The following is what to bring to tournaments so that the wrestler has good fuel for the matches throughout the day.
After Weigh-ins: As soon as the wrestlers step off the scale, they should immediately rehydrate their bodies with water, Gatorade, Power Aid, Pedialite, etc. We don't want wrestlers not eating for days to make weight - not healthy and not good for performance. If a wrestler needs to cut a few pounds to make weight, it should be done through cutting calories and exercising to lose water weight on that last night or few hours before weigh-ins. So they need to be rehydrated immediately after they weigh-in.
First meal after weigh-ins: The varsity team DOES NOT go out for breakfast after weigh-ins, whereas the jv team usually does. I'm going to write a varsity wrestlers meal plan here, that a jv wrestler should follow as well. After the wrestler gets some fluids back in their body, they should concentrate on eating carbohydrate type foods that are light and digest easily. Things usually eaten are bagels, fruits, yogurts. Don't use cream cheese on the bagels, things like honey or jam are much better. Remember, they are going to be warming up and drilling within an hour of eating, and then wrestling two hours after weigh-ins potentially, they need to get food (fuel) without needing a tremendous amount of time to digest the food. Any food in their stomachs while wrestling, takes blood away from the muscles in order to go to the stomach to help digestion.
During the tournament: In the early part of any tournament, the wrestler will usually wrestle about once every 2 - 3 hours (probably closer to 3). No one wants to eat right after hard exercise, so after a match the wrestler should rehydrate - once again, water/Gatorade type fluids. You don't want to wait too long here, but as soon as the wrestler has cooled off, they should get what I call a handful of food to continue to give fuel for their body to compete. So a single piece of fruit, a bagel, a Powerbar, Cliff Bar, etc. is great food here. Water still being the main thing. They should be eating less than they did at breakfast, but a meal similar to breakfast. Even pasta salads would be a nice food and something different, just not too much. After lunch the wrestlers matches will probably come in shorter time increments, so most of the emphasis should be on fluids and start to eat smaller bits of food so that they have time to digest it. Whereas early in the day you want to eat some food, even if their not hungry; later in the day you don't want to eat unless you are really hungry. If you have a nervous type of wrestler who tends to get an upset stomach when eating while nervous, there is nothing wrong with liquid energy drinks. NOT Rockstar caffinated drinks, but specialized carbohydrate drinks or even powders you add to water. There are even some carbohydrate goo type products (like triathletes use) that can be squeezed into their mouths. You have to buy goo (actually GU) at running stores like Fleet Feet. Stay away from sugary drinks. The emphasis should be on water and carbohydrates, as well as easy digestion.
In Season Nutrition
The following are suggestions of how a wrestler should be eating throughout the season. The emphasis in not on losing weight. The emphasis is on losing excess body fat while maintaining body muscle. We want our wrestlers lean, strong and at their most competitive weight.
Lets make no mistake here, not eating is not an option. Wrestling is not nearly important enough to put your health at risk. Their bodies are still growing and maturing. A lack of nutrition is going to interrupt this process, it's not worth it.
What we'd like all wrestlers to do is to abandon the junk food, and eat healthy. Healthy food puts good energy in the body, good nutrition in the body, and leaves out empty calories that serve no purpose other than excess body fat. A lean, fit, healthy body is what we all should have, and wrestlers are no exception. Wrestling workouts are very hard and use up a tremendous amount of calories and energy. If a wrestler simply ate healthy and worked out hard, they would lean up without losing muscle; and be in a weight class that they can compete at their highest level in. Don't think of wrestling as a time where my child doesn't eat and widdles away to nothing, use it as an opportunity to preach good nutrition and build healthy habits for a lifetime. Use it as a time where the whole family can eat healthier and make positive changes. They say once you've done something for "X" amount of time, you've now developed a habit. Well you've got a four month season, plenty of time to develop good nutritional habits.
We all know basically what is healthy and what is not healthy. We all have different likes and dislikes when it comes to food. I don't want to waste time naming specific foods to eat or not eat - you already know. What I'd like to suggest are some common sense eating rules, I like to call it "eating smart"
Eat 5 or 6 small meals throughout the day, rather than one or two big meals. Simply eating this way will raise the metabolism somewhat and burn calories without even trying. Obviously the hard wrestling workout will raise their metabolisms as well, and of course being a teenager - eat donuts and still not gain an ounce!
Eat single portions or cut back portions. Even desserts, have one scoop of ice cream instead of two, or a smaller slice of cake. Little things add up.
Don't eat within a couple hours of going to sleep. You're done using food as energy for the day, the food serves no purpose. Food is energy and you're not moving anymore today.
I always suggest that people eat a "handful" of food every 2 - 3 hours. Clearly the more healthy that handful, the better for the body. If you eat every 2 - 3 hours, you're never particularly hungry when you do eat, and your stomach doesn't need much food to feel content. Wrestlers should eat a sensible breakfast, a snack at the 10 minute break at school, a light lunch, another light snack before practice or right after, then a sensible dinner. That's five meals, and you could still have that sixth handful of food as a later snack (not too close to bed).
Eat carbohydrate type foods early in the day, and protein type foods later in the day. Carbohydrates are the first source of energy for the body, you'll use it for the days needs. Proteins help build and repair muscles that have been taxed throughout the day. You're body is most efficient with proteins at the end of the day or in sleep mode - when your body is resting and recovering.
