It's frustrating, right? Trying to figure out what strategy is actually right when it comes to fueling your athlete for wrestling practice?
I bet when you ask for advice, every single parent, coach and wrestler gives you a completely different answer because it worked for them. But everything you try...
- Does nothing
- Make your wrestler feel worse instead of better
Know what though? You're not alone. Trying to get the right strategy to fuel your wrestler can be a huge headache. It doesn't have to be, though.
It can actually be pretty simple.
Here are the 3 things you need to know to put together pre-workout fuel for your wrestling diet plan so you can maximize your wrestler's energy, performance and strength by up to 30% during practice.
1) Carbohydrates are your power play
I know, I know. I said a bad word, right?
I'm discussing carbohydrates with wrestlers (and wrestling parents). I'm guessing you're either mildly skeptical... or I've just personally offended you.
There is a ton of misinformation floating around the internet these days that makes carbohydrates out to be some kind of demonized, awful food that causes weight gain.
Here's the truth of the matter.
If you want your wrestler performing their absolute best during practice, then their pre-workout fuel absolutely, 100% needs to consist of mostly carbohydrates.
Why Your Wrestler Needs Carbs
Your body has three energy systems it relies on to provide energy for various activities. The energy system that is kicked into overdrive during moderate to intense bouts of activity (basically any practice or training) is called anaerobic glycolysis. This energy system uses glucose (from carbohydrates) as it's main fuel source.
So.. if your wrestler is doing any kind of activity that lasts longer than several seconds, then they're going to be relying on carbohydrates as their main fuel source.
If you don't have enough fuel in the tank, then be prepared for a really crappy practice (and a pretty irritable athlete).
[Click here to check out the study published by the Journal of Physiology, A high carbohydrate diet remains the evidence based choice for elite athletes to optimize performance]
Slower energy availability during wrestling practice
So now that we have the 'why' out of the way, the next step is the 'what'.
Not all carbohydrates are created equal when it comes to fueling. The types of carbohydrates your wrestler consumes are just as important.
This may seem counter intuitive, but your wrestler needs to be consuming simple sources of carbohydrates the closer they get to practice.
What do I mean by simple?
Low in fiber, easy to digest. Not a big bowl of beans, steel cut oats or a protein bar with 15 grams of fiber in it.
Don't get me wrong though. Fiber is fantastic. It's this cool component found in whole grain and whole wheat products as well as many fruits and vegetables. Fiber helps keep you full, slows digestion, keeps bowel movements regular and stabilizes blood sugar. Basically it's this powerhouse that's going to moderate our energy metabolism. Sounds awesome, right?
Except, we don't want our energy source metabolized slower when we're in practice. We want it now. Faster than now. We wanted it like, 5 minutes ago, right? What we don't want is our wrestlers to be sluggish because their fuel is taking twice as long as it should to metabolized and provide energy.
Increased stomach upset
Besides slower energy metabolism, do you know what else happens when your food takes longer to digest? It's just sitting there. Waiting.
And when you're practicing your takedowns and have all that food just sloshing around in your stomach....? Yeah. Probably not so good.
Fiber also draws fluid to your intestines.. which, again, adds to that whole 'I'm going to be sick' feeling you get when training on a full stomach.
So, we want carbohydrates before practice.. but not ones high in fiber. So what do we eat?
Good carbohydrate choices before wrestling practice
- Grains, including rice, bread, pasta & crackers ( < 2g fiber per serving)
- Carbohydrates are the optimal fuel source for wrestlers during practice.
- Choose rapidly digesting carbohydrates to provide a quickly metabolized source of energy
- High fiber foods should be avoided right before practice as they slow digestion, have less energy availability and can cause stomach upset
2) Protein is your support
Protein is the king (or queen) of food for a workout.... right?
I can't tell you how many times I've been in a training room and seen wrestlers downing huge protein bars right before a practice.
Don't get me wrong, protein is great. It supports lean muscle tissue (your strength) and has a host of other important roles in the body. It's just not going to support your training as a good energy source.
Protein is also extremely satiating, meaning it's going to keep your wrestler full. Which is great. We don't want to be starving during practice, but we also don't want to be overly full.
So what happens to our guys and girls when they're downing chicken breasts or colossal protein bars before practice?
Well, turns out your body is pretty smart about getting what it wants. When the body doesn't have enough carbohydrates it makes more by converting protein into a carbohydrate molecule. This process is called gluconeogenesis. Essentially, your bodies had enough of you supplying it the wrong nutrients and instead takes your protein (from your fuel and your muscles) and converts it very inefficiently into glucose.
So, if you're eating a big piece of meat or quest bar before practice and are just dragging through your training or mat time.. might be time to switch it up.
A little protein is good before a workout to stay comfortably full, about 7g. Too much.. not so good.
Good protein sources before wrestling practice
- White meat poultry
- Cottage cheese
- Egg whites
- Protein is an important dietary component for athletes when trying to maintain lean muscle mass
- Too much protein before a workout can cause an overly full feeling
- Aim for around 7g of protein in your pre-workout fuel choice
3) Fat is your friend, just.. not right now
One thing I usually don't get much push back on is avoiding high fat foods right before activity.
In a nutshell, high fat fuel before training is going to slow metabolism of carbohydrates and cause your wrestler to have that 'heavy' feeling associated with stomach upset that I keep mentioning.
It's also not a carbohydrate, so it's not a good source of fuel for intense activities. If you're doing anything more than a low-moderate speed walk for an extended period of time (greater than 30 min) than fat is not going to be your primary fuel source.
You want to be consuming less than 5g of fat in your pre-workout fuel choice before practice.
High fat foods to avoid before wrestling practice
- Salad dressing
- Nuts/nut butter
- Chia seeds
- High fat animal products (bacon, ground beef, full fat cheese)
- Fat hinders metabolism of carbohydrates and slows energy metabolism
- High fat fuel before practice can cause stomach upset
- Aim for less than 5g of fat in your pre-workout fuel
Even if you've tried countless times to figure out the best way to fuel your wrestler...
Even if you're not a nutrition guru or a master chef...
Even if you've only have 5 extra minutes per day to work on this...
You can make a significant impact in helping your wrestler have more energy and perform better during practice by following these 3 simple rules for pre-workout fuel.
P.S. Want the same guide I use with my own clients to come up with performance crushing fuel? Download it now! I won't have it up for long.
Easy Snacks to Maximize Energy
PREWORKOUT FUEL CHEAT SHEET:
12 SNACKS READY TO GO IN LESS THAN 5 MINUTES
Take the guesswork out of your wrestler's nutrition plan
What are your tips for trying to keep your wrestler fueled properly during the season? Is there anything in this post I didn't mention that's worked well for you?
If you're interested in finding out how state champs make weight without starving, sweating or spitting for days on end, [click here to check out the free training] being hosted a few times this week.