Nutrition for Wrestling, Part 1
Author: Certified HyperStrike Trainers
Nutrition and Wrestling
The first recorded wrestling matches took place around 700 B.C., when the sport was highly valued as a military exercise without weapons. It demands the top health of its athletes, and nutrition is key to this goal.
Wrestling is among the most physiologically demanding sports because of the high lactate levels at which wrestlers must perform. Lactate, a byproduct of carbohydrate metabolism and energy production, directly interferes with muscle contractions. Because of the amount of whole-body contractions that occur, there is a great amount of energy expenditure during collegiate and Greco-Roman wrestling.
One thing wrestlers struggle with is staying within a low-weight category. But this is not advantageous to your game. If most of the competing body weight is muscle, the athlete will have a strength advantage over the one who starved him or herself to qualify for a lower category.
Technique and stamina are also important factors to winning because close matches are usually won or lost during the final seconds in a flurry of several explosive offensive and defensive maneuvers. Wrestlers must be able to perform at a high level of fatigue. In order to get into optimal physical condition, athletes need to train hard in preparation for the next match. In order to get the most out of the training, athletes must eat properly.
Research on nutrition specifically for wrestlers is scarce. Because we understand wrestling is primarily anaerobic, we can develop food strategies to fortify a competitor and ensure optimal performance. Our recommendations are 1speculative, but our general guidelines are based on scientific evidence.
The guidelines are as follows:
- Eat nutrient dense foods. Keep junk food and processed food at a minimum. These contain calories that the body does not use optimally because of their low vitamin and mineral content. Fresh is best.
- Eat approximately every three to four hours to maintain insulin levels and aid in physical and neural recovery.
- Eat complex carbohydrates (starches) at a ratio of five to eight grams of bodyweight (2.5-3.5 g/lb bodyweight) (1). For example, a 70 kg (154 lb) male needs 350 to 420 grams of carbohydrates per day. Starchy foods such as pasta, wheat bread, whole grain cereals, brown rice, potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes, and vegetables provide a major energy source to fuel your activities. These foods are also a source of fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients – the health protective substances in plant foods.
- Choose protein sources at a ratio of 1.2–1.6 g/kg bodyweight (0.54-0.86 g/lb bodyweight) from turkey, chicken, eggs, fish (although cold water fish have higher fat content, these are much needed healthy fats), lean cuts of beef, tofu and low-fat cottage cheese (1).
- Choose healthy fat sources from nuts, avocadoes and cold-water fish. Eat 40 to 100 grams of fat per day. If you do not get enough of these, take an essential fatty acid supplement or fish oil supplement (one to two tablespoons).
- Keep drinking water or sport drinks to maintain hydration while training. Try to avoid water-like substances such as Kool-Aid, sodas, juice or lemonade. Although these may contain water and some carbohydrates, they also contain a greater amount of the wrong type of carbohydrate source (sucrose and/or fructose), which can ultimately lead to gastrointestinal (GI) distress (i.e. diarrhea) and decreased performance.
- Eat a diet that consists of a wide variety of foods by keeping in mind the basic food groups. It is the best insurance for getting needed nutrients.
- Consume 25 to 35 grams of fiber per day among the foods that you eat. High fiber foods include whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and cereals. Read labels and be aware of fiber content in everything you eat.
- Avoid high-fructose corn syrup and excessive table sugar, even when trying to gain weight. These include candy, juices, desserts, baked goods, etc.
- Use meal replacement shakes, fruit smoothies or bars whenever necessary. Always keep bars available such as in a book bag, purse, glove compartment, locker, or wherever poor nutrition might be the alternative such as at a competition. Try an assortment of brands to see which you like.
- Take a multivitamin/mineral supplement from a reputable brand.
- Before going to bed, eat a light snack such as peanut butter on whole-wheat bread and a glass of skim milk.
- Only certain supplements are beneficial for wrestlers.
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