According to a 2007 study by the NFHS, over 257,000 of the Nation's male high school athletes wrestled. And every one of these wrestlers went through a weight certification process to establish and monitor safe weight-loss procedures.
It's really no big secret how to lose weight. Simply burn more calories than you consume and over time, you will lose weight ...guaranteed. Now, I didn't say losing weight was easy, I only said that the formula to do it was simple.
There's a right way and a wrong way to lose weight. Both ways might yield results, but the right way is healthier, safer and makes it easier to keep the weight off. What you will learn here is how to safely lose weight for wrestling without dehydration, starvation diets or diuretics. As with any new weight-loss or training protocol, before you start, always consult your physician, your parents (if you're under 18) and your coaching staff.
So if you're looking for the right way to lose weight for wrestling (or any other reason)...read on.
Learn the simple formula for weight-loss.
More calories per day burned than calories per day consumed = calorie deficit.
Maintain this formula over an extended period of time (days, weeks, months) and you will lose weight. The average active person burns about 2500 calories per day. The average male consumes about 2500 calories per day. It takes 3500 calories to burn 1 pound of fat. To lose 2 pounds in one week, you must create a calorie deficit of 1000 calories per day:
1000 X 7 = 7000 divided by 3500 = 2 Lbs. of fat loss.
By increasing your calorie burn by 500 calories and reducing calorie consumption by 500 calories, you can generate a 1000 calorie deficit:
2500 - 500 = 2000 calories consumed. 2500 + 500 = 3000 calories burned. 2000 consumed - 3000 burned = 1000 calorie deficit.
Research and learn the Weight Certification Guidelines. Across the nation, shortly after the wrestling season begins, each participant is required to go through a State-sanctioned weight certification process. The National Federation of High School Associations (NFHS) sets specific guidelines for weight-loss management in wrestling. The guidelines set forth health and safety limits for the maximum amount of weight-loss and the minimum allowable weight class for each individual wrestler, both male and female. The basic guidelines include the following:
- Hydration test for maximum of 1.025 specific gravity at time of certification. This is a pass or fail urine sample test using a refractometer. The wrestler is considered hydrated with a reading of 1.025 or less and dehydrated with a reading over 1.025. A dehydrated wrestler is not allowed to continue the certification process and advance to the body fat content test until he/she first passes another hydration test. The hydration test is necessary because dehydration produces an inaccurate assessment of body fat content.
- Test for minimum body fat of 7% for boys and 12% for girls at a predicted weight. The body fat test at the time of the certification is what decides the lowest weight class each wrestler is allowed to wrestle at for the year. The procedure is commonly done with a skin-fold test using a caliper and documented by a certified technician.
- Only 1.5 pound per week weight loss allowance. Even after the season starts, wrestlers are limited to a maximum weight-loss of 1.5 pounds per week. This is documented by the coach for each wrestler during the season using what is called a descent calendar.
Have a nutritious 1500 to 2000 calorie meal plan ready. Your meal plan isn't an afterthought. Waiting until after the season starts will set you up for a scramble if you have to adjust your eating habits. Your low-fat meal plan must include enough protein for muscle tissue maintenance and recovery; carbohydrates for energy; antioxidants for immune system maintenance; and a small amount of fat. Here's a link to a sample meal plan for wrestlers and some dieting tips and facts.
Start losing weight before the season begins. It's not even wrestling season yet, so why should you start cutting weight?
First, safe weight-loss is a gradual process. Trying to lose anything more than a few pounds a week will most likely result in failure of the hydration test.
Second, starvation diets don't work. Starvation triggers signals to the human body that respond by storing more fat and cannibalizing muscle tissue for energy, making you weaker. Is more fat and less lean muscle what you want? Didn't think so.
Dehydrating your way to losing weight is another losing battle. Just 2% dehydration can drop physical performance by 10% or more. Plan ahead and start early because real weight-loss (reducing body fat) is easier to maintain than weight-loss achieved through starvation and dehydration.
Start your actual weight-loss program by performing pre-season workouts that get progressively more intense about 6 to 8 weeks before the season starts. The level of intensity you begin with all depends on your baseline fitness level. If the athlete is at a state of general physical fitness, then a 45 minute workout consisting of 25 minutes of cardio and twenty minutes of higher intensity training should be used. Post-workout, the athlete should consume 8 to 12 ounces of liquids containing carbohydrates and protein within 30 minutes to build and repair muscle and replenish carbohydrate stores.
The cardio exercises could be any combination of jogging, stationary cycling or calisthenics. Higher intensity exercises could include resistance training, short to medium sprinting, body weight exercises, circuit or interval training, plyometrics and even live wrestling or wrestling drills. But more importantly, all exercise should be of the full body type. Single joint exercises (curls, pull downs, butterflies) are inefficient for wrestlers and weight-loss, as well as most physical activities because you almost never use just one joint at a time.
Put your meal plan to work. Now that you've started training, it's time to begin your low-fat diet. None of what you will do here will work properly without adequate nutrition. Not only will you have trouble losing fat, but also you will not have the energy for the increased intensity of the training and you're body will not recover properly between workouts.
In addition, intense training is known to lower the immune system. That, combined with poor nutrition, will expose you to more incidents of illness and infection. Try eating nutritious low-fat meals in smaller portions and spread your food intake throughout the day. Ideally, you want to have some food in your stomach for most of the day. Total calorie intake should be about 2000 calories. Never let your calorie intake drop below 1500 calories per day during training.
Do not eliminate all fats from your meal plan. At the minimum, 10% of total calories should come from fat. You can supplement your meals with a good one-a-day multivitamin and remember to stay hydrated.
Gradually increase the workout intensity. Keep your workout sessions to about 45 minutes (60 minutes including stretching and cool-down), but shorten the aerobic portion of the workout by 5 minutes every other session and increase the intense portion of the workout by 5 minutes. Remember to re-hydrate and refuel between workouts.
You've created a calorie deficit. After about a week and a half, an amazing thing starts to happen. The increased intensity of the training raises metabolism, which increases fat burning capacity for many hours after the workout is completed. You will start to burn more calories at rest than you were burning at rest before the training started. The extra calories burned by the intensity of the workouts, combined with a raised metabolism that burns more calories at rest and the reduced calorie consumption through your low-fat meal plan, has allowed you to maintain a calorie deficit. Your weight loss will be primarily from excess fat, not dehydration and lost muscle tissue.
In-season weight control management. If you've followed your pre-season workout and meal plan correctly, you should be within one weight class of your target weight as the season starts. This should position you to get certified at the lowest weight class allowable based on your body fat percentage.
Your diet and recovery process becomes even more important now that you'll be at the highest intensity of your training during the season. Except for a few pounds of drifting (up and down movement of weight), you should be able to cut the additional allowable weight and maintain it throughout the season without excessive running or other weight-loss measures outside of your normal practice sessions. Train, refuel, re-hydrate and rest for recovery in between workouts to optimize your performance.
Remember, in the end, the sport is wrestling, not weight cutting. If you’re spending a lot of time trying to cut weight, that’s valuable time you could be using to train to be a better wrestler.