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Safe, Healthy Weight Cutting Tips For Wrestlers

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Tip #1: Eat the right amount of protein

The energy you get from your food goes into the muscles of your body. They are what moves you on the wrestling mat and allows you to do the physical things you do; Your muscles are where your metabolism lives. When you’re on a calorie restricted diet (when trying to lose weight), your body is forced to rely on its energy stores because you’re not getting enough gas. This is present in the muscle cells in the form of body fat and glycogen (stored carbohydrates/sugar). When glycogen is depleted, the body turns to body fat and then protein for energy. Because muscles are made of protein, if you don’t consume enough dietary protein when trying to lose weight, your body will use its own muscle tissue to feed itself. Not only does this make you weaker and cause you to perform poorly on the mat, but it also does some sort of temporary damage to your metabolism.

This is why eating protein is super important when losing weight, but it’s not the end of the story; You have to eat the right amount to be effective. This is determined by a simple body fat test that gives not only your body fat percentage but also your lean body mass. To avoid muscle loss on a calorie restricted diet, you need to consume at least the same amount of protein (in grams) as your calculated lean body mass. Given the excessive amount of exercise wrestlers perform daily while training, you should also add 10-15 grams of protein (in addition to your lean body mass) to aid in recovery and avoid overtraining. For example, a 145-pound wrestler who has a lean body mass of 138 pounds. should eat between 150-160 grams of protein per day. Once you’ve established your protein needs per day, control your weight loss by manipulating the amount of carbohydrates you eat per day.

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Tip #2: Load up on your calories on the front end

The best way to reduce body weight and still maintain high levels of performance is to reduce body fat and water weight while maintaining muscle mass. Once you’ve determined the right amount of protein, it’s best to keep dietary fat to a minimum and choose only clean, natural carbohydrates as your primary calorie source. The bulk of your carbs should come from starches like rice, sweet potatoes, and oatmeal, followed by bread and pasta as a second choice. Mix fibrous carbohydrates like green leafy vegetables with the starch you eat in as many meals as possible. Aside from breakfast, eat 1-2 servings of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, or green beans with each meal. Remember that corn, peas, and beans can be eaten but are treated as starches and should not be counted as fibrous vegetables when trying to lose weight. Fruit can be eaten, but if body fat loss is your goal, fruit should be eaten in limited amounts during the first half of the day.

For the easiest and best weight loss, stagger your calories from largest to smallest, starting with the first part of your day. In other words, breakfast is the largest meal of the day, the second meal is the second largest, the third meal is even smaller, and the fourth and fifth (if you eat that much) are just protein and vegetables. Staggering your calories in this way turns your body into an extremely efficient machine. After a few days of eating like this, you’ll get hungrier and hungrier at night, and have an absolute hunger after breakfast—which works well since it’s your biggest meal of the day. Eating all your strengths in the first half of your day will provide your body with plenty of fuel for those after-school workouts. Eating the fewest calories at night will keep your stomach empty before bed, which precedes the 8+ hour fast your body goes through when you sleep.

Tip #3: Water loading

Water is an essential nutrient for any wrestler. If even a little dehydrated, performance suffers. As much as wrestlers sweat in training, they must constantly push water down to prevent dehydration. Removing water from the body is also an essential part of losing weight as it is primarily water weight that is lost. If you drink very little water so that the body is borderline dehydrated, it will try to hold on to the water it has rather than lose it. Conversely, if you steadily increase the amount of water you drink over a short period of time, the need to urinate to let the water through will also increase. This is the principle used in a method called water loading. Water loading is simply loading drinking water 3-4 days before weighing and then removing it right before weighing. Water loading is an effective natural diuretic method, but it should be done in moderation. The amount of water you build depends on the size of the athlete, but trying to drink 3-4 gallons of water in a day is NOT wise exercise and can lead to injury. Most athletes get the best effect by building up to 1-2 gallons in a day.

Here’s how it works. If you weigh yourself at 4:00 p.m. on Friday, you’ll start water loading on Tuesday. On Tuesday, increase the amount of water you drink to get at least 3/4 to 1 gallon throughout the day. On Wednesday, try to drink more than a gallon of water. On Thursday, try to drink more than a gallon of water before your last meal of the day. After your last meal on Thursday and until your weigh-in on Friday, limit water intake to only sips when you need them. By drastically increasing the amount of water you drink, it acts as a natural diuretic and the body begins to urinate much more frequently. After Thursday night’s water restriction, having effectively lost several pounds of water weight all week, the body will continue to urinate until it weighs in. After weighing, drink at least 16+ oz. to fill in what has been lost through this process. If you drink that much water throughout the week, you’ll find that you lose more water during exercise as well. This method is safe and easy to perform and also ensures that you don’t come close to dehydration.

Thanks to Dan Levesque

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