Many people have asked about cutting weight. While I don't prescribe to this method without a doctor's supervision here are some articles about the subject. In the long run a coach should not put himself on the line with this issue due to the liability that might arise should an athlete die. Moving up and down 15 to 30 lbs. just to appease a coach that wants a winning season is not justification to cut weight. When a coach tells a wrestler that if he does not "do this for the team", that the wrestler will lose his position on the team, letter, etc. or whatever, then parents have to look at the coach and say "enough is enough".
From peer pressure of his teammates, and coach, a wrestler will probably follow through without realizing the health impact it may have on his body, both short term, and long term. There are better ways to cut weight then using diuretics, and extreme workouts which will put a strain on the heart of a wrestler, especially going both up and down drastically in one season. So, I thought these articles might be informative. Remember.........
"Cutting weight for a wrestler is a personal decision, not a coaches!"
Bryan W. Smith, M.D., Ph.D., FAAP
Atlantic Coast Conference
Wrestling is a sport that dates back to the beginnings of sport. It is one of the few sports that give athletes of all sizes a venue to compete. It provides for individual as well as team competition. And if you have never been to a wrestling match, it is nothing like the version on television. For years wrestling was a male-only sport but now, women are participating in larger numbers each year.
Wrestlers pride themselves on mental and physical toughness. Participation
has been shown to positively impact self-discipline and character. In spite of
these attributes, the sport has been challenged on the issue of weight
management. This has centered over weight cutting or rapid weight loss. For
decades, the wrestling community has operated under the myth that to be a good
wrestler, one must cut weight.
Weight cutting or making weight using rapid weight loss methods has been an accepted part of the sport of wrestling in spite of concerns from the American Medical Association as early as 1967 and the American College of Sports Medicine since 1976. Renewed scrutiny of weight loss practices in the sport of wrestling occurred in 1996 when the American College of Sports Medicine released an updated position stand on weight loss in wrestlers. Unfortunately, tragedy struck in late 1997 when three collegiate wrestlers died over a one month time frame while engaging in rapid weight loss behaviors to qualify for competition. A review of the three deaths by the Center for Disease Control concluded that the wrestlers were attempting to lose an average of 1-2 lbs/hr after having lost an average of 21 pounds over the previous 10-13 weeks. All three wrestlers had been wearing rubber suits and exercising in overheated conditions.
How common is weight cutting?
Studies in high school wrestlers prior to recent changes found that up to one third of wrestlers were cutting weight more than 10 times in a season at an average of 4-6 lbs. per time. At the 1991 NCAA wrestling tournament with a weigh-in 20 hours before competition, the average weight gain post weigh-in was 8 pounds or 5% of body weight.
Many negative physiological effects of weight cutting have been identified such as impaired thermoregulation, decreased work capacity, decreased renal blood flow, increased heart rate, reduced endurance capacity, altered hormonal status, and stunted growth and development. Weight cutting has been associated with cardiac arrhythmias, pulmonary emboli, pancreatitis and decreased immune function. Altered psychological states and impaired academic performance have been reported.
Why would athletes do this?
One, there is a belief in the sport that weight cutting gives one a competitive advantage by having a relative increase in strength and power since the wrestler competes in a lower weight class. Whether one improves performance is debatable. Research has not shown this to be true. Two, this is a traditional rite of the sport with weight loss techniques passed down from generation to generation. Sort of a "no pain, no gain" philosophy. Three, if a better wrestler on the team is in the same weight class. Sometimes, the coach needs to shuffle the lineup to create better chances to win against a particular team.
Prior to these deaths, most attempts to influence change regarding weight loss behaviors had come in the form of recommendations from both sports medicine groups as well as the NCAA Committee of Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports to discourage the use of techniques or devices that promote rapid weight loss. In 1991, the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association adopted radical changes setting a minimum wrestling weight criteria. Following the deaths, the NCAA Wrestling Committee with guidance from the NCAA Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports Committee adopted significant rule changes to address weight loss behaviors in the sport of wrestling keeping in mind that weight is the competitive equity variable in the sport.
