of fast-acting starchy carbohydrates combined with natural simple carbohydrates and eat them in several small meals to ensure they are fully absorbed by the body. Drink plenty of water so your muscles transport both fluids and glycogen to storage for fast action and immediate performance. Do this repeatedly 2-3 times based on fullness, energy levels, and your competition schedule. Avoid fats to prevent nutrient absorption from slowing down and that feeling of heaviness and sluggishness common in these types of foods. After 2-3 carb-only meals, add some protein to a subsequent meal to aid post-race recovery and provide slightly slower digestion of carbohydrates for energy later in the day.