PlaySafe AT Home: Nutrition in Wrestlers and Track Athletes

An issue that I have noticed working with high school-age athletes is nutrition. The idea that student-athletes should be eating well and properly hydrating is not an unknown concept. The majority of athletes know that they need to eat a well-balanced meal and drink plenty of fluids to compete at their highest level but do not understand the importance of sufficient caloric intake, the timing of certain types of meals, and nutritional needs specifically for their body.

Two sports that come to mind when it comes to improper eating habits are wrestling and track. Based on personal observation, wrestling athletes sometimes will not eat hours or even days before a match trying to “make weight.” I’ve had these athletes come up to me bragging about their last meal being over 12 hours prior to leaving for the wrestling match. Also, I have seen athletes who have not eaten for hours make weight and then eat their body weight in snacks from the snack table. This type of binge eating creates unhealthy eating habits for these athletes and gives them an overwhelming sense of satiety. This habit also often leads to poor performance during their match and increases the chance of vomiting during a match. According to Cotugna et al, high carb meals should be consumed 3-4 hours before the athlete’s competition (Cotugna et al, 2005).

Next, I have had conversations with track athletes that think eating less will help them perform better. The idea of carb-loading has started dying and athletes don’t understand their bodies perform better when healthy meals are a priority. An article by Cotugna et al states that “energy-providing nutrients include carbohydrates, protein, and fat” (Cotugna et al, 2005). Athletes should consume around 50% carbs, 10-15% protein, and 20-25% fat of total calories (Cotugna et al, 2005).

Last, hydration is very important for athletes in all sports. If an athlete has a high rate of water loss during exercise due to sweating, then they should replenish at a faster rate than they are sweating to help keep their core body temperature under control (Cotugna et al, 2005). Cotugna et al suggests that athletes should be drinking a minimum of 10-12 cups of water every day. Specifically, 12-20oz of fluid 2-3 hours before exercise, 6-12oz of fluid every 15 minutes during exercise and 16-24oz after exercise for every pound lost.

Nutrition and hydration for high school-age athletes are important for their performance. This also is beneficial to their growth and development. Sports nutrition is specific to the athlete and type of sport they are participating in; to gain insight on how to properly take care of the specific needs, the athlete and/or coaches should contact their athletic trainer for more information.


Cotugna, N., Vickery, C. E., & McBee, S. (2005). Sports nutrition for young athletes. The Journal of School Nursing, 21(6), 323-8.

Blog information by: Breana Warren ATC, - TL Hanna HS