Three guiding principles were established to provide a foundation for the formulation of these rule changes. 1) Any and all weight control practice that could potentially risk the health of the participant should be eliminated from wrestling. To do this effectively, the incentives to attempt these practices must be minimized. 2) The focus in the sport should be on competition not weight control. 3) Recommendations should be practical, effective, and enforceable.
These new changes included:
Weight certification resulted in wrestlers staying at a natural weight throughout the season.
needed to support normal development for the wrestling athlete. Intense sports practices can burn more than 1000 calories. Semi starvation diets that produce a caloric deficit beyond 500 to 1000 calories/day usually promote loss of muscle and water rather than fat. During the athletic season, this method of weight loss can decrease performance and negatively impact health. A balanced diet with plenty of fluids can enhance performance.
Research following the implementation of these changes at the collegiate level has been promising. Weight certification resulted in wrestlers staying at a natural weight throughout the season. Moving the match weigh-in time to near the start of the match has reduced the weight regain by about 80% from the old rules in 1991. Athletes reported that the focus had returned to wrestling and less to weight.
The NFHS soon followed the example set by the NCAA and adopted a weight management program for high schools. For the 2005 season, all state high school associations governed by the NFHS will have to have a weight certification program. It is unfortunate that weigh-in policies have not been adopted for amateur international style wrestling which many youth participate in once their scholastic season is over. Recent published research has suggested that rapid weight loss behaviors continue at that level of competition.
Athletes deserve safe and scientifically sound training environments and techniques. Adoption of all of the above changes at the amateur level should enhance the safety of the sport while maintaining weight as the competitive equity variable.
An informative article from Ken Chertow's web site about cutting.
Dr. Rodney Fisher, our camp nutrition expert, responds to a mother's
e-mail below. Rodney was Pennsylvania State Runner-Up in high school and is
now a physician. Dr. Fisher speaks annually at our summer camp, and his
interesting and educational presentation is #15 in on our series of videos.
My son is 15 years old. He is approximately 5'1 and he weighs 102 when not wrestling. He is now wrestling at 100. I have an appointment with a Sports Med Doc next week to go over body fat and weight loss. Currently, in USA Wrestling, the weight for Cadet wrestlers is 98 or 105. Of course, my son wants to wrestle at 98. I feel, however, he wouldn't maintain that weight through the summer without compromising his growth and health in general.
Thank you for your response and for the information on the website. I appreciate it very much.
I can identify with your son. I was his size when I was entering the 9th grade, and I actually did cut weight to wrestle 98 pounds. However, when a team mate beat me out for that spot, I moved up to 105 pounds, and performed much better!
I did not learn my lesson, however. At age 17, I was wrestling 119 pounds, but loosing alot of weight to be there. I was not successful, burned out physically, and mentally discouraged. I did not make it out of districts, and barely had a winning record. My parents were concerned for me, so they told the coach that the only way I could wrestle my seniur season would be by wrestling at my natural weight. I fully expected to be pounded at 145, because I weighed a maximum of 142. By the end of the season, I was a full weight class underweight, but I finished 2nd in Pennsylvania AAA finals!
I was a little smarter in college, realizing that success in wrestling depends on feeling good enough and maintaining appropriate nutrition to build up your body, rather than tearing it down. Cutting weight prevents growth, weakens muscles, ligaments and bones, slows reaction time, decreases endurance, delays and inhibits full sexual maturity, damages vital organs and kills wrestlers when carried to extremes.
Body fat should be decreased, not by loosing weight, but by building muscle tissue.
Weight cutting is bad for the wrestler and gives the sport a bad image. Maybe you should talk to the coach or whoever is giving your son these ideas?
This may requires a change in his goals. Does he want to be challenged to be the best he can be? Or does he want to work the system to avoid challenges? Encourage him to go after the big guys!
One more point.
Although the studies have not been done, it is my clinical impression that kids who cut weight are injured more frequently due to weak tissues, poor balance, and delayed reaction times.
Another informative article about weight cutting
Cutting weight. Is it worth it?