Eat your biggest meals in the morning and smallest meals in the evening. Big meals in the morning as energy for the day. Small meals in the evening when your body doesn't need the energy from food. This goes against the "handful of food" idea, but it's another way to eat smart.
Simply following these rules, along with wrestlings tough workouts, your wrestler will get lean without losing muscle. Your wrestler will lose excess body fat and find out naturally what their most competitive weight class is. Your wrestler will develop good eating habits. You as a parent will not have to worry about the health of your child. They're eating and their athletic performance is going up.
Below are some low calorie meals you can use as ideas for planning your wrestlers (or the whole family) nutritional needs, while getting strong and lean. Taking one breakfast, one lunch, and one dinner, you should be at about 2,000 calories per day.
Breakfasts #1 Blender Drink of 1 banana, 1 cup of 2% milk, and 1 tablespoon of peanut butter. A slice of toast with a teaspoon of jam - total calories: 400
Breakfast #2 Grapefruit juice (6oz.), 1 cup of unsweetened cereal, 1 banana, 1 cup of milk, 1 slice of toast with 1 teaspoon of butter and 1 teaspoon of jam - total calories: 525
Breakfast #3: Apple juice (6oz.), 1 cup oatmeal, 1 tablespoon raisins, 1 cup 2% milk, 1 slice of toast w/margarine - total calories: 490.
Lunch #1: Hamburger on a bun, 1 tablespoon catsup, french fries, 1 cup 2% milk, 2 oatmeal raisen cookies - total calories: 760
Lunch #2: Chicken Salad Sandwich with 1 tablespoon low calorie dressing, 1 cup 2% milk, 1 apple - total calories: 490
Lunch #3: Turkey sandwich w/ lettuce, tomato and 1 tablespoon of low calorie mayonaise, and 1 cup 2% milk - total calories: 400
Dinner #1: Roast Pork (3oz), baked potato, 1 stalk broccoli, 2 teaspoons margarine, 1 slice bread, sliced peaches (1 cup), 1 cup 2% milk - total calories: 730
Dinner #2: Chili (2 cups), 12 saltine crackers, 1 cup 2% milk, carrot and celery sticks - total calories: 890
Dinner #3: Broiled turkey breast (3oz), wild rice pilaf (1 cup), spinach salad w/ 1 tablespoon dressing, 1 slice of angel food cake with 2 tablespoons of chocolate syrup, 1 cup 2% milk - total calories: 795
Fast Food: Fast food restaurants have handouts with nutritional information if you ask for them. Go ahead and eat there, just try to keep you dinner within the 700 - 900 calorie range your other dinners are at; or 400 - 600 calorie range of the other lunches above, etc.
Cutting / Losing Weight
When it comes down to actually losing weight for a competition, clearly it is about cutting calories and exercising. Practice itself should be enough exercise, but (when homework is done) the wrestler can add to that with a run (distance, not sprints).
**There is NO MANDATORY DIETING on this team. Dieting is a personal and family choice, not the coach's. Wrestlers may wrestle any weight class they want to and can win on the team.
One common myth is that the wrestler should "sweat off" weight. The truth of the matter is that they can try to lose some water weight in the final hours before weigh-ins. If the weigh-in is more than 24 hours away, sweating is a waste of time because they will simply put that weight right back on as soon as they drink something. It's the burning of calories through exercise that cuts the weight, not the sweating. If I go for a run I will burn calories and sweat. When I drink water after running I will put back on the sweat lost (which is good), but water has no calories. So I will have lost weight through the burning of calories. An athlete can run farther in a t-shirt and shorts, rather than a bunch of sweats; because they will not dehydrate as quickly. The farther they run, the more calories they will have burned.
So you have wrestler that needs to lose some weight, here's what to do:
Work together as a family and plan out their meals. Agree on some foods that they're willing to eat that are nutritious and will reduce their calorie intake. Give them some backpack food; food they can eat during break that's lower in calories than the high fat food cart foods served by the school. Remember, wrestling may be the toughest sport there is. No teammates, just an opponent who wants to take my head off. Practices are tough. There are no plays off and no hiding, they will battle for two hours. If it's not challenging and fun, they'll quit. So work with your "teenager" in terms of the food. Let them have some of their junk; work on cutting calories, not on overhauling how they eat. If you make it miserable for them, the sport may not be worth it.
Now that you've agreed on some foods to eat that'll reduce calories, encourage them to go for a run at night; maybe even go with them and get your own workout in (family bonding). The running will get them in even better shape, and burn more calories. Try and create a routine - Mondays and Wednesdays we go for our run. This would be less burdensome than nagging them to go run. They just know that dad/mom and I go run on these two nights.
Lastly, remember that "as with adults", we're not looking at losing 8 pounds in a week. This should be a process of gradual weight loss. A gradual process is less painful and easier to maintain for a season or a lifetime. If weight needs to be lost in a shorter amount of time, do the things we've just talked about, then add activities in that final block of hours before weigh-ins that promote sweating and water loss. Dehydrating the body for a few hours before weigh-ins to lose the last couple pounds is not going to damage their young bodies. They should just be ready to rehydrate immediately after weigh-ins.