Nutritional Guide for Season


Taken from the video of the same title produced by the National Wrestling Coaches Association.

The information provided here comes from the video produced by the NWCA. It is provided in print form so coaches can make copies to distribute to wrestlers & parents. The information is provided by Karen Wetherall, Ms, RD, LD, Sports Nutritionist at the University of Tennessee, Lisa McAnulty, PhD, RD, Sports Nutritionist with Appalachian State University, and Debra Vinci, Dr.PH, RD, LDN Sports Nutritionist with Appalachian State University.

Question #1: Why are high carbohydrate foods important to wrestlers and what are some high carbohydrate foods?

High carbohydrate foods provide the muscles with readily available energy needed for optimal performance. Carbohydrates are provided in foods such as breads, cereals, rice, corn, pretzels, pasta, potatoes, fruits, vegetables, and fruit and vegetable juices.

Question #2: How much protein does a wrestler need and what are some sources of high quality protein?

About 15-20% of a wrestler’s calories should come from protein. Specifically, a wrestler should consume about .6 grams of protein daily for each pound of body weight. A 152-pound wrestler should consume about 91 grams of protein per day.

Good sources of protein include: 3 ounces of lean meat, poultry or fish = 21 grams; ½ cup of beans or peas = 7 grams; 1 egg = 7 grams; 1/4 cup cottage cheese = 7 grams; 1 ounce of cheese = 7 grams; 8 ounces of low fat milk or yogurt = 8 grams.

Question #3: Should wrestlers use any nutritional supplements?

If they are concerned about maintaining a healthy diet they may choose to take a multivitamin, but should not need any other supplements.

Question #4: What should wrestlers eat between the time they weigh in and compete?

Drinking fluids is the most important thing. Water, or a sports drink containing no more than 8% carbohydrate are both good choices. Eating fruit, turkey on bread, or a cereal bar are also good choices.

Question #5: What should wrestlers drink between weigh-in and competition?

About 1 hour before competition they should drink 2 cups of fluids that contain some carbohydrate and electrolytes, especially sodium and potassium. About 15 – 20 minutes before competition they should drink another 1 ½ – 2 cups of similar fluid or water. Any fluid consumed within 1 hour of competition or a workout should not contain more than 60 calories per 8-ounce serving. Drinking fluid with more calories than this delays the speed the fluid is absorbed by the body and may cause an upset stomach during exercise.

Question #6: What should wrestlers eat during an all-day tournament?

Fluids are the most important, followed by carbohydrates & a little protein. Low-fat chocolate milk, Carnation Instant Breakfast mix, or anything mentioned in question #5 are good choices.

Baby carrots, celery, fruit, low fat granola bars, cereal bars, and low fat yogurt are all good choices. When eating prepackaged snack foods, choose those that have 4 grams of carbohydrate for every 1 gram of fat.

Question #7: What should wrestlers drink during all-day tournaments?

About 2 hours before competition they should drink 2 cups of fluid. This fluid may contain about 180 calories per 8-ounce serving. About 1 hour before competition they should drink 2 cups of fluids that contain some carbohydrate and electrolytes, especially sodium and potassium. About 15 – 20 minutes before competition they should drink another 1 ½ – 2 cups of similar fluid or water. Any fluid consumed within 1 hour of competition or a workout should not contain more than 60 calories per 8-ounce serving. Drinking fluid with more calories than this delays the speed the fluid is absorbed by the body and may cause an upset stomach during exercise.

Question #8: What should a wrestler eat after a workout or a match to help boost recovery?

Fluids are a must. Fruit and vegetable juices are good. Anything that is good between the weigh-in and competition, and for an all-day tournament is also good after a workout or competition. Within one hour after exercise wrestlers can benefit from eating foods that contain protein. See questions #9 and #10 for healthy protein choices.

Question #9: What kind of food preparation should be considered when trying to lose weight?

Try to eat fewer processed foods. For example, eat more raw fruits and vegetables. Choose lean meats, tuna salad with lite mayonnaise, salad with turkey and low fat dressing, stir fry with only a little oil for cooking, lean meat sandwiches and pasta.

Question #10: Is it possible to eat healthy at a fast food restaurant?