By Steve Fraser
Cutting weight for a wrestler is a personal decision. For some wrestlers cutting a few pounds makes them feel leaner, stronger, faster & mentally tougher. For others, cutting weight can make them feel slower, weaker and not as sharp. The big question is “How does cutting weight make you feel?”
My sophomore year at Hazel Park High School I suffered what I thought was the greatest curse of wrestling: cutting weight. Cutting weight was always an accepted part of wrestling and is based on the theory that a wrestler will have a physical edge if he cuts some weight and drops down to wrestle a person without as much muscle mass.
I weighed 165 pounds that fall when
I played on the football team, and I was hoping to wrestle at 155 pounds.
But that didn’t happen. After one or two matches, the wrestler who weighed
145 pounds came up to my division and beat me. If I wanted to wrestle for
the varsity team, I would have to wrestle at 145 pounds, 20 pounds below my
normal, healthy weight. The experience was the worst I ever had in
wrestling. But it was also the most enlightening.
I hated every waking moment of it. When I was cutting weight, I spent the entire day thinking of what I would like to be eating. Everything I did, everything I saw, reminded me of food. Watching television advertisements about food made me ravenous. I even dreamt about food. I dreamt about strawberry shortcakes and banana splits.
I didn’t starve myself every single day. Like many wrestlers who competed below their normal weight, I gorged myself immediately after a meet. Then, the next day, I started fasting again. What did I eat during that week long fast? Almost nothing. I skipped breakfast, had a grapefruit or an orange for lunch, and had another grapefruit and maybe a couple of poached eggs for dinner. It drove my mother crazy. “Oh, surely you can have a little salad,” she’d say. But I just couldn’t eat anything. I couldn’t drink much, either. Just a few sips of water.
Meanwhile, the practices I had loved so much became torture. I frequently would go into the hot wrestling room looking like a mummy, dressed in one or two shirts, a plastic sweat suit and a thick cotton sweat suit over the plastics. If I had a lot of weight to lose on a given day, I might also pull my hood up, put a wool hat on over the hood, and wear gloves or socks over my hands. After 10 minutes of calisthenics, I was mentally exhausted. The pain I felt was compounded by the bitter knowledge that after all this work I couldn’t even look forward to going home to a well-deserved meal.
You might wonder how I could have
been physically and mentally sharp at the end of a week of starving and
suffering. Well I wasn’t. I wasn’t sharp at all. But I fasted because that
was the accepted practice in wrestling, and I believed it was the right
thing for me to do. My coach, Robert Morrill, hadn’t pushed me into dropping
20 pounds. He had left the decision up to me.
I ended up having a very ordinary year. My overall record was 8 victories, 9 losses, and 1 tie. My big successes were that I made the varsity team and I made weight for each of my matches. But as a wrestler I was only average. I beat the below-average wrestlers, not the good ones, and finished fourth in the Southeastern Michigan Association League. I was sick during the district championships and couldn’t wrestle, but it really didn’t matter. I wouldn’t have advanced to the regionals anyway. The guys who beat me during the regular season would have beaten me in the district championships, too.
My experience cutting weight taught me several things. First it taught me that a hungry, dehydrated wrestler probably isn’t going to do any better at a lower weight than his normal weight. Second, it has taught me that the fasting wrestler doesn’t just lose his strength. He destroys his attitude as well. At a time when he should be trying to learn everything he can about technique and strategy, his main goal becomes making weight each day or losing a certain number of pounds.
I also learned that cutting weight can also have a negative effect in other areas of your life as well. Good nutrition is vital to daily performance, and going to school or work without breakfast is one of the worst ways to begin the day.
Finally, there was one last
discovery I made. The conventional wisdom in wrestling suggested that by
dropping down a weight division, I should have been able to outclass the
little wimps who weren’t as strong as I was. But surprise --- I learned that
all weight classes had good wrestlers, and to beat the good wrestlers I
needed to become a good wrestler.
Of course, it’s hard to tell a kid not to cut weight. Sometimes wrestlers have to learn for themselves. And I must say I learned a lot from the experience. I learned that I would never cut too much weight again. I also learned to appreciate food, because I found out how painful it is to starve.
