Let’s take a look at a typical year for a wrestler. During the off-season, the fighter is in the gym lifting weights. The workouts are intense. The wrestler eats normally, maintains muscle and adds strength to his body. The wrestler may occasionally compete in a tournament or go to a wrestling camp. The fighter is learning more moves and abilities, along with improved strength. Everything is good. Things are looking great for the upcoming season!
Then comes the season. The wrestler decides to cut 15-20 lbs. move to a lower weight class, where they will be big, strong and ready for any competition. The fighter eats very little, runs a lot (even in plastic suits), spits, uses saunas, etc. to make weight. The fighter makes weight. The fighter has a good season, gaining weight every week and bingeing after every fight.
BUT THE FIGHTER STAYS BELOW HIS POTENTIAL!
The fighter does not understand. He practices hard, very hard! He dropped out of two weight classes and gains weight every week. He trains after practice and works as hard or harder than anyone else in the mat room. He doesn’t strength train during the season because he practices a lot and doesn’t have the time or energy to work out. Plus, all that hard work in the weight room during the off-season has made him really strong!
Or did he?
If you are losing weight for wrestling and want to be the BEST of your potential, make sure you:
1. Keep up your strength training
During the off-season, you want to work to gain as much strength as possible. I recommend training 3 times a week in the weight room, working the muscles used for wrestling. Be consistent and document your progress. Always push yourself to add a little more weight or reps. During wrestling season, YOU HAVE TO STRENGTH TRAIN! You won’t maintain the strength gained during the offseason if you neglect training during the season. If you’re losing weight, it’s even more important to keep up your strength training. If you’re losing weight, practicing, and fighting in dual matches and tournaments, your body is using its own muscle for fuel. You can avoid some of this by doing a total body strength workout every 4-5 days.
2. Eat more often
Don’t starve your body to gain weight! If you starve your body, you are slowing down your metabolism. Metabolism is the rate at which your body burns calories. A calorie is a unit of energy. By going hungry, you’ll rebound and have even more trouble gaining weight next season. The answer lies in trying to lose fat, not muscle and water. This is accomplished by eating more frequently. Four smaller meals each day will allow you to lose body fat while saving muscle, giving you the energy to fight hard and stay strong throughout the match.
3. Give your body the right amount of calories
To find out how many calories your body needs to maintain muscle while you lose weight, take your current body weight and multiply it by 13. This is the minimum number of calories you need to consume each day.
4. Eat a 40-30-30 ratio
Now that you know how many calories you need to lose weight and still maintain the muscle and strength you’ve built, you need to eat the right ratio of protein, carbs, and fat. 40% of your calories should come from lean protein (egg whites, turkey, lean beef, whey protein powder, skinless chicken). 30% of your daily calories should come from complex carbohydrates (multigrain bread, baked potato, sweet potato, brown rice, oatmeal) and 30% of your calories should come from unsaturated fats (olive oil, nuts). You usually don’t have to calculate fat, other than a little oil on a salad, because the meats you eat will have a small percentage of fat that will be enough for the day.
5. Do not jog too much if your goal is to gain weight
Nothing is more exhausting than a tough high school or college wrestling practice. You shouldn’t get into the habit of jogging for miles and miles every week to lose weight. First of all, it won’t give you the stamina for wrestling like old fashioned live wrestling practice will. If you try to lose weight by jogging, you will start eating away at the muscle in your body. Aerobic activity is NOT an effective means of losing fat. A controlled eating plan is the answer.
6. Don’t get dehydrated
In order to fight in the best possible way and make your body work efficiently, you need all the systems of the body to work optimally. Each of your body systems requires water. If you have to lose a couple of pounds to gain weight after following the tips above, you will restrict your water intake. However, restricting your water intake is not the same as not drinking any water at all. You still need to give yourself 3-4 ounces of water every 3 hours on days you are trying to gain weight. Remember, this is to maintain your strength. You need to plan well to do this well. Do not load weight until two days before and be drastic in your weight loss system.
7. Stay away from sugar
Fighters who lose weight by eating too little and jogging excessively tend to crave sugar. Sugar has no place in your wrestling meal plan. The only time my clients consume sugar is immediately after an intense strength training session. If it’s within 3 or 4 lbs. of your weight class, you may want to consume approximately 60 grams of high-glycemic carbohydrate (sugar) in the form of grape juice or apple juice within 20 minutes of your strength training session. This replenishes the body’s glycogen stores and helps with recovery. In general, stay away from sugars. They have no long-term positive effects on your energy. They are much more likely to be converted and stored as fat.