Being hydrated and down to weight is probably one of the most difficult parts of wrestling.
What can be especially frustrating is knowing that wrestlers are oftentimes dehydrated in the off-season (Weight Loss and Performance).
And while the Alpha exam/Certification test can be a pain in the ass, it’s designed to help keep wrestlers healthy and ensure best weight loss practices. So, it’s important that you keep that in mind when you’re going through the process.
I’ve written a post before on a diet to follow when looking to certify (Certification Plan). However, since then I’ve made a couple personal changes that I’ve had a lot of success with. Additionally, a few of the wrestlers I work with have also successfully used the plan I’m going to detail below.
So, if you’re looking to get certified smoothly, give this post a read. Ultimately, I hope it makes this challenging process a bit easier.
Before I get into the plan itself, I first want to go into the science of things. This way you have a better understanding of the ideas I’m basing my suggestions around.
It is estimated that approximately 400 grams (~.9 pounds) of stored glycogen exists in healthy people. One subject in the research I found had about 1 kg (2.2 pounds) of stored glycogen.
A study by Bergstrom et al. found that glycogen stores can be depleted to a third of normal stores with 3 days of low carb dieting.
There are 3-4 grams of water bound to each gram of stored glycogen.
Based on the findings from 2 research papers (cited below) here’s the breakdown:
Total glycogen stored in your body- between 400 g and 1 kg.
Let’s be conservative and say 500 grams.
Keep in mind that one of the physiological adaptations your body goes through as you get into better shape (in this case through wrestling practice) is to store more glycogen. This helps support the increased workload on your body.
Additionally, typically heavier individuals will store more than lighter individuals.
So, you very well could be storing more, but let’s stay conservative.
Anyway, with the 500 grams (1.1 pounds) of stored glycogen you also store 3-4 grams of water per gram of glycogen.
Again, let’s be conservative and go with 3 grams of water.
So, with some simple math, we can conclude that if you’re storing 500 grams of glycogen, you’re also storing 1500 grams (3.3 pounds) of water.
Ultimately, what does this mean for you? “Glycogen losses or gains are reported to be associated with an additional three to four parts water, so that as much as 5 kg weight change might not be associated with any fat loss.”
In other words, by following a strict diet (like the one outlined below) in addition to regular wrestling practice, you should expect to see a minimum of 4.4 pounds (but up to 10 or more pounds) of weight loss without affecting your body’s hydration.
Kreitzman, S., A. Coxon, K. Szaz. Glycogen storage: illusions of easy weight loss, excessive weight regain, and distortions in estimates of body composition. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 56, 292S-293S. 1992.
Olsson, K-E, B. Saltin. Variation in Total Body Water with Muscle Glycogen Changes in Man. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Volume 80 Issue 1, 11-18. September 1970.
Understanding Bodyweight and Glycogen Depletion on Justin Owings’ blog.
Here’s a copy and paste from an email I sent to a local wrestling coach, which I think does a good job of summarizing the diet:
1. Follow a strict low carb for 5 days and a strict low sodium diet for the last 2 days (while continuing to follow the low carb diet). I don’t put numbers behind things. I just try to educate the guys on what constitutes a carb and where there are “hidden” carbs. Besides the obvious breads, pastas and cereals, I tell them to look at sauces they may use on meat, dressings they may want to use on a salad, etc.
Additionally, I go over sodium and where it’s most commonly found. I also go over feasible meals that meet these criteria.
For instance, in the case of one of the wrestlers I work with, he told me he enjoys eggs and typically just adds pepper to them. So I gave that the ok to be on the meal plan.
He said he’ll eat baked chicken and asked what he could put on the chicken, so we went over options for that. Again, there’s no limit as long as it fits within the confines of the diet (no carbs added, no high sodium rubs used during the last 2 days).
Personally, when I use this plan for the 5 days before a weigh-in, I tend to eat a lot of unsalted mixed nuts and peanut butter without added sugar.
These aren’t the most exciting options, but hey, eating is allowed. It just needs to fit within the 2 criteria of the diet.
2. Drink water, but don’t go overboard. With this plan, there’s no need to water load or do any other water manipulation techniques.
Just drink water to maintain urine color that’s as clear as possible. Obviously if the guy is going to be close to weight there should be some more planning.
Eggs anyway you like seasoned as you see fit (until the last 2 days, then watch for sodium).
Breakfast meat is ok here, but keep in mind it’s highly processed and high in sodium so it’s definitely off the menu the last 2 days.
In all honesty though, I’d stay away from breakfast meats. You’re on a diet and trying to lose weight. Just because something technically fits in to the plan, doesn’t mean you should necessarily eat it.
Cheese is technically ok for the first 3 days as well. Try to use harder cheeses instead of soft cheese like American or Mozzarella. Again, don’t go overboard, but you can use a little with your eggs if you like.
Add veggies to the eggs or on the side. Avoid starchy vegetables like potato varieties. Go for leafy greens, celery, cucumbers, onions, etc.
Beef, fish, poultry, etc. broiled, grilled, or baked. You can lightly pan fry things, but obviously don’t add breading or other sources of carbs. Again, watch sources of sodium the last 2 days.
Raw or steamed vegetables (for a good list of non-starchy carbs from the American Diabetes Association website click here).
The biggest thing to keep your eye on, especially during the last 2 days is the sodium content of your meat. If you’re eating pre-packed lunch meat, then it’s going to be very high in sodium.
Definitely plan on only eating meet you cook (or know exactly how it’s been cooked) the last 2 days. To be even safer, follow this for the 5 days.
…As you can probably tell, I’m far from an expert meal planner. But again, this isn’t some long-term plan that you need tons of options for.
This is a brief 5-day plan with the sole focus on getting your weight down specifically for the Alpha/Certification test. The fact that you’re eating while cutting weight should be a welcomed idea.
While this plan isn’t the most exciting as far as food selection goes, it does allow you to eat.
However, based on the quote above stating that glycogen can get down to 1/3 normal levels within 3-days of a low carb diet, there isn’t room for error.
As we all know- wrestling is about mental toughness and sacrifice. I’ll be honest, this plan may be difficult to follow. However, in order to ensure success, all it requires are those two things.
Anyway, do you have any questions on this in regards to meal options, how it works, or anything else?
Leave me a comment below and I’ll get back to you.