Does your wrestler have a plan to maintain their weight when they're not competing?
The majority of wrestlers don't.
This isn't because they aren't dedicated to the sport, it's just a cycle that happens year round.
Injuries that have them sidelined for a few weeks (or months)
An illness keeping them out of the training room and off the mat
Or even just practice being cancelled for an extended period of time
Situations like these are common, and it's certainly no one's fault. But what tends to happen for most wrestlers is this:
Athletes typically tend to eat the same amount they would if they were actively training and competing at 100%. To put it a different way, they're likely consuming an extra 500 or even 1000 calories per day but might not be putting in the training or mat time.
If the body doesn't need those extra calories for workouts, or macronutrients to help build or repair muscle mass, those extra calories will instead get stored as extra pounds. And come time for alpha weigh-ins or certs, many wrestlers are sitting 5, 10, or even 20+ pounds above their goal cert weight.
So what can wrestlers do to break this cycle WITHOUT feeling like they have to track every bite of food they put into their mouths for the rest of their lives?
(Because let's face it, that sounds pretty awful)
There are three simple, easy to implement strategies to get your wrestler close to maintaining their weight year-round without having to do a dramatic weight cut come weight certifications. The best part? You don't have to do all three of these steps to get results. Pick the one that makes the most sense for your wrestler and you'll still some pretty great results to start with.
1) Keep muscle mass and strength maximized by keeping protein intake stable even if you cut calories
Even if your workout schedule has been reduced, or put on hiatus completely for an extended period of time: Maintaining your goal protein intake is critical when reducing calories.
How do we do this? We leave our protein intake the same at meals and instead cut down on carbohydrates and fats.
While carbohydrates are the main fuel source for wrestlers doing intense practices and matches and do play a critical role in keeping athletes energized, our bodies simply don't need as many when we're not as active. Since wrestlers won't have to fuel their body through intense workouts or recovery, reducing portions of carbohydrates and fats at meals will allow them to eat less throughout the day while still helping maintain their current muscle mass and strength.
2) Reduce calorie intake to "maintenance mode"
One of the biggest mistakes wrestler's make when trying to avoid excess weight gain during down time is not taking into account their lack of workouts or mat time.
The amount of calories a wrestler burns during a workout or match is completely individualized based on their height, current weight, body composition, training intensity, and goals. It also depends on what type of workout your wrestler is used to doing. A cardio or endurance based workout generally burns a lot more calories than a strength based workout or mat time where you're not live the entire time.
Part of the system we show our wrestlers how to do in The Roman Protocol is how to calculate this to determine exactly what their needs are based on their goals.
Unfortunately there's no simple one-size-fits-all answer to put in here for how many calories your individual wrestler burns without that type of assessment, but a general rule of thumb is this:
Some wrestlers burn around ~300 calories per practice, while for others that number could be as high as ~900 calories depending if they're doing two-a-days or have a very intense regimen.
A good place to start would be this: Assume your wrestler is burning an average of 300 to 500 calories per hour of practice and use this as a starting guide.
If their weight is going down too quickly, that number is likely a little low. If their weight is plateauing or going up, the numbers might be too high and you can adjust as needed.
Now at this point, you're probably thinking one of two things depending on which boat you're in.
A) If you're someone whose wrestler regularly tracks their calories or portion sizes, then figuring out how to cut 300 or 500 calories from their daily meals probably isn't all that complicated...
B) You or your wrestler don't count calories and someone telling you "just drop a few hundred calories from your meal plan" is extremely unhelpful.
If you're in category B, don't sweat it. There's an easy way to go about this and translate "cutting calories" to real life without having to start tracking all your food.
Instead, swap out foods your wrestler currently eats for more nutrient dense options
When someone says the words "nutrient dense" to describe foods, it generally means foods that are rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
Why is this important? Those foods all tend to be naturally lower in calories. So by making some quick swaps, your wrestler can easily substitute slightly lower calorie, nutrient dense foods and replace ones that may have been high in calories in their diet without them feeling like they're, well, dieting.
It sounds simple because it is. But that doesn't mean it doesn't work! As a matter of fact, simple is great. It means you're not going to have to sit there for 3 hours in the kitchen trying to meal prep your wrestlers food for the next two days or make any crazy time consuming changes.
So what do some of these swaps look like? It could be as easy as changing out:
- Low-fat milk instead of full-fat milk
- Low-fat cheese or yogurt instead of full-fat cheese and yogurt
- Spaghetti Squash or zucchini squash instead of pasta
- Cauliflower rice instead of regular rice
3) Ditch your pre/post-workout fuel
Strategically having energizing fuel before and after a workout or match can be the difference between having the stamina to crush the your opponent or gassing out in the 3rd period.
In The Roman Protocol, a major part of our system is showing wrestlers exactly what, when, and how to make or choose those pre- and post-workout meals or snacks to maximize strength, recover quicker, and perform at the next level.
But if we're not workout out regularly, we don't need those extra nutrients or energy so instead of worrying about packing those extra foods or having them ready in the fridge, skip them on the days you're not training.
It's a simple, yet easy to incorporate strategy that won't leave your wrestler feeling deprived because we're not dramatically cutting out their food or meals for the day; but will still help them reduce their calorie intake by a a few hundred.
Even incorporating just one of these steps will help your wrestler maintain their strength, keep their weight on track and ultimately put them in a much more competitive state once they do get ready to get back on the mat.
Which method do you think would work best for your wrestler to help them stick with their goals while not competing? Comment below and let me know!
P.S. If you haven't already, check out our training on The Roman Protocol; a system we teach wrestlers to show them how to maximize performance, strength, and energy while making their scratch weight.. WITHOUT aggressive cutting techniques. Even if they have 5 or even 10 pounds to lose.
Maintain Weight Without "Dieting"
DOWNLOAD YOUR WRESTLERS TOP 20 FOOD SWAPS:
Download our cheat sheet of 20 easy-to-swap nutrient dense foods so your wrestler can reach their weight goals without having to cut weight.
What are your tips for trying to keep your wrestler at maintenance weight properly during the season when they can't be active? 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.