I should mention here that cutting weight is not bad in all cases. If a wrestler is 20 pounds overweight, he should make an effort to lose that fat, provided he still takes in the proteins and nutrients he needs to stay healthy.
But a lot of kids who go out for wrestling are already lean, the way I was, and I would never advise them to cut anything over a few pounds. My advice to those wrestlers is that they wrestle at or around their normal weight. If they can’t make the team at their normal weight, I would advise them to move up a weight class before they consider moving down a weight class. I probably should have gone up to the 167 pound division my sophomore year instead of suffering through the season at 145 pounds. I might have surprised myself and found that I was quicker than the wrestlers who were a few pounds heavier than I.
I proved my theory correct during my junior year in high school, when another high school coach, Masaaki Hatta, convinced me to wrestle in the 185-pound division while weighing only 170 pounds. I went into my practices feeling wonderful. My goals were to improve and have fun, both of which I did. And while I was going all out in those practices, the wrestlers who were cutting weight were walking around with their chins hanging down to the floor, sweating, tired and mentally exhausted.
I also proved I could win. I remember so well the time we wrestled Southfield High School. I weighed about 170 pounds at the time, and as I was standing in the weigh-in line in my skivvies, Southfield’s 185 pound wrestler, a cocky kid, looked around and asked in a loud voice, “Who’s the 185 pounder?”
“I am,” I said shyly.
He looked at me and said with a chuckle, “You’re 185 pounds? You’re kind of small aren’t you?”
“Yeah.” I said. “Kind of.”
Well that was the last time he
laughed at me because that night in our match I beat the living tar out of
him. I was beating him 18-3 (I gave him 3 escapes) before I pinned him.
To become a great wrestler you need to learn the techniques, tactics & strategies of the sport. Then condition your mind & body to be able to execute those techniques, tactics & strategies. Body weight differences, especially when slight, are of little importance in my opinion. I am totally convince that this attitude I had about not cutting too much weight was one of the main reasons I wrestled as long as I did. I loved this sport and I don’t think I would have loved it if I had cut too much weight.
I encourage all wrestlers to take a hard look at weight cutting, especially excessive weight cutting. Ask yourself, “How does it make me feel?” If you are cutting too much you will know it. Your mind and body will tell you so. Remember…having fun with the sport plays a big role in succeeding with the sport. In the big picture, life is pretty short. If you are not having fun, the answer to the question “Is it worth it?” should become very clear.
See you at the top!
How to Lose Weight Safely
So many wrestlers try to lose weight
unsafely that it is now against the rules at most levels to use drastic
measures. Here is a safer way to make your weight.
Difficulty Level: average Time Required: 1-3 months
Start losing weight early. You should only lose 1-3 pounds a week. The more you need to lose, the earlier you should start losing.
Here is what you should intake everyday. Carbohydrates: 60-65%; Protein: 15-20%; Fat: 10-20; On the day of a match, you should take in at least 70% Carbohydrates.
Take vitamin suppliments that you may be missing from your diet. Your body needs vitamins to function the best.
Eat 6 smaller meals throughout the day instead of 2 or 3 large meals. This keeps your metabolism going throughout the day.
Breakfast should be the largest meal of the day and dinner the smallest. Eating larger meals late at night means your body will just turn it into fat.
Do not skip any meals. Instead, eat something light even if you aren't very hungry. Starvation reduces energy needed for competition and your body may burn muscle.
Drink plenty of water during the day. You should drink at least 6-10 glasses of water which will help clean your body and is easy to sweat off.
Take in more carbohydrates before your workout and less after. Your body needs the carbohydrates during your workout and your body will just turn it into fat if you don't use it.
To find how much carbohydrates you need daily, multiply your weight in kgs (lbs. divided by 2.2) by 5. To calculate amount of carbohydratess you need on day of match, multiply by 6 to 9.
Do a few sprints to get your sweat going for your workouts. Everytime you feel like you stopped sweating, do a few more sprints to get it going again.
Have extra workouts. Do one more than you planned to do. Doing 100 situps and pushups everyday is great, but if you do 101, that could be one more than your opponent does.
