Safe and Effective Weight Loss for Wrestlers
C. Whedon, M.S., A.T.,C./R.

Premise: as a wrestler, you are more than likely going to lose some weight during the course of the up-coming season. The following are some guidelines for losing fat, not muscle or water. The loss of muscle is obviously not desirable, since you better have been building it all during the off-season. Excessive water loss is also not desirable, as it results in dehydration. Dehydration results in considerable strength losses, and will hurt your conditioning as well. 
  1. Concentrate on percent body fat: weight in of itself is not the problem, it is excessive fat, which does nothing to help in performance (unless you are a long-distance swimmer). You should attempt to maintain a relatively low body fat at all times. Keep it around 10-12% during the off season. This will make it easier to reach a good level during the season, and it will make you look better on the beach. During the season, you should keep your body fat between 6 and 8 percent, as below six percent you will become fatigued, usually cut some muscle, and your studies (remember those?) will undoubtedly suffer. The larger you are, the more body fat is generally acceptable. The heavier weights may even have 10 to 15%.

  2. Slow loss is good loss: start losing weight early. 1 to 2 pounds per week. This will assume that the weight which you lose is mostly fat. Weight loss in excess of 2-3 pounds will include muscle and water loss, both of which are unacceptable. 

  3. Reduce the fat in your diet: fatty foods are tasty foods, but have the most calories. Learn and know what food sources are high in fat and avoid them. Learn what foods are low in fat and eat them. 

  4. Increase the complex carbohydrates in your diet: starches, cereals, breads, pastas. All have a lot of energy and nutrients without the fat (unless you put it on to make it taste better). Don't eat too much protein. It is not as good an energy source, and excess may be stored as fat. 

  5. Eat a balanced diet with a variety of foods: practice good nutrition. Follow guidelines for a healthy diet. If you are restricting your intake, a daily vitamin/mineral supplement is helpful. A basic supplement which meets 100% of the RDA required nutrients is all you need. Anything greater than 100% RDA is a waste (you will deposit the extra in the toilet). If you have extra money to waste, give it to me, not the vitamin companies. 

  6. Drink as much water as possible: Keep yourself well hydrated. This means drinking 8 glasses of water on a normal day. Up to a gallon on hard work out days. Don't drink too much caffeine (soda, coffee, etc.), as this will cause you to lose water through urine. After practice, drink enough water to replace to the weight you lost during practice. Use your weigh-in chart as a guide.

  7. Eat smaller, more frequent meals: take snacks with you to class. This will keep you from getting too hungry and eating too much when you sit down to a meal. Eat small to moderate portions during your meal.

  8. Lose weight by burning fat through exercise: to burn fat, you must exercise for long duration - 30 minutes to one hour. Since this will not help your conditioning for wrestling (long is aerobic, you must be anaerobic), all running, biking, rowing, stepping, etc. (anything for conditioning) should be interval training. Sprint cycles are done as hard as possible for 30-40 seconds, rest cycles at a comfortable pace for 90 to 120 seconds. This can be modified to 15-20 second sprint and 15-20 second rest for variety and change in  metabolic pathways used for energy.

  9. Do Not rely on water loss to lose weight: if you are going to lose weight by sweating, restrict it to the day of weigh-ins. Keep your weight within two or three pounds, fully hydrated, and you can sweat this off within one half hour before weigh-ins. If you are fully hydrated, you can lose this weight quickly by exercising (preferably wrestling). You should ideally have at least four to six hours after weigh-ins to rehydrate so that your strength and endurance will not be affected. This is only a last resort, and must be done within these guidelines to prevent from causing injury or performance impairment.

  10. Continue to strength train: you must keep lifting weights throughout the season to maintain the strength you gained during the off-season, especially with the rigor of every day practice and weight control.

Rowan Homepage | Health & Exercise Science Homepage | Chuck Whedon's Homepage