This week’s blog was inspired by an article I read in the October issue of Training and Conditioning Magazine. Written by an RD, CSSD, it was a perfect example of what great work sports dietitians do for athletes – in this case, wrestlers wanting to cut weight. For those of you who can’t access the article, here are the key points covered by Making Weight, written by Kim Tirapelle MS, RD, CSSD. Whether you’re a coach, strength coach, athletic trainer, or wrestler yourself, read on to learn how wrestlers can cut the weight they want for competition without affecting their performance or overall health. While the article discussed much more, I will just focus on beginning 72 hours prior to competition until post weight-in.
The most important thing when arriving to the practices leading up to weigh-in on match day is that wrestlers should be within 2-3% of their target weight the day before weigh-ins (though this recommendation can vary slightly). This will assure that the amount of weight lost in the 24hrs prior to weigh-in is not so much that it hinders overall performance.
To achieve the final 2-3% weight loss before weigh-ins, consider doing the following:
48-72 hrs prior to weigh-in
· Reduce fiber and residue in your food choices. These foods remain in the intestinal tract because they are not digested. Therefore, they will add to overall body weight – sometimes as much as one to two pounds! However, only cut out these foods prior to competition, as without high-fiber foods on a regular basis, you are missing out on some good nutrition.
o Low-fiber/low-residue foods include cooked vegetables, melons, vegetable juice, and enriched grains (think white bread, white bagels, etc.) as well as Cheerios.
· Moderately decrease the amount of food you normally eat during the two days prior to weigh-ins…but also be sure to reduce energy expenditure so you don’t burn off all of your stored energy in the process!
· Up to 24 hrs prior, keep fluid intake high – especially fluids that include carbohydrates and electrolytes. By taking in fluids, the body will use what it needs for competition and get rid of the rest very easily.
24 hrs prior to weigh-in
· Restrict fluids and promote sweat loss through LOW INTENSITY exercise. This can be used to create up to a 2% dehydration (take your weight in pounds x 0.02 to figure out the max number of pounds you can lose). Try to do this exercise the night before weigh-ins so you spend less time in a dehydrated state.
o Again, this is LOW intensity. If you have a heart rate monitor, make sure your heart rate stays at 50-60% of max heart rate. Don’t know your max heart rate? A good estimate is 220 minus your age.
· It may be beneficial to reduce salt intake (as low as 1500 mg daily if you can pull it off) to assist with water loss - especially if you are not typically a salty sweater.
· Begin refueling immediately!!!
· Drink 16-24 fluid ounces for every pound lost. A good rule of thumb to avoid over-hydrating is to drink 6-12 ounces every 15 minutes. Stick to fluids that provide carbohydrate and electrolytes (sports drinks are great) as well as cool beverages to help cool the body.
· Stick to easy-to-digest carbs and fluids and try to eat small, frequent snacks to avoid GI discomfort prior to competition (big meals are a big no-no).
o Examples include low-fat salty crackers, sports drinks, pretzels, bagels, bananas, PBJs, low-fat chocolate milk, low-fat pudding, and low-fat granola.
· Avoid high-fiber and high-fat foods, which not only might not be tolerated, but also are digested so slowly that they prevent energy from getting to working muscles as quickly as you'll need it.
· Use cold towels on the head, neck, and/or wrists to also help cool the body’s core temperature.
Like you’ve heard me say in the past – these are just guidelines. So, everything above needs to be tested out prior to competition day/week to establish what works best for each individual wrestler in terms of performance as well as tolerance.
And remember – it’s not just about what you eat in the days prior to competition – stick to a healthy diet every day to continue to have energy to train, compete, and recover. Whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and fluid are your friends!