The day before the weigh-in, you should reduce your water intake and work out to sweat it off. You should dehydrate no more than 24 hours. Do NOT take extreme measures to do this.
Workout to lose weight. It's not a bad idea to lose weight on the day of weigh-ins to lose the weight. It will get your sweat going and help you focus on your match.
Do not stuff yourself with food on the day of the match. Most of your energy will come from the previous day's meals. Eat only small portions on the day of a match.
Ask Dan Gable >>
I am having trouble cutting weight. I was wondering if there are any techniques you would suggest to help me out a little before the season starts?
I don't like to refer weight loss as "cutting weight". That's to me more like "water weight". I like to talk about it in other terms--nutrition, weight control for an example. Most everyone has trouble with it whether it's weight loss through cutting weight or simple weight control and nutrition. Because of that the number one understanding of what needs to be done is through education. There's a good book out by Nancy Clark, called "Sports Nutrition Guidebook" and it can be obtained through Human Kinetics Publishing. They have a toll free number, 1-800-747-4457. My simplest explanation is to drink plenty of water, eat balanced meals, cut these meals in terms of quantity, make sure you have the quality, eat often but make sure that you're burning up more calories than you're putting in in food if you want to lose proper body fat. You do this over an extended long period of time, not a quick short period of time, because otherwise you will lose muscle as well. This is just a quick explanation. Discipline and Education is the key here. It's a lot better than Starvation and Dehydration.
Ask Dan Gable >>
I recently passed out in school, and my doctors said that it was due to dehydration, malnutrition, and low blood sugar. My coaches feel that it is due to weight fluctuation. I am cutting weight from about 124 down to 112. My family does not want me to cut weight anymore, but it could cost me a state title. What do you feel I should do?
If you are having problems with weight loss, then there must be some adjustments made. You think it will help you to cut a lot of weight to get you to a lighter weigh class so you can win a State Championship, when in reality you'll probably lose your best performances by cutting this weight, if not feeling well. So the best solution here is to be able to make the weight and still feel well, still feel good. And then you'll be able to perform well. So unless you can get your weight under control to where it's easier to make, then you'll probably not have a real legitimate shot at a state title anyway. So more discipline needs to be involved, and if the weight class is too low, then you might as well go up just because you're not going to wrestle well there anyway. It's kind of up to you and your coaches and your parents to make a decision. But mostly it's the discipline involved that will enhance one's chances to be successful in winning wrestling matches, whether it be in strictly techniques, or whether if there's discipline involved with weight loss.
Weight Issues In
By: Mike Viscardi
NCAA ResponseThe ProblemThe SolutionsConclusionsReferences
What do Billy Saylor (19 years old) at Campbell University in North Carolina, Joseph LaRosa (22) at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, and Jeff Reese (21) at the University of Michigan all have in common? They are all dead now, victims of one of the ghastly secrets of college wrestling. All three boys were engaged in dehydrating practices trying to lose weight in order to qualify for their first college-wrestling matches. Reese was trying to lose 17 pounds so that he could wrestle in the 150-pound weight class. His two-hour workout in a rubber suit in a 92-degree room cost him his life. He died of rhabdomyolysis -- a cellular breakdown of skeletal muscle under conditions of excessive exercise, which, combined with dehydration, resulted in kidney failure and heart malfunction (Iowa Gazette - December 22, 1997
Physicians are of the consensus that excessive dehydration as a means to lose weight can harm bodily functions, possibly leading to kidney failure, heat stroke or a heart attack. Why then do the wrestlers engage in these dangerous activities? Legendary University of Iowa wrestling coach Dan Gable had this to say in an ESPN report
"They (wrestlers) think they are indestructible. But I’ll tell you what -- those three athletes thought they were indestructible, too. And they aren’t around to talk about it."Wrestlers believe that it is mind over body; they can accomplish anything and nothing bad will ever happen to them. So, LaRosa’s behavior on that fatal day in November wasn’t anything out of the ordinary for many college wrestlers. He was wearing sweats over a rubber suit and riding a stationary bike in a steam-filled shower room. His body temperature reached 108 degrees. He was trying to make weight for his match the next day, and wrestling’s rules did little to discourage such dangerous practices. The logic in wrestling is to make the lowest weight you can in the weigh-ins, which are 24 hours before the match. Then you can replenish and rehydrate your body over the course of the 24 hours between the weigh-in and the match. This will give you an advantage in the competition because you really will be bigger and stronger then most of the wrestlers in that lower weight class.
