Youth Wrestling




DIET aka “Dreaming I’m Eating Today” - Confessions of a Weight-Cutting Lab Rat.


It’s Wednesday night and it’s hard for me to sleep.  I’m hungry, thirsty and after losing 4 pounds already, I’m still 3 lbs. overweight.  The only thing I’ve eaten since Sunday was a couple of pieces of bread and 3 tiny cans of tuna.  Dry of course, I just flake it out of the can with a fork.  My hydration is even worse… I’m only drinking 8 ounces of water per day.

I’ve got to shed those last couple of pounds by Friday night and I’m obsessed.  All I can think about is food and liquids. Not the kind of food my body needs… Nope, I’m dreaming of Ring Dings, ice cream, McDonald’s French fries and soda.

The time in between my gourmet diet of tuna and bread is spent at intense 2+ hour a day workouts. I’m also piling on goodies like running, lifting and using various weight loss techniques so physically dangerous, I won’t even mention them here.  No, I’m not a runway model, a jockey and I’m not worried about how I’m going to look at the beach.  I’m a wrestler.

Still, all I can think about is food that I can’t eat.  If I crack, and splurge on even one binge meal, I’m done.  I won’t make the weight.  I’m totally miserable. I barely have enough energy to make it through practice, which seems to be getting harder instead of easier.  I can’t sleep, I feel weak, my stomach burns sometimes and I’m getting frequent nose bleeds and fighting bouts of dizziness.

I make the weight on Friday night, but wrestle poorly during the two day tournament.  No wonder, I’m dehydrated and my body has cannibalized my own muscle.

Within 16 hours of the 2nd day weigh-in, I’ve put on 9 pounds.  Most of which is water being sucked into my muscle tissue.  What might at first seem to be a hard but effective way of losing weight was nothing more than dehydration and a loss of muscle.  Welcome to wrestling’s sub-culture of weight cutting (the yo-yo effect of rapid weight loses and gains).

So what’s my point? Crash diets don’t work. 2 billion years of evolution hasn’t changed the fact that starving yourself just induces your body to store more fat. Plus, it’s been scientifically proven that dehydration lowers performance levels, especially during a two day tournament.  For most people, the only way to lose the weight and keep it off is to create an exercise induced calorie debt within a manageable time frame.  That means you must eat, re-hydrate, then gradually burn more calories than you take in.

The various wrestling bodies of power have tried to address the weight cutting problem by enacting rules and guidelines to monitor the athlete’s weight loses, but many have found ways to cheat every system that’s been put in place.

I’ve long felt that wrestling’s sub-culture of weight cutting is the single largest reason why the sport no longer attracts the multi-sport athlete.  We’re losing them to sports like soccer and lacrosse.  From the coaches to the parents to the athlete’s, change the culture and you’ll increase performance levels and attract a larger pool of talent.  

By: Rick Contrata


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