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Healthy Weight Center

How Can I Keep My Son in Wrestling Healthy?

03/11/2009

Question:

I have a 16 yr. old son whose first love in sports is wrestling. He is 5` 10" tall and normally weighs 145 lbs. He has elected to lose 10 lbs. in order to be able to wrestle at the 135 lb. spot on his team. He has a very well rounded work-out routine and is in excellent shape. As his mother, I am concerned that he get the proper nutrition during this season (which lasts through March) but allows him to maintain the required weight level. What type of diet should he be following....any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Answer:

Weight loss is a tricky thing for athletes and in many situations it can be detrimental to the athlete`s performance. From your description, your son, who is a teenage, male, student athlete has high calorie needs. He needs adequate calories to build and support his muscle mass, maintain energy level for workouts and matches, and have energy for learning and attentiveness at school and after school assignments. Weight loss, which is accomplished by decreasing calories eaten or/and increasing calories expended, may not support his energy(calorie) needs. In addition, while losing weight, he runs a high risk of losing existing muscle mass. This would show up on the scale as weight loss, but most of what he lost would be in the form of muscle (and strength) and water weight. Many athletes when attempting to lose "scale weight", withhold water and fluid and try and "sweat out" the water. This is a particularly dangerous practice that can lead to dehydration (from mild to severe). Symptoms of dehydration can range from dry mouth, fatigue, headache, and impaired physical performance to dizziness, increased muscle weakness and heat stroke. I can`t suggest a diet for your son. In fact, it may not be possible for him to lose weight safely without losing muscle mass and strength (that I suspect he has worked very hard at building) and risking dehydration. What would benefit your son is healthy foods, adequate calories and fluids. Your role in this is two-fold: 1.) Provide high nutritional quality foods at home--fresh fruits and vegetables, skim milk, yogurt, whole grain breads, crackers and cereals, and lean meats and cheeses. The more accessible, the better: such as fruits washed and ready to eat, vegetables cut up with low fat dips, deli meats for sandwiches, and string cheese or individually packaged cheese for a grab and go snack. Snacking is important for the student-athlete. And don`t forget the fluids--bottled water and juices (look for 100% juice). Your part is to have the healthy foods available. It`s up to him to eat them. 2.) Talk to him about your concerns and encourage him to find out the facts with regards to weight loss and athletics. This may involve a consultation with a dietitian who specializes in sports nutrition. He/she could better assess your son`s needs and make specific recommendations. You can easily find a dietitian in your area by visiting the American Dietetic Association`s website at www.eatright.org.

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Response by:

Tracy Butler Coe, RD, LD Tracy Butler Coe, RD, LD
Sports Nutritionist
Department of Nutrition
The Ohio State University