Yes, especially if the coach and wrestlers plan ahead. Choosing a fast food restaurant such as Subway or discussing healthy, low fat options at other restaurants are important. Healthy choices would include such foods as turkey, lean roast beef, ham, bean burritos, rice, pasta, salads with turkey or ham & low fat dressings and baked chips. For breakfast, cold & hot cereals and pancakes, waffles, french toast, without extra butter are good choices. To substantially lower the fat, skip the bacon and sausage.

Other thoughts are to choose the foods designated on the menu as “heart healthy choices.” Also, skip the butter, gravies, special sauces, etc. Super sizing an order can easily double the fat content compared to a regular serving size.

Question #11: What foods are good “lite,” or heart healthy options?

Any foods that are steamed, broiled, char broiled, boiled, poached, grilled, baked, or in its own juice are good choices. Avoid foods that are fried, crispy, buttery, Au Gratin, or served with gravy on top.

Question #12: What are the signs of dehydration?

An athlete can lose about 1% of their body weight through fluid loss with no apparent signs of dehydration. So it’s very important for the athlete to drink fluids when any signs of dehydration occur. Symptoms of dehydration are progressive. They include: thirst, dry mouth & throat, flushed skin, fatigue, headache, loss of performance, weakness, increased heart rate, decreased sweating, confusion, dizziness, and collapse into a coma.

Question #13: What are the best ways to prevent dehydration and its negative effects on performance?

First, always avoid voluntary dehydration. This can occur through excessive exercise, saunas, rubber suits, not drinking fluids, using diuretics, etc. Methods of quick weight, which cause dehydration, are unsafe and against the rules. Next, be sure to drink fluids on a regular basis and concentrate on fluid intake during the 24 hours before exercise or competition. Be sure to drink fluids during the 2 hours before exercise or competition using the guidelines already provided. Last, monitor weight loss and urine color. When adequately hydrated, one’s urine should be pale or clear in color. Every pound of weight lost during exercise should be replaced by drinking 24 ounces of fluid within several hours after exercise.

Question #14: Is it better to drink water or a sports drink?

There is nothing wrong with drinking water. It does not contain electrolytes or carbohydrate which may improve performance in some cases, but it will not be detrimental to performance either. Sports drinks can improve performance in some situations, but can also be harmful to performance if used improperly. Discussion has already taken place, in questions #5 and #7, about how much carbohydrate a sports drink should contain to improve, or not be harmful to performance. It is also important to avoid fructose in a sports drink. Fructose is not absorbed well by the body and may cause stomach upset. Sports drinks should not contain caffeine as it will dehydrate the body further.

Here is the formula for a home made thirst quencher that is easy to make and much cheaper than commercial brands: ½ cup honey; ½ teaspoon lite salt; 1/4 cup lemon juice; and 7 ½ cups luke warm water. This drink is made with luke warm water so the honey will be dissolved. It can be cooled after making it. The drink contains about 60 calories, 72 milligrams of sodium and 85 milligrams of potassium per 8-ounce serving.

Fluids and Hydration
How important are fluids?

Fluid replacement is probably the most important nutritional concern for athletes. Approximately 60% of your body weight is water. As you exercise, fluid is lost through your skin as sweat and through your lungs when you breathe. If this fluid is not replaced at regular intervals during exercise, you can become dehydrated.

When you are dehydrated, you have a smaller volume of blood circulating through your body. Consequently, the amount of blood your heart pumps with each beat decreases and your exercising muscles do not receive enough oxygen from your blood. Soon exhaustion sets in and your athletic performance suffers.

If you have lost as little as 2% of your body weight due to dehydration, it can adversely affect your athletic performance. For example, if you are a 150-pound athlete and you lose 3 pounds during a workout, your performance will start to suffer unless you replace the fluid you have lost. Proper fluid replacement is the key to preventing dehydration and reducing the risk of heat injury during training and competition.

How can I prevent dehydration?

The best way to prevent dehydration is to maintain body fluid levels by drinking plenty of fluids before, during, and after a workout or race. Often athletes are not aware that they are losing body fluid or that their performance is being impacted by dehydration.