In the face of these tragedies, the NCAA responded quickly
The use of saunas (defined as a room with a temperature above 79 degrees), as well as rubber and impermeable suits, is now banned.
A seven-pound weight allowance has been added to each class, an increase from the previous one pound allowance. This means that a wrestler in a 118-pound class can actually weigh up to 125 pounds.
The weigh-in time has been moved from 24 hours before the match to two hours before the match.
This third rule change will have the most significant impact. According to Marty Benson, playing rules liaison to the NCAA Wrestling Rules Committee, "With less recovery time after weight-in, a person who is using his head knows if he has to cut too much weight, he’s not going to perform on the mat." This change should severely reduce the frantic, last minute attempts to drop weight using the dehydration measures. These rule changes became effective immediately, but are only temporary, in place just for the remainder of the season. A further review of the problems is forthcoming. The NCAA will look at successful high school rules and regulations, and the success of this year’s changes and hopes to have new rules in place for the 1998-99 season.
What is it that the NCAA, coaches, and parents across America are worried about, though? Rapid weight loss is potentially very dangerous to the health of wrestlers. Estimates show that 25%-67% of wrestlers use techniques such as exercise, food restriction, fasting, and various dehydration measures to lose weight. Wrestlers do this with the notion that their competitive success will increase as a result of these behaviors. However, these techniques appear to adversely influence the wrestler’s energy reserves, and fluid and electrolyte balances (Oppliger, Case, et. al). Often wrestlers will attempt to rapidly replenish their fluids between the weigh-in and their matches. That is why making weigh-ins shortly before the fight might be an effective rule change. This would decrease the benefits of cutting weight, because you would be at a competitive disadvantage physiologically, as a result of dehydration.
In another study on weight loss and wrestling, Roemmich and Sinning looked at the effects of nutrition, growth, maturation, body composition, and strength. Their experiment compared two groups of adolescents (mean age 15.5), one group recreationally active and the other a group of wrestlers. The control group consumed adequate amounts of energy, carbohydrates, protein, and fat and demonstrated normal gains in weight, fat mass and fat-free mass. The wrestlers, however, consumed a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet but did not get enough energy or protein during the season. This deficient diet decreased weight gain, relative fat, and fat mass and also slowed the growth of muscle tissue. Interestingly, it was found that the wrestlers experienced reduced strength in their arms and legs during the season. This conflicts with the idea that weight loss will give the wrestler an edge over his competitors. Strength and weight increased again post-season, though, as the wrestlers reduced their physical activity and increased their energy intake. It does not appear that undernutrition has any long-term effects on bone growth or pubertal maturation.
What has been done in high schools to correct this problem in wrestling? In 1989, the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association looked to curtail this problem by enacting rule changes and implementing a nutrition education program (Oppliger, Harms, et. al). The project was instituted over a three-year period, consisting of a pilot testing year, a voluntary participation year in which the program was fine-tuned, and then the mandatory implementation in the third year. Training clinics were used to prepare a pool of about 200 certified testers. Using skinfold body fat measurements and scale weights, a minimum weight class for each wrestler was determined. It was required that testing be completed prior to the wrestler’s first competition. Wrestlers were also restricted to a maximum weight loss of three pounds per week.
The nutrition education program focused on three main points: the basics of nutrition, the relationship of nutrition to performance, and the appropriate measures for weight control. The education program is still voluntary, but over 60% of the schools conducted a program in 1993. The success of the project has been overwhelmingly positive. Coaches, who were originally against it, are now 95% in favor of it. More than 75% of the wrestlers questioned were also in favor of it. Preliminary evidence shows that the frequency of weight cutting episodes, amount of weight cycled weekly, total weight lost, and longest fast prior to weigh-in have all decreased since the program's implementation.
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