Youth Wrestling




Why Do Many Wrestlers Get Sick? How to Protect Your Immune System

Why do so many wrestlers get sick, especially heading into the post-season? 

Because one of Mother Nature’s dirty little tricks gets played out every wrestling season.  With many months of intense training, poor diet from weight cutting, dehydration and inadequate recovery phases, your immune system weakens.  Then it becomes more vulnerable to viruses and bacterial infections.  Plus, most wrestling environments are breeding grounds for bacteria because of the warm temperatures and the constant transfer of body fluids between wrestlers.

Medically, the intense training required to compete effectively in the sport of wrestling spikes production of the stress hormone cortisol.  Cortisol is known to suppress the immune system.  In addition, among other factors, poor nutrition and hydration strategies result in failure to fully replenish the immune system’s white blood cells.

As the season progresses, it becomes harder for you to fight off infection unless some care is taken to re-charge your body’s natural defenses.  But what can you do to protect yourself?

Here’s a battle plan you can follow:

Wrestle at a manageable weight – The nutrition robbing environment within wrestling’s sub-culture of weight cutting is second only to intense training as the cause of immune system suppression; it’s also the most manageable.  Of course, if you’re cutting ridiculous amounts of weight, nutrition management is even more problematic.

Your minimum wrestling weight should include allowances for adequate body fat, hydration and nutrition levels.  Without a window for nutrition management, you leave yourself open to increased risk of infection.  Discuss your minimum acceptable wrestling weight with your coaches, parents and physician.  Don't suck yourself out just to pass the pre-season body fat and hydration requirements.

Eat a balanced diet in smaller portions - Without proper nutrition, your body doesn't get the nutrients it needs to repair and recover.  Eat three smaller portion meals daily with the goal of trying to keep food in your stomach throughout the day.  This allows you to lose weight the right way... gradually.  Plus, it helps prevent your body from triggering its starvation mode.   Starving yourself induces your body to store fat and canabalize muscle.   That's exactly the opposite effect you were striving for.  Here's a free nutrition guide.

Free Download: Principles of Good Nutrition - Wrestler's Nutrition Guide

Consume adequate amounts of carbohydrates – The bane of the fat-loss community, carbohydrates are essential for sports like wrestling because it’s the main fuel the body burns during a match.  What’s less publicized is the fact that carbs play a major role in the immune system.  They lower the production of immune suppressing cortisol and boost white blood count.   

Supplement your daily diet with these immune boosting vitamins: 

. Vitamin C – Increases the production of antibodies, interferon and white blood cells.

. Vitamin E – An antioxidant that increases B-cells which destroy bacteria.

. Bioflavenoids – Coats cells and protects the body from environmental pollutants.

. Zinc – Increases production of infection fighting T-cells and white blood cells.

. Selenium - Increases production of natural infection fighting cells.

. Omega-3 Fatty Acids – Increases production of white blood cells that attack bacteria.

I’ve found that a good multi-vitamin like Centrum or an immune boosting supplement like Source Natural’s Wellness Formula are effective nutritional supplements. Don’t get caught in the trap of over doing it on the vitamins to replace an adequate diet.  Overdosing on vitamins is ineffective and vitamins that the body stores, like calcium and vitamin A can become toxic when taken in high doses.

Every wrestler knows that lowered hydration levels are sometimes unavoidable, but you must maintain an adequate hydration baseline or performance will be compromised.  In addition, your body needs enough fluids to fully process nutrients, especially water soluble vitamins like the B complex and vitamin C.  If you're using powdered supplements like protein and creatine, then even more liquids are required to adequately flush them from your digestive system.

Rest and Recovery – With the pressure of wrestling season, academic requirements and trying to enjoy a healthy social life, sometimes rest and recovery are ignored.  Find the time to give your body a chance to re-charge itself.  If that means getting to bed a little earlier or giving up some non-essential activities, then adjust your lifestyle accordingly.

Keeping yourself healthy with some immune system management will help you avoid illness, especially when your most vulnerable… during wrestling’s second season.

By: Rick Contrata

Back to Section One Articles

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Tell a Friend