Why Do Wrestlers Cut Weight For Competitions?

Why do wrestlers cut weight?

Cutting weight is common among amateur wrestlers; they spend months bulking up and packing on as much strength and muscles as possible, only to cut the weight shortly before matches. This sudden significant weight loss raises questions on why wrestlers cut weight in the first place. Let’s find out!

Wrestlers cut weight to qualify for matches in a lower weight class with as much muscular energy as possible. They believe doing so increases their chances of competitive success against naturally smaller opponents. Others cut weight because they view it as a norm in the wrestling world.

This article outlines everything you need to know concerning weight loss among wrestlers. We’ll also look at the unhealthy and healthy weight loss tips for this group of athletes.

Reasons Wrestlers Cut Weight

Wrestlers Cut Weight For Competitive Reasons

Generally, grouping wrestlers for a competition is done based on their weight class. The idea behind the weight class groupings is to allow wrestlers to compete at their level best by exposing them to competitors of a similar size.

While weight grouping aims at creating equal wrestling opportunities, some wrestlers use it to their advantage.

They intentionally lose excess weight to qualify for lower weight classes while still maintaining their muscular strength. So, don’t be surprised if you come across a heavily built wrestler who weighs less than you may think.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association NCAA typically permits wrestlers to lose up to 1.5 percent of their body weight per week. However, many of these athletes don’t abide by the NCAA’s rule and instead lose extra weight through Rapid Weight Loss Programmes (RWL).

As a result of the rapid weight loss, these wrestlers manage to qualify for lower weight classes. There, their muscular size at a lower body weight offers them a competitive advantage over their opponents.

And while you can’t measure general success based on one variable (weight), a heavily built (in terms of muscles and strength) wrestler’s ticket into a lower weight class gives them a competitive edge against their opponents. Here, they have a high chance of winning.

However, it’s important to note that competitive success comes about when they use healthy and gradual weight loss methods that don’t interfere with their strength. Conversely, unhealthy weight-cutting methods might just leave a wrestler drained and weak.

Some Wrestlers Because Of Tradition 

Besides competitive success, many wrestlers believe that cutting weight has been in the wrestling world for a long time, so they feel inclined to follow suit. Given that their predecessors in the industry engaged in weight loss before matches, present-day amateur wrestlers see the need to follow their steps.

Everyone in the industry is doing it, and has been doing it, so why shouldn’t I join them? This is what goes through some wrestler’s minds when cutting weight.

Why Wrestlers Use Risky Methods To Cut Weight 

You might wonder why wrestlers would take the risk of dangerous weight-cutting methods. While amateur wrestlers can do anything to qualify for a lower weight class grouping, some resort to unhealthy weight loss methods, adversely affecting their health.

Many of them cut weight through dehydration, extreme calorie restriction, wearing plastic suits, fasting, and overexercising. When they use these methods, the result isn’t just weight loss; they also lose strength and muscle.

A wrestler who worked hard to achieve competitive success by cutting weight might end up hurting their chances of winning at a tournament. That said, many wrestlers will try just about anything if they think it will give them a competitive advantage. That said, it is simply not worth the risks. 

So, the unhealthy weight loss methods that wrestlers should avoid include:


Although some people swear by fasting as an effective way of losing weight, it has its share of negative side effects. Fasting for too long leaves the body feeling weak and sickly. In fact, some wrestlers may feel overly weak during the match, which affects their performance.

Dehydration To Cut Weight For Wrestling 

Dehydration is an effective way of cutting weight by reducing the water or fluid content in the body. Generally, a sudden decrease in the body’s fluid content causes a decline in strength, mental alertness, and general body endurance.

If dehydrated wrestlers engage in heavy exercises, they may experience muscle cramps, dizziness, or — in extreme cases — swelling of the brain, which can cause seizures. Dehydration is easily noticeable by checking the color of the urine. Clear urine shows that one is well hydrated, while dark urine (yellowish or similar to apple juice) is a sign of dehydration.

Unhealthy Weight Loss Products

Plastic, sauna, and garbage suits help to trigger water loss by increasing the sweating rate when exercising. As a result, they can cause dehydration and heatstroke because they can overheat the body very quickly.

Weight loss pills and laxatives facilitate rapid weight loss but cause negative long-term health issues such as liver problems.

Extreme Calorie Restriction

While reducing calorie intakes goes along with the weight loss journey, taking cutting extreme an extreme amount of calories to cut weight for wrestling might be a bad idea. Sure you will lose weight but you might also drain all of your energy.

Greatly reducing your carbs for example can cause your body to drop a lot of water and electrolytes. Of course, many people have great success losing weight by dropping carbs but this can cause trouble if you don’t know what you are doing. 

Eliminating Protein From Your Diet

One thing you never want to do when cutting weight for wrestling is to skip out on protein. If you limit your protein intake and are on a calorie-restricted diet, your body will have limited fuel to keep it functioning and maintain its strength. If you drastically cut your calories and protein your body will have no choice but to use your hard-earned muscle for fuel and nutrition. 

This deficiency results in the body changing from a positive nitrogen balance to a negative balance, making it hard for the body to preserve its muscle mass. In addition, this change in nitrogen balance causes the body to cannibalize its existing muscles to access proteins.

In other words, this means that the body ends up ‘eating’ its existing muscles. This means there will be a loss in muscle mass, contrary to what a wrestler looks for when weight-cutting.


Working out with an already-tired body may cause more harm than good, even though the number on the scale is dropping. The wrestler may hurt themselves, weaken their muscles, or reduce their performance during the match.

