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Due to concerns about weight control, some wrestlers choose to skip meals or excessively restrict their daily food intake. Those practices can be detrimental to their health, as well as academic and athletic performance. In order to maintain the high energy levels needed for their intense workouts, wrestlers need to eat a healthy, balanced diet on a daily basis. If wrestlers make food choices that are high in carbohydrate, low in fat, with moderate amounts of protein, they will be able to eat a healthy, balanced diet without the need to be overly concerned about weight.

Carbohydrates can be in the form of “complex” carbohydrates or “simple” carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates are found in breads, grains, and cereals. Simple carbohydrates come from foods containing refined sugar such as pop and candy, and from foods containing natural sugars such as fruit. Getting sugar from natural sources, such as fruit, is preferable to candy and pop because it will satisfy one’s sweet tooth while providing the body with nutrients and fluid at the same time. Energy from carbohydrates is converted into glucose. Glucose provides immediate, shortterm energy. Unused glucose is converted into glycogen and stored in the muscles or liver, or converted to fat and stored as fat tissue. A variety of high carbohydrate foods must be eaten every day to ensure one is getting a variety nutrients necessary for peak performance.

Wrestlers should understand it is impossible and undesirable to eliminate all fat from one’s diet. While excessive fat is unneeded and contributes greatly to weight gain or the difficulty in losing weight, fat is needed for many of the body’s processes which are essential to athletes. Fat content in foods can occur because of naturally occurring fat or fat that is added. By eliminating excess fat, but not eliminating all foods containing fat, a wrestler can maintain or lose weight while still being healthy.

The following practical ideas for high carbohydrate, low-fat, moderate protein foods are provided to assist wrestlers, their parents and coaches in choosing appropriate foods.


Drink at least one 6-ounce glass of your favorite juice

Drink at least one 8-ounce glass of water

Bagel, English muffin, or whole-wheat toast spread with peanut butter and topped with a sliced banana, or jam

Bowl of cold or hot cereal with low-fat milk, topped with fresh fruit

English muffin, or whole-wheat toast spread with jam

French toast, pancakes, or waffles topped with low-fat yogurt, applesauce, syrup, or jam

Fresh or canned fruit

Homemade milkshakes made with low-fat milk, low-fat yogurt, and fruit

Leftover vegetable pizza

Poached egg

Stir cold breakfast cereal into low-fat yogurt


Drink at least one 8-ounce glass of water

Drink at least one 8-ounce glass of low-fat milk

Whole-wheat or pita bread with turkey, chicken, lean roast beef, or lean ham, and Swiss cheese, and vegetables. (Tomatoes, green peppers, lettuce, cucumbers, onions, and sprouts are all great!)

Tuna or chicken salad sandwich with low-fat mayonnaise.

Baked potato topped with low-fat sour cream, mozzarella cheese, salsa, or skim milk Vegetable pizza

English muffin topped with pizza sauce and melted cheese

Chicken noodle soup

Fresh fruit

Graham crackers

Vanilla wafer

Pudding made with low-fat milk

Low-fat yogurt

Always include at least one serving of vegetables and fruit with lunch


Drink at least one, 8-ounce glass of water

Drink at least one, 8-ounce glass of low-fat milk

Baked potato with low-fat topping

Baked turkey, white meat without skin

Bread, muffins, or rolls

Broiled chicken, white meat without skin

Brown or white rice

Cooked vegetables


Instant pudding made with low-fat milk

Lean beef or pork

Oriental stir fries with rice

Pasta with tomato sauce or low-fat meat sauce

Tortillas with low-fat refried beans and salsa

Tuna-noodle casserole made with water packed tuna


Drink at least 1 8-ounce glass of water with your snack.

Air popped popcorn Low-fat yogurt
Animal crackers Low-fat pudding cups
Bagels Low-fat fruit bars
Baked snack crackers and cheese Oatmeal cookies
Blueberry muffins Peanut butter and jelly sandwich
Chicken or turkey sandwich with low-fat mayonnaise Pretzels
Fresh fruit Pudding pops
Fruit Newtons String cheese
Fruit bread Vanilla wafers
Fruit bars Vegetables and dip

Ice milk or frozen yogurt


Meats: The following meats are low in fat and have approximately 120-150 calories, per 3 ounce serving.


Lean roast beef

Lean ham

Lean ground beef – (Rinse ground beef to reduce the fat content)

Skinless, white chicken

Skinless, white turkey

Water-packed tuna

When cooking meat, it should be broiled, baked, or grilled to keep the fat content to a minimum. Choosing leaner cuts of meat will help in keeping the fat content low.

Breads: The following breads have approximately 50-100 calories per serving.

1 biscuit 5 saltine cracker squares
1 slice bread 1-6″ corn tortilla
½ English muffin 1-4″ pancake
½ hamburger or hot dog bun 1-4″ waffle

1 dinner roll

Adding butter, mayonnaise, or margarine greatly increases the calorie content. Honey, jam, or low-fat peanut butter are a better choice.

