Jan 25, 2019
Making Weight: A mean plan for wrestlers
By Leslie Bonci

In the sport of wrestling, one of the greatest challenges is making weight without compromising performance. Wrestlers have always focused on reducing calories to remain in the lowest weight class possible. But they now also realize that having a calorie deficit can limit their ability to train or perform at their best.

wrestling actionMy recommendations for a wrestler trying to lose or maintain weight during preseason workouts include:

  • Getting adequate protein
  • Eating more fiber focusing on more fruits and vegetables
  • Consuming many small meals throughout the day.

Their meal plan also needs to include a variety of foods so they can get a full spectrum of nutrients. And I would suggest foods that require chewing and utensils so they don’t overeat without realizing it.

As a starting point, getting adequate protein can help the body to utilize calories more efficiently and add to the fill factor. I would recommend at least 0.6g of protein per pound of body weight. For example, a 140-pound wrestler would require 89 grams of protein per day. That might include a 6-ounce piece of chicken, fish, or lean meat (42 grams of protein); two 8-ounce glasses of skim milk (16 grams of protein); two scrambled eggs (14 grams); and a sandwich with three slices of turkey (21 grams of protein). Wrestlers can take in up to 0.8 grams of protein per pound per day if needed.

Fiber adds “chew” to meals, takes longer to eat, and requires more calories to break it down than other types of carbohydrate-containing foods. So I would include fruits, vegetables, cereal with bran, oatmeal, brown rice, barley and beans on their menu.

I also think it is important to aim for five small meals during the day, to ward off hunger between meals. It is possible to keep the calorie count down by filling one-third of the plate with protein, one-half with fruits or vegetables, and the remainder with a whole grain item such as brown rice or a small baked potato. Limiting the amount of fat in salad dressing, mayonnaise, or oil will also help.

Breakfast is key, and I stress that it must be eaten within the first hour of waking to help rev the metabolism from the beginning of the day. Eating a meal soon after getting up — and adding some fat such as nuts, peanut butter, or a little butter — will limit hunger throughout the day.

A good place to decrease calories is through beverages. I would rather the calories come from food than drinks, so I include unsweetened or sugar-free products or a tomato or vegetable juice in addition to water.

Meal plan: wrestler


  • Oatmeal (1/2 cup made with 4 ounces skim milk, cinnamon, 1 tablespoon. each of raisins and nuts, 1 tablespoon of maple syrup).
  • One orange.
  • One hard boiled egg.


  • Turkey wrap (3 ounces smoked turkey breast, tomato, cucumber, lettuce, thinly spread hummus in a whole wheat tortilla).
  • 2 cups vegetable soup.

Pre-practice snack:

  • 100 calorie yogurt and a 1 cup of strawberries or melon.

Post-practice snack:

  • 8 ounces skim chocolate milk and a small banana or apple.


  • Stir-fry (6 ounces lean beef and 2 cups of mixed vegetables sautéed in 1 tablespoon oil, garlic, ginger).
  • 1/2 cup cooked brown rice.
  • Soy sauce.

Evening snack:

  • Sugar-free gelatin with fruit added or 100 calorie bag of microwave popcorn.

Leslie Bonci, RD, MPH, CSSD, LDN, is the owner of Active Eating Advice by Leslie, a nutrition consulting company based in Pittsburgh. She is also the sports dietitian for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, Kansas City Chiefs, Carnegie Mellon University and the Toronto Blue Jays, and the author of Sport Nutrition for Coaches.

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