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Learn how to eat (if you are a wrestler)

Many parents and wrestlers have questions about what wrestlers should eat before their matches.   While nutrition is certainly a complex science, the sound principles of successfully feeding a wrestler are not complicated.  Always be sure to consult your physician before starting a new diet.

Some general information eating on the day of a competition is provided below:

A pre-competition meal should:

  • be consumed a few hours before competing to ensure digestion and absorption

  • be easily digestible

  • be something you like to eat

  • consist mainly of carbohydrate as fat and protein are harder for the body to digest


Remember:  Food Carbohydrate + Blood Sugar + Muscle Sugar = ENERGY

The small intestine is an important part of the digestive tract as it is here where food sugars are absorbed into the blood. Glucose is the blood sugar transported to muscle cells to be stored as glycogen which is the primary source of energy used during a wrestling match.  Insulin, a hormone that helps the muscle cells take-up the blood glucose, is released in response to an increase in blood glucose. 

Don't consume SIMPLE sugars!

Simple sugars found in soft drinks and candy cause excessive insulin to be released (hyperglycemia) and this causes rapid absorption of glucose into the muscles cells or fat cells.  Generally, this causes a depletion of blood sugar, which makes athletes feel tired mentally and physically.


Think COMPLEX carbohydrates instead!

Complex carbohydrates generally are absorbed more slowly into the blood providing more of a “time release” kind of effect.  This allows blood sugar levels to remain fairly stable, avoiding the roller coaster hyper- and hypo-glycemia. Excellent sources of complex carbohydrates include cereal and milk, oatmeal, bananas, apples, beans, peas, lentils and pasta.

Muscle Energy for a Match

Since glucose is the blood sugar, the muscles have little or no preference for the original dietary source of the carbohydrate.  At the muscular level glucose molecules are linked together in their storage form of glycogen, which is used for energy.  In high-intensity, short-duration sports like wrestling, the stores of muscle glycogen are not altered enough to cause excessive fatigue.  Wrestlers who eat a small meal after the weigh-in and consume fluids (an ounce for every ounce lost making weight), and snacks throughout the day, will generally have adequate muscle glycogen and food-derived energy for a match.  


  • Your muscles care less about the original source of complex carbohydrate carbohydrate than the athlete.

  • Avoid high concentrations of sugar, which may delay stomach emptying and cause roller-coaster blood sugar levels.

  • Some nutrition bars are good choices because of their nutrient balances. Examples include Power Bar, Granola Bar and other high carbohydrate-low fat bars

  • Always experiment with a pre-competition meal or between-match snacks under practice conditions first.


Sample Meals For Competition Day


Breakfast Meal

12 oz orange juice
Bowl of oatmeal
Two pieces of toast with jam
Sliced peaches with skim milk

Lunch/Early Afternoon Meal

One cup low fat yogurt
One banana
One toasted bagel
One ounce of turkey breast (one serving)
Half cup of raisins

Liquid Meal

1/2 cup of water
1/2 cup nonfat dry milk
1/4 cup glucose polymer (like your favorite sport drink)
3 cups skim milk
Add flavoring made of 1 teaspoon of vanilla, chocolate or cherry extract (depending on what sport drink used in the recipe)


Quick Daily Energy Needs Calculator for Males


1.  Take your weight in pounds and add a 0 on the end

For example, if you weigh 120 pounds your value would be 1,200 

2.  Multiply your weight by 2 and add it to the value from Step 1

If you weigh 120, you multiply 120 x 2 = 240; now add 240+1200 = 1,440 calories. This is a rough estimate of your resting energy expenditure (REE) which is the amount of energy your body at rest requires to live during a 24 hour period. 

3.  Multiply your resting energy expenditure from Step 2 by an activity adjustment factor

In-season activity adjustment = 1.8:
1,440 cal x 1.8 = 2,592 or about 2,600 calories
Out-of-season activity adjustment = 1.5:
1,440 x 1.5 = 2,160 or about 2,200 calories

Note:  The in-season activity adjustment assumes 8 hours of sleep, 2 hours of practice, ½ hour personal conditioning and 13-14 hours of combined class-time, studying, eating, etc.  The out-of-season activity adjustment assumes everything the same as in-season, but only 1 hour of working out.

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