Calorie content of various spreads:

Butter (hard) – 34 calories per teaspoon Margarine – 34 calories per teaspoon
Butter (whipped) – 27 calories per teaspoon Mayonnaise – 33 calories per teaspoon
Catsup – 10 calories per teaspoon Mustard – 4 calories per teaspoon
Honey – 21 calories per teaspoon Peanut butter – 31 calories per teaspoon

Jelly/jam – 17 calories per teaspoon

Fruits and vegetables vary greatly in calories, but they are all low in calories compared to most other foods. They are also fat free, with the exception of avocados, unless they are topped with margarine, butter, or high calorie dressings. They are very high in nutrients.


Baked potato with low-fat toppings

Bean or chicken burrito

Cheese or vegetable pizza

Chicken sandwich, with low-fat mayonnaise, barbecue sauce, or honey mustard Chili

Roast beef sandwich

Side salad with low-fat dressing

Skim Milk

(Refer to the fast food handout for additional ideas.)


Animal crackers Low-fat chocolate milk
Fruit Low-fat bean burrito
Fruit bars (ie. Fig bars) Nutri Grain bars
Granola bar ( not chocolate covered) Pretzels
Juice boxes String cheese
Low-fat yogurt V-8 juice



Wrestlers may not often think about pre-competition meals because of early morning weigh-ins. After they have “made weight,” they often eat anything that is available and worry about the consequences later! By following these guidelines and those in “EATING HEALTHY EVERY DAY” wrestlers will find it easier to fuel their performance and control their weight.

Here are some basic guidelines for eating before competition.

Avoid foods high in salt as they cause water to leave the muscles where it is needed it to aid performance.

Drink at least two, 8-ounce glasses of water with your meal.

Eat 3 – 4 hours before competing.

Eat familiar foods that will not cause indigestion.

Eat foods that are high in carbohydrate and low in fat and protein. Keep the pre-competition meal small.

Food ideas for after weigh-in:

Drink at least one 8-ounce glass of water

Bagels, English muffins, or toast topped with peanut butter and jelly or fruit

Cold or hot cereal with low-fat milk

Fresh fruit

Fruit juice

Low-fat yogurt

Pancakes topped with fruit

Waffles topped with fruit & low-fat whipped topping

Ideas for pre-competition meals:

Drink at least one 8-ounce glass of water

Baked potato topped with salsa or other low-fat topping

Bread, muffins, rolls topped with honey, jam or other low-fat topping

Broiled fish

Cooked vegetables

Fresh or canned fruit

Fruit juice, unsweetened

Lettuce salad with low-fat dressing

Low-fat milk

Pasta without meat sauce

Rice, white or brown

Skinless, white chicken or turkey

Any breakfast ideas are also excellent choices for pre-game.



It normally takes your body 24 – 72 hours (1-3 days) to convert complex carbohydrates into useable forms of energy. Eating a high carbohydrate meal 15-30 minutes after exercise, and definitely within 1 hour after exercise, can reduce the amount of time needed to convert carbohydrates into useable glycogen to as little as 12 hours (½ day).

Foods and drinks to consider as post-competition, or post-practice, snacks are:


Fresh fruit

Fruit juices


Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches

Sports drinks

Carnation Instant Breakfast

If an athlete chooses to drink only fluids immediately after exercise, a high carbohydrate sports drink, may be the best choice. These drinks are not high protein “weight gainers,” but high carbohydrate supplements.   A high carbohydrate meal should be consumed within two hours of competition.

Following competition, avoid foods high in fat and sodium as both will cause weight gain over the next few days due to water retention.



During all-day tournaments it is important to stay energized throughout the entire day without feeling “weighted down.” That necessitates athletes “grazing” throughout the day by eating, and drinking, small amounts frequently. It is extremely important for athletes to drink an adequate amount of fluids during a tournament. Energy and fluid needs can be met by drinking juices and sports drinks. Energy needs can also be met by eating easily digested foods that are also high in complex carbohydrates.

Time period between events: Best foods to eat:
1 hour, or less Water or sports drinks containing no more than 70 calories per 8 ounce serving.
1 – 2 hours Water, sports drinks, unsweetened

fruit juices, vegetable juice, fruit such as apples, oranges, watermelon, or grapes.

2 – 3 hours Water, sports drinks, unsweetened

fruit juices, vegetable juice, fruit such as apples, oranges, watermelon, or grapes,       bagel,             whole-wheat bread with jam, muffin.

3 – 4 hours Water, sports drinks, unsweetened

fruit juices, vegetable juice, fruit such as apples, oranges, watermelon, or grapes, bagel, whole-wheat bread with jam, muffin, bread with peanut butter or cheese, bowl of cereal with skim milk, low fat yogurt.

4 hours, or more Any of the above, or lean meat

sandwich, or pre-competition meal.


Examples of foods to eat at a tournament include:

Animal crackers

Bagels with jam



Fresh fruit

Fruit bread

Fruit bars (ie. Fig Newtons)

Graham crackers


Low-fat fruit bars Low-fat yogurt.

Low-fat pudding cups


Oatmeal cookies

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches


Popcorn, air-popped

Sports drinks

String cheese

Turkey sandwiches with low-fat mayonnaise