First off, let me begin this post on wrestling nutrition with a disclaimer: I’m not a Registered Dietician.
I’m not a certified nutritionist.
And I only took a couple classes on nutrition in college.
There, are you sold on me being an authority on wrestling nutrition?!
Well, here are a couple of pictures to convince you that I have an idea of what I’m talking about.
For those of you who know my story, during that time period I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis.
So that definitely contributed with some of the weight loss. However, it was my training and nutrition plan that enabled me to achieve 5% bodyfat and walk around at that level without starving or low on energy.
So how did I do it and how can I help you improve your wrestling nutrition plan?
Well, before I get into the adjustments I made, I’m going to have you take a test that was made famous by the always hilarious and super strong Jim Wendler.
True or False: Are fruits and veggies good for you?
True or False: Are fried foods bad for you?
True or False: Are lean sources of protein good for you?
True or False: Are Sweet Treats bad for you?
True or False: Are nuts, avocados, coconut oil and other healthy fats good for you?
True or False: Are refined grains and high sugar/processed foods bad for you?
If you answered “False” to any of these questions then I’m going to direct you to the video below, specifically the part about the Tack Hammer.
Ok, but seriously, the idea behind this quiz is that while nutrition can be confusing, in the grand scheme of things, making good choices is the foundation to any good wrestling nutrition plan. However, as basic as it sounds, it’s often overlooked.
So addressing principles is the first priority. You really shouldn’t be worried about what special blend of post-workout recovery powder(s) you need to drink if you’re eating McDonald’s on a regular basis.
Unfortunately, though, that’s the most common question I get asked.
Not how long I’ve lifted for.
Not how my diet looks.
Not what my program looks like.
Everyone seems to think the results come from a magical drink. But, as you probably know, there’s a lot more that goes into it.
In fact, I’ll be honest. I haven’t even begun to look at my carbs:fat:protein breakdown with my diet.
All I’ve been focused on is making sure I’m putting good meals in my body and keeping my total caloric intake in check (usually around 3000-3200 when I’m training twice a day for an upcoming fight).
And as you can see from the pictures above, it’s a solid, predictable plan that I’ve found works great for me.
Ok, so now that you’ve passed the quiz, what’s next?
Your Wrestling Nutrition Plan Steps To Success
Since you’re a big superstar graduate of Wrestling Nutrition 101, I’m now going to go into a 2 step process.
Step 1: Stop Eating Like Crap.
I had a much stronger incentive to do this because of my digestive disorder. If I ate crap, I’d get sick and in turn feel like crap (…and crap a lot).
However, there are other incentives that I’ve discovered that may help motivate you.
You’ll feel a ton better. Not immediately. In fact, you may feel worse at first. If you eat crap regularly, then that’s what your body is used to being fueled by. I’ll be honest- I felt lethargic and pretty terrible for the first week or two when I made drastic changes to my diet. However, stay consistent with the changes to your nutrition plan and give it some time. After a few weeks you’ll feel great.
You’ll have more energy. When my wife and I eat like crap now we are sluggish and don’t want to do anything. In fact, we decided to cut loose a little on Tuesday night. I had an ice cream sundae for dinner (because I love Sweet Treats) and she ate some frozen pretzels with cheese and some chicken poppers. Guess what? We didn’t feel very good after.
You’ll recover between workouts faster. I’m currently dealing with some issues with my Ulcerative Colitis and haven’t been able to workout as much. However, prior to getting sick again I was training pretty hard. I was averaging between 3-4 hours a day. I rarely felt run down, sore, beat up, and unmotivated. A proper wrestling nutrition plan will help you recover faster and as a result, you’ll get better faster.
Step 1 doesn’t need to be some massive overhaul to your current diet.
Instead, just take it in small steps.
For instance, instead of eating Lucky Charms for breakfast how about you try a high fiber cereal?
And while you’re at it, maybe throw in a piece of fruit or a handful of raw nuts.
See, it’s not that hard to make improvements.
And guess what?
If you’re in a situation where you can’t make the best eating decision you’re not going to completely negate the effects of your diet.
Just focus on doing the best you can and continually strive to make improvements in your diet.
Step 2: Learn To Count Calories.
I know what you’re thinking…
“Dickie, I know of a lot of diet plans that say you don’t need to count calories. Why shouldn’t I just follow one of those?”
Answer- because when you have a diet that you are marketing to 300+ pound Large Americans who eat fast food for every meal there’s no need to worry about small details like counting calories.
