Heading into the gym, throwing on a padded helmet and practicing are not the only things Paly wrestlers take part in. A substantial part of the sport that often goes unnoticed is dieting.
“I actually ate just a banana or an egg every day for two to three weeks to get my weight down,” said sophomore Peter Graham.
This minimal diet, though very different to one of a regular student, is not new to student wrestlers during competition season at Paly. Graham and many other members of the team constantly try to lose weight to put themselves in the lowest possible weight class, which gives them an advantage over a smaller opponent.
“I weigh 122 pounds, but I wrestled some people who weighed 108 pounds,” Graham said. “I lost weight so I could be the highest weight in my class.”
Junior Aidan Gans also dieted throughout the season.
“In days before tournaments I won’t eat anything to keep my weight down. I will eat a lot less during the wrestling season too and try to consume healthy foods, not desserts or anything sweet or fatty.”
Dieting is not the only method that wrestlers on the team use to lose weight.
“To help lose weight during practice we would just put on more layers in order to sweat more and help cut weight,” said junior Hamza Muzaffar.
The intensity of the diet increases more as weigh-in day comes closer.
“Days before tournaments you also have to be careful what you drink, so I might not drink all day and then sauna or workout in sweatpants to sweat more,” Gans said. “I don’t do it to that much of an extreme, but in college and more competitive stages of wrestling they will cut like 25 pounds just from sweating.”
Although dieting can give you an edge over opponents, it can also affect your energy level.
According to WebMD, individuals who participate in rapid weight loss are often subjected to headaches, dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, fatigue and sometimes malnutrition. In addition, when partaking in a strict diet while engaging in a high intensity sport like wrestling at the same time, these side effects are more likely to occur.
“Wrestling on an egg or a banana for two to three weeks means you have an extremely low energy reserve,” Graham said. “Dieting issues just makes you very tired, since my BMI (Body Mass Index) was in the low 15s at that point.”
Losing weight in wrestling is also extremely difficult due to the fact that you are consistently gaining muscle throughout the season, which adds weight.
“Losing weight is hard because of the culture of the sport. It makes you bigger when you wrestle, which makes you gain six to eight pounds.”
Some members of the team like sophomores Zoe Maiele and Al Lee, do not have as much trouble with dieting.
“The truth is weight cutting doesn’t have to be difficult,” Maiele said. “It’s completely up to you to know when to start watching your weight and when to relax as a wrestler.”
Additionally, Maiele feels that dieting is not always as intense as people believe.
“A lot of people feel like wrestling is unhealthy because we always seem to be exhausting ourselves trying to lose weight, but that is because people are used to thinking about water weight cutting,” Maiele said. “We do that on the last day, or right before we have to weigh in.”