I recently read an article in the Strength and Conditioning Journal entitled Nutrition and Hydration Issues for Combat Sport Athletes.
Below are a few conclusions of the paper.
For wrestlers to achieve high levels of training and performance, their energy intake (calories) will need to reflect these needs.
The nutritional requirements for wrestlers are much more than that of the general population. In fact, depending on the nutritional requirements of the wrestler (influenced by size, gender, total workload per day, etc.), their intake may be 3-4 times higher than an average person of a similar age/weight.
Key Points on Hydration
In addition to high caloric requirements, it is equally, if not more important, that wrestlers stay hydrated. This can sometimes be challenging because of upcoming weigh-ins.
Unfortunately, this can have dire consequences on the wrestler’s health. Although a person can survive a 40% loss in body mass as a result of starvation, a 9-12% loss of body mass due to a loss of fluid may result in death.
On Fat Utilization
During light to moderate exercise (warm-up and drilling, or running to make weight), the body’s energy needs are met by fatty acids. These free fatty acids bind to albumin, a protein in the blood, which transport the fatty acids to the muscles that are active.
As time spent exercising is increased, there is an increased reliance on fat utilization.
As exercise duration starts to go past an hour (so basically any practice), the carbohydrate reserves in the body start to become quite limited.
This increases the utilization of stored fat, making it an even more in demand source of energy. As long as the intensity of exercise stays moderate, fat storage will supply the majority of energy.
Nutrition Before A Match/Practice
To optimally prepare for exercise or a match, the authors suggest the wrestler should consume a meal with 1-2 grams/kilogram body weight of carbohydrate 3-4 hours before.
Obviously, having to make weight will affect your ability to do this. But, this can be done before practice.
In addition, a “pre” meal about an hour before consisting of low-glycemic carbohydrates and essential amino acids would be ideal.
In regards to “post” meals, these should occur as close to the completion of the workout/match as possible. A good option for this time may be a liquid meal.
The primary post-exercise nutritional goal for wrestlers should be to focus on two things.
1. It should be to increase/maximize muscle glycogen.
2. It should be to enhance protein synthesis.
For these two reasons, the authors of the paper suggest chocolate milk as a suitable post-workout beverage.
In addition to proper “pre” and “post” nutrition, the authors also make suggestions aimed at maintaining hydration. These strategies should focus on the pre-, during, and post- aspects of a training session and/or match.
Now, for my quick take on all this. More specifically, on pre-match nutrition.
The above suggestion of a meal 3 to 4 hours is good for wrestlers in the finals of a tournament and/or wrestlers before practice.
However, eating a meal (or two if you’re also having the suggested low-glycemic snack) before a weigh-in, is probably not going to happen.
So, for suggestions on that topic, be sure to read my post on what to eat post weigh-ins.
Hoffman, J., C. Maresh. Nutrition and Hydration Issues for Combat Sports Athletes. Strength and Conditioning Journal. 33(6), 10-17. December 2011.