I didn’t count calories when I first started my plan. However, once I got settled in with meals that I felt good eating, eventually I needed to. Why?
I don’t care how clean you’re eating. If your taking in more calories than you’re burning you’re not going to get leaner following your wrestling nutrition plan.
Want more proof?
Insert image of any bodybuilder ever.
…No, that’s not a typo. I just don’t feel like putting a bunch of pics of huge dudes in thongs on my blog.
But seriously, bodybuilders are some of the most regimented dieters ever.
Besides, getting leaner there is one big benefit to counting your calories- you have a record you can look back to.
Why is this important?
Maybe you had low energy in the wrestling room on a certain day. You can look back and see what you ate and how many calories you had before practice. You can use this info and compare it to days you’ve had great practices.
Maybe you feel beat up and sore a couple days after a lift. You can look back and see what you ate and what your calories were to get a good idea of how this may be affecting you.
Maybe you haven’t gained or lost weight for the last 2-3 weeks. You can look back and see how many calories you were averaging.
I’ll be honest, it’s a pain in the ass when you first start. However, once you get the hang of it, it becomes second nature. In fact, you’ll find that you eat a lot of the same things on a regular basis, which makes tracking even easier.
Here are some things that I use to help get you started:
Calorie Counter– You can use any one you want. I just searched Google and found this.
Excel Worksheet– This is the exact Excel file my super talented wife built for me. I’ve included a sample day to give you an idea of how I record things.
Supertracker– recommended below in a comment left by Oliver, a Nutrition & Food Science Masters student at Hunter College. Here’s a quick video on how to use it:
Alright, that’ll wrap things up for today.
One more quick reason to track your foods/Cals that I may write about in a future post- food allergies/sensitivities.
You may not respond well to certain foods (from a digestive standpoint). For instance, I’ve found that when I eat gluten I get bloated, gassy, and generally feel like crap. I’ve also found that when I’m having issues with my Ulcerative Colitis, gluten makes the symptoms worse.
How did I find these things out?
You guessed it- by tracking and monitoring my diet.
Anyway, please leave me comments below with any questions you may have about wrestling nutrition.
Best Way To Rehydrate Post Weigh-ins
Dickie, this should be an interesting blog. Can you make sure to include information for the “hard gainers” looking to gain weight/muscle.
thanks for stopping by chuck. even though it will be a pain to get going, i really think that getting an idea of what kind of daily calorie intake your son has will give you a great place from which to start from. however, regardless of whether or not you do this, one easy way to add quick calories in to the diet without having to eat a whole lot more is to add in healthy fats. for instance, by sticking with the same general meal plan your son is on now and adding 2-3tbs peanut butter, and 2-3tbs of olive oil he’s already increased his calories for the day by 400-600 (a tablespoon of fat- oils, nut butters, etc. on average is 100 cals). additionally, drop him out of high school and get him into college asap. just kidding. but in all seriousness, i don’t know what it is but it seems that all the kids (and myself for that matter) just get thicker/wider during their first year at college. i’d imagine it just has to do with the body maturing further and the hormone production that goes along with it. but even guys who have trained with me for 3+ years throughout high school and put on some size and muscle just seem to explode once they get to college (take for instance a certain wrestler who just won his 3rd title in his 3rd weight class).
so anyway, start by either a- measuring his calories to get a baseline and looking to increase those by 500ish cals/day or b- just making sure he stays consistent with his diet and adding 500ish cals/day. i personally am a big fan of measuring, or at least eyeballing portions to get an idea of cals and tracking them. that way you have a better idea of the adjustments you need to make.
thanks again for commenting, keep me posted and talk to you soon.
Nice blog brother. Always readying your e-mails and finding better ways and getting tips to help me with my training. Like I have told you I seem to have a problem with my nutrition. A lot of it is just simply discipline and mental toughness. However, I like cooking. I just never have any good ideas. When you get the time maybe put a few meal plans to follow. I always like having different ideas of things to cook and eat that are healthy and go with my nutrition. I am always rushing between work and training that it’s hard to fix and prepare meals 3 times a day.
hey issac thanks for getting ahold of me, i really appreciate the kind words. i will definitely put together a post for you. but first, i need some more info on how i can better personalize it. right now what i’m thinking of doing in terms of what is going to be in the post is the following:
1. a few sample days of how i eat and how it fits into my sched
2. a few sample meals that i make that are quick and easy for an on the go lifesytle
3. a few sample dinners/homemade meals (this is more for my wife, lol…i have an interesting story about how it took me over 40 mins to make friggin egg salad last week! that should give you an idea of my skills in the kitchen)
what else can i include that would help you out?