Healthier Weight-Cutting Tips for Wrestlers

Let’s now look at some ways wrestlers can cut weight without greatly affecting their strength. That said, it is hard to drop body weight without losing any strength whatsoever. 

By making weight-cutting a gradual process, wrestlers can manage to lose their desired weight healthily. Ideally, any wrestler who wants to cut weight should start thinking about it before the beginning of the season.

Gradual measures should then be taken between the offseason and the weigh-ins and match seasons. A healthy weight-cutting program allows athletes to lose 1-2 pounds a week until they achieve their desired weight goal while still maintaining their muscle mass and strength.

Cutting weight is fine for athletes, but it becomes dangerous when done rapidly in an unhealthy way. So, here are a few healthy weight-cutting tips that preserve muscle strength:

Drink Plenty of Water

Withholding water and other liquids intentionally to lose water weight before weigh-ins are common among wrestlers. However, this practice may leave them with severe muscle cramps, dizziness, fatigue, and mental impairment.

Therefore, for health reasons, wrestlers should strive to stay hydrated. They should drink at least two liters of water daily. Actually, water plays a role in healthy weight-cutting because it acts as an appetite suppressant and helps removes waste from the body.

Wrestlers Should Lose Weight With A Balanced Diet 

Extreme fasting and cutting macronutrients like protein help wrestlers lose weight but in an unhealthy way. These approaches deprive the body of vital nutrients needed to keep it running, causing general muscle weakness, fatigue, and loss of concentration and endurance.

A healthy way to cut weight through the diet is going for a balanced diet — eating right. This involves controlling the intake of each nutrient. 

Tips on how wrestlers can maintain a balanced diet include:

  • Reduce calories to lose .5-1 percent of your body weight per week
  • Get 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight each day
  • Eats lots of fruits and vegetables
  • Increase water intake
  • Avoid excessive junk food

Say a wrestler combines a balanced diet with proper training and other weight management tips. In that case, they can cut weight healthily and safely without interfering with their muscle mass — they’ll achieve what they’re precisely looking for.

Set Realistic Goals

As a wrestler, you shouldn’t be too hard on yourself. This means you should set realistic goals that are achievable within the available time frame. Don’t aim to compete in a weight class significantly below your natural weight because cutting too much weight can overwhelm you.

And since wrestling has a wide range of weight classes, consider the one you’re most comfortable in; it should be slightly below your natural weight. With a realistic and achievable goal, you’ll be in a better position to handle your weight-cutting journey in a healthy manner.

Don’t Overwork Yourself

Generally, wrestlers are always out there training or working out to keep their bodies fit for the upcoming match. You may sometimes feel the need to add a few more workout sessions to your standard schedule, which is okay, but you should know your limits.

It’s important to always listen to your body. Whenever you feel weak, nauseous, or dizzy, consider taking a break — your body needs to rest. Overtraining increases the risk of harm or injury to your body.

Say No to Extreme Weight Cutting Strategies 

Forget the stories you’ve heard of wrestlers cutting weight through extreme tactics such as using sauna suits, starving, over-exercising, and taking weight loss pills. These stories are sometimes far-fetched.

These strategies are also unhealthy and can end up causing severe harm to a wrestler. In addition, some of them, such as using laxatives and weight loss pills, cause long-term health effects like kidney, heart, and liver problems.

Get Enough Sleep

Here’s another healthy weight-cutting tip that most wrestlers often overlook: getting enough sleep every single night. About 6-8 hours of sleep a night are ideal for athletes. 

Adequate sleep reduces stress, fatigue and suppresses hunger.

Wrestlers Should Drop Weight Slowly Or At Least Moderatly 

Never let your weight build up until the last week leading to the tournament or match. If this happens, you end up resorting to unhealthy weight-loss strategies to help cut weight rapidly within a short time.

In other words, ensure you start your weight-cutting journey at the onset of the season to give your body enough time to adjust to the changes.

Also, be sure to check your weight progress constantly. Weight monitoring gives you an idea of how much weight you’ve cut, giving you room to make necessary changes if need be

When cutting weight is done gradually, it yields the desired results without compromising one’s health.

FAQs Regarding Weight-Cutting Among Wrestlers

Is It Unhealthy for Wrestlers To Cut Weight?

It’s okay for wrestlers to engage in weight-cutting. However, it becomes unhealthy when done in rapid and unhealthy ways, such as dehydration, overexercising, cutting out calories and proteins, etc. Generally, gradual weight-cutting is healthy for wrestlers.

I would say, however, that if you are constantly cutting weight for high school wrestling it might affect your muscular potential. After all, at this age, you are in your prime for growing muscle. If you constantly reduce your calories you will not put on as much muscle as possible. Perhaps it is still worth it for you but it is something you should at least consider. 

What Food Should Wrestlers Eat When Cutting Weight?

This group of athletes should limit their intake of fatty fried foods and excessive sugars. Instead, they’re better off eating lots of nutrient-dense foods, such as vegetables, whole grains, fruits, and lean proteins. In addition, it’s best to couple a clean diet with an increased water intake.

Why Wrestlers Cut Weight 

Cutting weight before matches is common in the wrestling world. Most wrestlers cut weight to fit into lower weight classes, while others do it because they feel it’s a tradition in the industry. Wrestlers want to be as strong as possible while staying as lean as they can

And while cutting weight is good for these athletes, it’s best to do it healthily. For example, take the weight-cutting process slow, stay hydrated, go for a well-balanced diet, and avoid overexercising.

With the right measures, wrestlers can lose weight to their desired point while maintaining their muscle mass and strength.

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