If you are not sure how much fluid to drink, you can monitor your hydration using one of these methods.

Weight: Weigh yourself before practice and again after practice. For every pound you lose during the workout you will need to drink 2 cups of fluid to re-hydrate your body.

Urine color: Check the color of your urine. If it is a dark gold color like apple juice, you are dehydrated. If you are well hydrated, the color of your urine will look like pale lemonade.

Thirst is not an accurate indicator of how much fluid you have lost. If you wait until you are thirsty to replenish body fluids, then you are already dehydrated. Most people do not become thirsty until they have lost more than 2% of their body weight. And if you only drink enough to quench your thirst, you may still be dehydrated.

Keep a water bottle available when working out and drink as often as you want, ideally every 15 to 30 minutes. High school and junior high school athletes can bring a water bottle to school and drink between classes and during breaks so they show up at workouts hydrated.

What about sport drinks?

Researchers have found that sports drinks containing between 6% and 8% carbohydrate (sugars) are absorbed into the body as rapidly as water and can provide energy to working muscles that water cannot. This extra energy can delay fatigue and possibly improve performance, particularly if the sport lasts longer than 1 hour. If you drink a sports drink, you can maintain your blood sugar level even when the sugar stored in your muscles (glycogen) is running low. This allows your body to continue to produce energy at a high rate.

Drinks containing less than 5% carbohydrate do not provide enough energy to improve your performance. So, athletes who dilute sports drink are most likely not getting enough energy from their drink to maintain a good blood sugar level. Drinking beverages that exceed a 10% carbohydrate level (most soda pop and some fruit juices) often have negative side effects such as abdominal cramps, nausea, and diarrhea and can hurt your performance.

What does the sodium in sports drinks do?

Sodium is an electrolyte needed to help maintain proper fluid balance in your body. Sodium helps your body absorb and retain more water. Researchers have found that the fluid from an 8-ounce serving of a sports drink with 6% carbohydrates (sugars) and about 110 mg of sodium absorbs into your body faster than plain water.

Some parents, coaches, and athletes are concerned that sports drinks may contain too much sodium. However, most sports drinks are actually low in sodium. An 8-ounce serving of Gatorade has a sodium content similar to a cup of 2% milk. Most Americans do get too much sodium, but usually from eating convenience-type foods, not from sports drinks.

What are guidelines for fluid replacement?

Drink a sports drink containing 6% to 8% carbohydrates to help give you more energy during intense training and long workouts. To figure out the percentage of carbohydrate in your drink use the following formula:

grams of carbohydrate/serving

——————————————– X 100 = % of carbohydrate in drink

ml of drink/serving

For example, 240 ml (a 1-cup serving) of a drink with 24 grams of carbohydrate per serving would have a 10% carbohydrate concentration. Almost all drinks have the grams of carbohydrate per serving and the volume in ml somewhere on the container.

*Drink a beverage that contains a small amount of sodium and other electrolytes (like potassium and chloride).

*Find a beverage that tastes good; something cold and sweet is easier to drink.

*Drink 10 to 16 ounces of cold fluid about 15 to 30 minutes before workouts. Drinking a sports drink with a 6% to 8% carbohydrate level is useful to help build up energy stores in your muscles, particularly if the workout will last longer than 1 hour.

*Drink 4 to 8 ounces of cold fluid during exercise at 10 to 15 minute intervals.

*Start drinking early in your workout because you will not feel thirsty until you have already lost 2% of your body weight; by that time your performance may have begun to decline.

*Avoid carbonated drinks, which can cause gastrointestinal distress and may decrease the fluid volume.

*Avoid beverages containing caffeine and alcohol due to their diuretic effect.

*Practice drinking fluids while you train. If you have never used a sports drink don’t start during a meet or on race day. Use a trial-and-error approach until you find the drink that works for you.

Should I Wear A Mouthguard?
This article explains the benefits of wearing a mouthguard while wrestling. Wearing a mouthguard is not mandatory in the IKWF or to wrestle with the Matmen. The older and stronger the wrestlers get the greater the contact so wearing a mouthguard at an early age will get wrestlers comfortable wearing it while they wrestle so when they are older there is less of a chance for injury.