in terms of the mental toughness, i actually am working on a post this morning and tomorrow and will be releasing a free chapter from my mental/muay thai coach’s book, the mind game for mma. i’ll send out an email to everyone when i post it.
thanks again for the comment and talk to you soon. also, can you let me know if you got an automated email notifying you that i responded? i downloaded a new plugin that should be doing that for me, but just want to double check. thanks man.
not only am i much more aware of how many calories i am eating, but by tracking my calories i found i eat like complete poopy. Milkshakes especially frosted cupcake milkshakes are not a good way to get lean, but aside from not helping you get lean they make you feel like you are over 205 lbs. even when you are 170.
Karderinis- thanks for stopping by and for the comment sir…and nice gravatar! I agree, keeping a log of your calories not only allows you to get a good idea of how many total cals you’re taking in every day, but you can also look back and assess how quality the actual food is that you’re eating. For instance, back in your Large American days when eating a package of x-brand oreos a night was common, by keeping track of how many packages/week you ate you’d be able to more accurately look back at the end of each week and get an idea as to why you were weighing 240+ at the time. Oh, and you should have just asked me about the effects of frosted cupcake milkshakes, I have some personal experience with those…
Great practical post on staying healthy. This really applys to anyone not just wrestlers.
I like your calorie counter, I have used several but had not seen that one.
Everyone needs good nutrition and needs to stop eating the crap. We would be a healthier nation if we would all do what you promote in this post.
Dee Ann Rice
Hey Dee Ann! Sorry I’m just getting to your comment, for whatever reason it didn’t occur to me to check my spam box until last night when I was casually checking things out on my blog before bed.
Anyway, yeah I think a lot of the stuff I write about can apply to just about anyone, but focusing on the aspects of wrestling help me stay within my niche. I’m glad my blog name didn’t deter you from stopping by and seeing what I have to say like it seems to have done to so many other bloggers that I’ve left a comment with.
It seems like a pain (counting your calories), but it really becomes something of second nature after just a few weeks of working it in to your schedule. And it makes a huge difference.
There were weeks when I’d go out to dinner a couple times and not make the best choices, but because it fit into my overall Caloric plan, I’d still lose weight that week.
It’s just like anything else- you don’t start a successful blog overnight and you can’t strip away years of fat deposits in the same amount of time either. The lifestyle changes associated with both are ones that require diligence and perseverance.
Thanks again for checking out my blog and for the comments and sorry again that they were trapped in the spam box for so long. Enjoy the Memorial Day and talk to you later.
Forgot to ad this.
I LOVE the VIDEO!!!
Great blog post! People think that just because they are working out, they can eat whatever. Far from the truth. NBA and NFL players are getting their act together and eating right (for the most part). Time for the rest of professionals to commit to a healthy lifestyle. 🙂
This helped out a lot, what’s the best thing to eat before/after practice?
Hey Daniela, I’m just revisiting this post so sorry I forgot to get back to you. I’ve since written a few posts on cutting weight and refueling. Here are a couple that you may find useful:
Healthy Bread Pudding …this is one of just many options. Typically a 3:1 or 4:1 carb to protein ratio is best for maximizing recovery after a practice or other intense workout.
What To Eat The Day Before Weigh Ins
Refueling Post Weigh-Ins
Nice post. I’m a Nutrition & Food Science Masters student at Hunter College, and you hit the nail on the head. Nutrition shouldn’t be viewed as a complicated thing. Keep things simple and just avoid the foods that are obviously bad for you i.e. Fast food, junk food, soda, etc. And eat plenty of veggies, fruits, and whole gains.
What is your take on a gluten free diet for athletes? I know the concept behind it is that the body(some plp) have a hard time digesting the gluten protein so eliminating it from your diet equals faster and easier absorption of foods which in turn equals quicker recovery after workouts.
Also a side note, “Supertracker” is also a good calorie counter that is a bit more easier to use. Its on choosemyplate.gov.
Hey Oliver, glad you liked the post and I’m super happy to get such positive feedback from someone in the field. The extent of my knowledge as far as nutrition goes is personal experience, recreational reading, and 2 or 3 classes years ago during my undergraduate at Ithaca; so to receive praise from someone who’s way more advanced than I am is really appreciated.
