If you like to eat and love to cook, having a wrestler in the house over the holidays can be…well, a bummer. Why you ask? Quite simply because they can’t eat! Ok, they can eat, but not like the rest of us. Wrestling is a weight category sport; the wrestler must make a weight in order to compete. Appropriate weight categories and proper nutrition planning can keep the wrestler from resorting to dangerous and unhealthy measures. I would like to discuss nutrition with respect to maintaining weight over the holiday, which can be a challenge for both the wrestler and the wrestler’s family. Staying focused on the sport at the expense of the holiday spirit is a sacrifice for all. Here are some practical sport nutrition tips to help wrestlers keep their weight down and their strength up during the “eating” season.
1. Don’t let your athlete be a coach potato. A daily work out is a must to burn calories and maintain an elevated metabolism. If there is no scheduled wrestling practice, have your wrestler take a long run. In addition to workouts, try to help your athlete stay active the rest of the day. Fill days with activities that keep him/her moving. By pass the movies for a bike ride, sledding, walking 9 holes of golf, or even Wii sport games.
2. Start the day with breakfast. Studies confirm that breakfast eaters weight less than breakfast skippers. Skipping breakfast will only catch-up with your athlete leaving him/her hungry and craving sweets later. Breakfast should include a good protein source. Protein provides satiety. Athletes eating carbs alone will end up being hungry sooner than if protein is also provided in the meal.
3. Do have your wrestler eat 3 meals plus snacks. Frequent meals prevents overeating and also maximizes available energy for workouts. Going into every work out with fuel on board is essential for not only optimal performance, but necessary to work at high intensity (which burns more calories). Make sure each meal and snack includes a protein source to increase feeling of fullness and maintain lean muscle mass. Choose from lean protein sources such as skinless poultry, fish and seafood, low-fat and non fat dairy, beans, lentils, soy, and egg whites.
4. Have fruits and non-starchy vegetables on hand for snacking such as strawberries, cucumbers, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower and spinach. Also foods with a high water content such as oranges, melons, green beans, and celery. Keep fruits and vegetables clean and visible on counter tops or refrigerator shelves to encourage healthy snack selections. Fruits and vegetables are not only a low calorie way to fill up, they are the best antioxidant sources.
5. Eliminate all sweetened beverages. Sodas and sweet tea provide nothing but empty calories. Beverages with meals should be either water or skim milk. Don’t stock your pantry with regular sodas; diet sodas are a better alternative.
6. Minimize calorie and fat laden sweets that provide little nutritional value. From eggnog to homemade fudge, there are more temptations this time year. Limit indulgences to one per day. Try preparing lower calorie versions of your favorite holiday treats. Cooking light is a good resource; this link has 100 healthy cookies recipes. Also, check out Healthy Aperature, a new food photo website featuring foods that are both delicious and good for you!
Support your wrestler by adopting some of the same nutritional guidelines for yourself and by making a few modifications to your usual holiday feast. These athletes make sacrifices year round and the holidays can be the hardest to get through. Look at the bright side, you may have to lighten up Bobby Flay’s Throwndown Red Velvet Cake, but you will not only be helping your wrestler to make weight safely, and you will be minimizing your own holiday weight gain.
The following is a low calorie, high protein sample menu :
Breakfast: 2 scrambled egg breakfast wraps (made with 4 egg whites, one whole egg, scrambled with green onion and divided between two- 6 inch whole wheat tortillas. Top each with salsa) + 1/2 grapefruit + 8 oz. skim milk
Snack: Handful pistachio nuts
Lunch: Sandwich made with whole wheat roll, 2 oz. lean turkey, 1 oz. low fat cheese, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise + 1 cup raw baby carrots + 8 oz. skim milk+ 1 cup strawberries
Snack: Yogurt parfait made with 6 oz. non-fat yogurt layered with blueberries