Losing weight in order to wrestle may be necessary for some athletes, but there are certain measures to make sure you do it in a healthy fashion. Many wrestlers partake in the extremely unhealthy practice of "cutting weight" in order to shed pounds rapidly to get into a competitive weight class. By maintaining a nutritious diet, you can still lose weight but remain energized and healthy.
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Depending on age, minimum body fat should be between 5 percent and 7 percent. Anything lower than this is unhealthy. When choosing a target weight at which to wrestle for the season, it is important to choose a weight that will still allow you to be healthy. Figure out how much weight you can lose while remaining above the minimum fat percentage, and then aim for an acceptable weight, advises the California Interscholastic Federation.
When losing weight, it is important to do it slowly. In addition to other health problems, losing weight rapidly can cause rapid loss of muscle. Cutting weight too fast can also result in a deficiency in the very nutrients you need for optimal performance. Aiming for 2 to 3 pounds per week until you reach your target weight is a safe amount. In addition, losing weight slowly will allow you to concentrate more on wrestling and less on weight cutting.
Many high school wrestlers cut weight using dangerous practices such as running in rubber suits or winter clothes, spitting in cups, starvation, dehydration and sweating in saunas. In addition to causing weakness, fatigue, dehydration, low blood sugar, fainting, heat exhaustion and heat stroke, cutting weight can also be fatal. In 1997, three rising college wrestling stars died from cutting weight.
According to the California Interscholastic Federation, a wrestler's caloric intake should be a minimum of 1700 to 2000 calories per day. Because you exert so much energy when wrestling, you can still lose weight while taking in this amount of calories. You just need to make sure you get your calories from the right places. (See References 1)
According to information from the American Dietetic Association posted by Lehigh University, wrestlers should consume between 2.3g and 3.6g of carbohydrates from sources such as whole grain breads, cereal, fruits and vegetables--per pound of body weight, per day. Lehigh also suggests eating .55g to .8g of protein per pound and .45g of fat per pound, per day. Fish, poultry, lean meat, low-fat milk, yogurt, nuts and legumes can all be healthy options for protein, while olive oil, canola oil and nuts can provide healthy fats.