The high school wrestler will face many issues connected to their sport. The constant pressure to weigh in at a certain level can lead to deteriorated health. Maintaining a healthy weight while wrestling competitively is extremely important. Most teenage boys will not be able to achieve this on their own. Coach, parent and peer support should factor in to create a healthy balanced athlete.
Wrestlers are known for rapid weight change. Obsessing over weight seems relegated to the female spectrum of most high schools, which is why wrestlers are overlooked. Their eating disorders are not as obvious, but bulimia and anorexia appear among high school wrestlers as well. Crash-diets and starvation are all too common among teenage wrestlers.
Unfortunately, dietary abuse is perpetuated within the wrestling community. New wrestlers will go to peers before they go to their coach to learn about losing weight. An example of crash dieting for a wrestler involves little to no food and only water for weeks on end. That is coupled with extreme exercise and other extreme weight loss methods like sweat saunas.
A healthy diet for the high school wrestler should involve balanced meals of lean protein, complex carbs, low-fat foods and antioxidants. Lean protein can be found in lean meats like chicken breast and white meat turkey or nuts and beans. Complex carbs supply the right kind of sugar to help the body run smoothly. They digest slowly, thus fueling the body longer than simple carbs (sugar). Complex carbs come in whole grains, brown rice and lentils. Low-fat foods supply non-saturated fats to the body. Egg whites and tuna are both low in fat and help support healthy muscles. Antioxidants protect the body against infection. Many fruits, vegetables and spices are packed with these antioxidants, including healthy food options such as berries, oranges, plums, ginger and oregano.
Maintaining a healthy exercise regime is extremely important for an athlete. Wrestlers will try to keep a goal weight or lose weight; exercise is a wonderful option for striving to achieve both goals. A balance between cardiovascular, strength and flexibility training helps wrestlers reach their goals in a healthy manner. Stretching before and after a workout will prevent hyperextension and soothe the body’s muscles while they heal.
A six-minute match between wrestlers is a breeding ground for bacteria. Most teen wrestling floor mats are not cleaned properly, and, sometimes, neither are the wrestlers who use them. Showering and washing wrestling gear may sound like no brainers to an adult, but teenagers may not value cleanliness. Personal hygiene is the body’s best defense against illness in high school wrestlers.
The bottom line is that high school wrestlers need the support of parents, coaches and peers for top performance on the mat. If you are a parent of a wrestler, provide nutritious meals and snacks while keeping an eye on your son or daughter’s eating habits. Do not promote wrestling above health. Coaches should worry if teen boys or girls drop weight quickly or appear sick in any way. Teenage peers should also be on the lookout while adults are not around. Open caring communication can help a struggling wrestler realize the issues at hand. If it continues, alert an adult. A community of caring parents, alert coaches and supportive peers will foster healthy top performance wrestlers.