How to Safely Diet for Youth Wrestling

Andrew Sarafa

When it comes to running a youth wrestling club, the overall health and weight of your wrestlers is a very important aspect. Your wrestling management team may want to help a wrestler bring their weight up or down to help make a certain weight class and you may be asking yourself "how do wrestlers lose weight safely?" The problem is, often times some weight adjusting programs can cause harm to a wrestler’s health and athletic conditioning leading to worse performances, especially when cutting weight.

In this article, you’ll learn a few of our top tips on maintaining a healthy wrestling diet while still working to adjust a wrestlers weight to the appropriate weight class. We’ll cover an example diet when cutting weight for wrestling and also one while gaining weight. Also included are a few wrestling weight cut tips and tricks from a collegiate level wrestler from Otterbein University!

Tip #1 – Avoiding Unhealthy Dieting Decisions for Youth Wrestlers

When attempting to help teach how to drop weight for wrestling, you may be tempted to share a few practices that while may work, can cause harm to the wrestlers’ health and athletic performance. In this section, we’ll touch on a few practices that should be avoided.

  • Laxatives and other weight-loss products – While these products could lead to a reduction in weight, they are known to cause long term health problems. You can learn more about the side effects of weight loss products on
  • Fasting and extremely low caloric intake – Fasting is a sure-fire way to cause harm to a wrestlers otherwise healthy body. Fasting could also lead to feelings of tiredness or sickness and would likely lead to reduced strength and endurance.
  • The use of sauna suits or other sweat products – Ideas like putting a garbage bag on and sitting in a sauna for a lengthy time period would only cause a reduction in water weight and likely cause overheating. These practices could also lead to dehydration and reduced performance.
  • Avoiding water to reduce water weight – While sweating off water weight is a great way to trim a few pounds on the day of, or before weigh-ins, being fully hydrated is a must in order to maintain a healthy body and mind. Staying hydrated will also lead to increased strength and endurance which will certainly come in handy when it comes time for the wrestler to step foot onto the mat.

All in all, while some of these practices may lead to timely weight loss, they are likely to cause bodily harm to youth wrestlers which will not only decrease their overall health but will lead to worse performances on the mat and at youth wrestling tournaments. So be sure to avoid unsafe practices and focus on learning how wrestlers cut weight safely.

Tip #2 – Making Healthy Dieting Decisions for Youth Wrestlers

Whether attempting to maintain, reduce or increase weight, in order to be in peak athletic condition a wrestler needs to watch what they’re putting into their bodies on a regular basis. After getting in contact with a collegiate wrestler at Otterbein University, he let me in on a few tips for wrestlers cutting weight. He personally uses these steps to help cut weight for wrestling meets and to diet now safely while still remaining healthy and competitive before a match.

  • Staying Hydrated – Staying hydrated is always a major key when it comes to staying healthy. Although, water weight can account for a few pounds, it’s best to drink the proper amount of water while dieting in order to maintain health and not become dehydrated.
  • Starting a diet/weight loss program early – By starting a dieting early (weeks or even months in advance), you can ensure that a wrestler have enough time to be able to shed weight in a healthy manner. The key to cutting weight for wrestling is to take in less calories than your body consumes on a daily basis. Typically by 500 calories. We’ll cover this idea later on in the article as it is extremely important.
  • Properly fuel their body a few days before weigh-in – A few days before weigh-in, you want to make sure to fuel a wrestler’s body with carbs and lean protein sources. This will help the wrestler keep their strength and endurance in time for the match.
  • Eat a balanced diet – Ensure a wrestler is always eating a balanced diet consisting of healthy fats, carbs and protein sources. Vegetables are a great way to fill one’s body with the proper nutrients and they will also allow one to fill their stomach up while still keeping their overall caloric intake low enough to lose weight. Also, if they aren’t eating enough vegetables, be sure to take vitamins every day to ensure they’re receiving the proper nutrients.
  • Wait to cut water weight until the day before weigh-in – By waiting to cut the last 3-5 pounds of water weight until the day before weigh-ins, you ensure they won’t dehydrate their body longer than they have to. After weigh-ins, be sure to rehydrate their body with some sort of BCAA’s or Electrolyte drink. This will ensure the wrestler is fully healthy and prepared for their upcoming match.

Wrestling Cutting Weight While water weight can account for a few pounds, it's best to wait until the day of or the day before to trim the last 3-5 pounds so you're not dehydrated longer than you need to be

In conclusion, when attempting to cut weight before weigh-ins, it’s best to give wrestlers the proper amount of time. By starting weeks or even months in advance, you can make sure they’re creating the perfect wrestlers diet plan to lose weight for wrestling events in a healthy manner.

Tip #3 – Assessing your Body to Help Build the Proper Youth Wrestling Diet

When it comes to making changes to a wrestler’s weight, the first step is taking a look at your wrestlers’ individual body and assessing their goals. While you could hire personal trainer to help shape a plan for the wrestler, it can also be done by researching and creating a well thought out plan. Below are a few steps we recommend when creating a plan. I’ll also walk you through an example assuming a wrestler is a 137 pound 14-year-old male attempting to weigh-in at the 130-pound weight class. We’ll also assume their height is 5’8 and they live a very active lifestyle.