As far as gluten free for athletes go I don’t endorse it, however, I can see the benefits of it. I try to eat as gluten free as possible as I’ve noticed from personal experience large amounts of gluten negatively affect my digestion, and for someone with a digestive disorder, this isn’t something you want, lol. As far as athletes go who aren’t gluten intolerant, I still think it may be beneficial simply because it will push them into eating higher quality, slower digesting carbs.
I recently watched a documentary which followed 4 people who went vegan for 6 weeks and that’s what I use to support my idea above. As part of the first “assignment” they all went to a grocery store to cover foods that fit into the vegan lifestyle. Obviously, they started with the produce section and detailed everything. But then, as they went throughout the store started pointing to all the processed foods (Oreos, etc.) that are also considered vegan.
In the end, the one woman who really adopted the vegan lifestyle (along with a clean eating approach) for 6 weeks lost over 10 pounds, and she was small to begin with. The other 3, who weren’t as committed didn’t do as well.
So I guess what I’m trying to say is typically with a certain style of eating there are always good and bad choices. So while going gluten free may be beneficial, if you’re choosing to follow that “lifestyle” and are just eating gluten-free knock off Oreos (I’ve had them and they are delicious!), then I really don’t know how beneficial that style of diet is actually going to be for you.
However, with that said, when you really buy into whatever style of eating you choose and keep it clean, then you’ll probably have a lot of success with it.
…A quick thought I just had in regards to how to keep a specific eating style “clean” is just eat the stuff that was always around, not that was recently created to be marketed towards the latest craze (ie all the processed gluten free free foods that now exist).
Anyway, I appreciate the comment and question. What are your thoughts on gluten free diets for athletes?
And thanks for the Supertracker tip man!
I feel that with gluten free diets for those athletes that have seen increases in their performance shows a serious dedication to making that huge adjustment to try something new. My feeling is, and that’s what I tell the athletes that come to me for nutrition advice, is try different diets and different combos of food throughout the day and pre/post workouts because everyone’s body is different and may react better to certain foods in terms of recovery. I say experiment and see if your performance increases, such as the case with gluten free diets, I am sure that there are athletes that tried it and is didn’t workout for a many of reasons, such as replacing the gluten foods with gluten free foods. But in food science terms, gluten is somewhat taxing on the body to digest(takes longer to digest) so if you eliminate it then the foods you would eat or rather replace the gluten foods are readily absorbed i.e. more veggies, fruits, nuts.
You’re right on man. I basically recommend the same thing as far as lifting. While I do have a lot of experience both lifting myself as well as working with tons of wrestlers, everyone is unique and will therefore require different levels of total volume and intensity. Being conscious of what you’re doing, whether it be in the weight room, at meal time, or on the mat is of the utmost importance to maximize your ability to assess and evaluate how things are working. I have my next MMA fight this upcoming Friday and you can be sure as shit I’ll be watching very closely to my opponent’s reactions to when I throw my jab, when I fake a takedown, etc. It’s the same mindset I take into the gym, …and most of the time in the kitchen/when I’m out to eat, lol. Thanks again for all the insightful comments, Oliver. They really help contribute a lot of additional helpful content to the original post(s).
I have been helping my son train and have run into a frustrating problem. My son is small. Last spring he weighed 103 and was about 10% bodyfat… after bulking all summer he was only 109 but 7% bodyfat… The problem… since he failed to gain enough he wants to wrestle @ 103. He needs to drop 6 pounds… but he’s been trying with healthy methods and can’t get below 107… he has no body fat to loose. We have been trying for 2 weeks… he now has 1 week left to lose 4 lbs for the alpha test… is there a healthy way to lose more… the coaches tried to run it off… but that just seems to build leg muscle and he gained a pound! … my son is about to starve himself for 6 days and hope his body metabolizes some of the. Muscle. I would prefer a healthier alternative… help!
While this may be a stressful situation for both you and your son, I can assure you that if you follow my system, he’ll make weight without an issue. However, the issue is that I don’t have it in a post yet, but can get one together for you by tomorrow. Does that work? In the meantime, here are some past posts that may help you:
The Certification Plan post is the one I’ll be making adjustments to. I’ve had a lot better luck with a low carb diet, however, quite a few guys, including myself have used the plan mapped out in that post with success. I’ve just had a lot better success with the plan I’ll map out in the post I’ll get up by tomorrow.
Are you on my email list? I’ll be sending out an email to everyone as soon it’s posted. Click here to signup for my email list.
Hope this helps; talk to you soon.