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Souderton Youth Wrestling

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Oct, 2014

Dehydration the enemy of wrestling

The quickest way to lose weight is through dehydration. In spite of rules designed to prevent unsafe weight cutting, many wrestlers still use dehydration to lose weight. The problem with this approach is that dehydration hurts performance and prevents wrestlers from winning.

Here's why. Muscle performance depends on blood volume. Having a high blood volume enables your heart to rapidly deliver oxygen and fuel to your muscles. Exercise training causes blood volume to increase, enabling you to work harder, longer. But when you get dehydrated your blood volume decreases and those benefits are lost.

When wrestlers dehydrate themselves they severely compromise the ability of their body to deliver oxygen and nutrients to their muscles. As a result, your muscles can't work as hard, or as long. One study found that the number of leg extensions subjects could complete was reduced by 15% when they started off in a dehydrated state versus a fully hydrated state.

If your normal body weight is 150 pounds and you lose three pounds by dehydrating yourself, you have reduced your body weight by 2%, and that's enough to hurt your wrestling performance. You will feel the effects most in the latter stages of a match. This situation is intensified in a tournament environment when you are wrestling multiple matches in a day.

To ensure you're fully hydrated when you compete, drink 24 to 32 ounces of fluid between your weigh-in and your match. It is best to drink this amount in two steps. Consume about half immediately after your weigh-in and the other half 30-40 minutes later. This will allow all of the fluid to be absorbed and you will go into your match primed for optimal performance.

Although many people believe that water is the best fluid for rehydration, that's not the case. Sports drinks containing carbohydrate and electrolyte minerals (mainly sodium) actually hydrate better than water. Both the carbohydrate and the electrolytes in a sports drink improve fluid absorption and retention compared to plain water. The carbohydrate in sports drinks also provides energy so you can wrestle harder and longer without fatigue.

Most sports drinks are pretty much the same. Recently, however, a new type of sports drink that contains a small amount of protein was introduced. A study recently published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism showed that a protein-containing sports drink (Accelerade) improved rehydration 15% when compared to a conventional sports drink (Gatorade) and 40% when compared to water. Previous studies have shown that Accelerade, which contains carbohydrate and protein in an ideal 4:1 ratio, increases endurance, reduces muscle damage and speeds muscle recovery so you can come back stronger the next day or in the next match.

The bottom line is that preventing dehydration is critical to optimal wrestling performance. Using a protein-containing sports drink such as Accelerade will not only help you hydrate better than other sports drinks but will also provide a quick source of energy when you wrestle and enable you to recover faster afterward.

Dr. Robert Portman, an eminent nutritionist and exercise physiologist, is author of "The Performance Zone" (Basic Health Publishing) and "Nutrient Timing" (Basic Health Publishing).

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