  1. Assessing Their Body: Height, Weight and Activity Level - In order to find out how many calories your body demands on any given day, we have to look at a few things such as your height, weight and activity level. Luckily, there are some awesome tools we can use to do this such as MyFitnessPal and HealthLine. MyFitnessPal is great because it not only does all the work for us, but it also allows us to track our calories daily and build plans from the ground up easily (note in order to use MyFitnessPal, you’ll have to say your age is 18+).

MyFitnessPal Profile Creation Cutting MyFitnessPal will take these stats for form our daily caloric goals for us

  1. Breaking Down a Wrestler’s Caloric Intake in Macronutrients - Knowing this information we can now break down his caloric intake into fats, carbohydrates and proteins. A typical split for a healthy diet for an athlete looks something like this: 25% fat, 55% carbohydrates and 20% protein. Luckily, MyFitnessPal will do this for us.

Wrestling Goals Cutting Weight The calculator recommends this wrestler needs to intake around 1890 calories a day to safely lose 2 pounds per week. Remember to have a wrestler weigh himself at the same time every week in order to ensure his water weight will roughly be the same. We recommend doing this in the morning

  1. Creating a Balanced Diet – Now we’ll move onto building a balanced diet using the macronutrient split shown above of 25/55/20. Note that it’s okay not to hit these macronutrient goals on the dot every day. As long as they’re in the ballpark and are making sure they’re taking in enough protein to maintain their muscle, it’s close enough to count. The image below will show an example of a daily diet you could use to hit this wrestlers’ goals. Just remember to take vitamins since this specific wrestler doesn’t like many vegetables!

Wrestling Cutting Weight Daily Diet We are just over our calorie goal by 3 and slightly over our protein goal but that’s okay. It just means were ensuring the wrestler will maintain his muscle while cutting weight

Tip #4 – Putting on Weight for Youth Wrestling

While the majority of this blog is focused on the wrestlers who want to cut weight, we know there is a percentage of those who will be looking to put on weight as well. Seeing as I myself used to be a wrestler weighing in at 60 pounds and wrestling in the 80-pound weight class, I know the struggle to put on weight is real. Below are a few of the tips I used to help me reach 80 pounds and reach my full potential as a wrestler. For this example, we’ll use the same stats above but assume the wrestler would like to reach the 146-pound weight class.

  1. Assessing Their Body – First things first, we have to again asses the wrestler’s body. This time we have change our goals to gain a pound a week. Gaining healthy weight is typically much harder than losing weight and takes a lot of time as you can only gain so much weight a week. About 1 pound a week is possible, but when they’re first starting to weight lift, it is possible to put on more weight quickly. Just ensure they start their diet in time to meet their weigh-in goals!

Wrestling Goals Gaining Weight The calculator reccomends this wrestler needs to intake about 3,390 calories a day in order to gain a pound a week from his current weight of 137 pounds

  1. Creating a Balanced Diet – The next step after finding their goals and using the same caloric macronutrient intake as we did previously, is to create a daily diet plan to hit their goals. You can use this as a sample to get started.

Wrestling Gaining Weight Daily Diet In this example, we did exceed the recommend daily number of calories but again, when gaining weight, it is more than okay to do so. It will only help ensure a hard gainer will gain the weight they need to reach their weight goals

Various Tips and Tricks to Help Youth Wrestlers Fit in Extra Calories

When I was attempting to gain weight, it took a lot of time and dedication to eat enough every day to help my quick metabolism actually gain weight. Below are a few tips and trick I picked up along the way to really help a wrestler get in all those extra calories needed.

  • Drink your Calories – By making shakes and smoothies, you can really help your body get the large number of calories you need without taking too much of a toll on a small stomach. You can add in any ingredients you want and even a tablespoon of olive oil will add over 100 calories to your shake and is nearly unnoticeable to your drink.
  • Mass Gainers – Mass gainers are hands down the best solution I found to my weight gaining problems. Mass gainers are basically protein shakes that are also stock full of carbohydrates meaning tons of calories. Just one scoop of a mass gainer can lead to over 650 calories in intake and they taste great too!
  • Peanut Butter Sandwiches – Peanut butter sandwiches were truly a major key to my success. They provided me with all of the macronutrients I needed, and it was super easy to prepare. Whenever I found myself a little hungry, I would simply make a peanut butter sandwich instead of just grabbing a bag of chips.

Wrestling Drink Your Calories Drinking your calories is a great way to get in extra calories without overloading your stomach

Reaching your Weight Goals Without Sacrificing Health

All in all, when it comes to adjusting a wrestler’s weight to hit a certain weight class for youth wrestling tournaments or youth wrestling camps, the one thing a wrestler will need is determination. By not cutting corners and following our tips and tricks above, you’ll be well on your way to helping a wrestler reach their weight goals and crushing their competition in their new weight class!

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