Ryan Lingor '03

The Effects of Weight Loss Practices on Body Composition in College Wrestlers


Purpose: Many competitive wrestlers “cut weight” in order to compete in a weight class lower than their current body weight. Rapid weight loss may lead to undesirable changes in body composition, and the methods used to lose weight may additionally hinder performance. The purpose of this study was to determine the methods used to meet certification weight for wrestling and to quantify the changes in lean muscle mass throughout one season in Division III college wrestlers.

Design: Nine wrestlers from the SJU wrestling team volunteered to be subjects in this study. Body composition was analyzed by hydrodensitometry (UWW) and multi-frequency bioelectrical impedance (MF-BIA) prior to and throughout the competitive season. Hydration status was measured by urine osmolality (Uosm) and caloric intake was measured for two one-week periods preceding a Saturday competition, once at the beginning and again at the end of the season. Subjects’ weights were recorded prior to practice every day throughout the season.

Results: Subjects fat-free mass (FFM) increased an average of 1.77 Kg by UWW (0.33 Kg by MF-BIA) while fat mass (FM) decreased 2.17 Kg by UWW (0.87 Kg by MF-BIA) from the beginning to the end of the season. This change occurred while estimated energy expenditure was an average of 3716 Cals, even though actual caloric intake throughout the two week periods averaged 2000 and 2400 Cals. Friday before the first competition, when wrestlers were more than 1 Kg from competition weight, Uosm averaged 986 mOsm, which correlates to > 3% loss in body weight due to dehydration. Average weight loss per cycle for those that competed was 3.43 Kg (7.6lb) per week.

Conclusion: Weight cycling and cutting weight did not adversely affect body composition. The majority of wrestlers cut weight by reducing calories and restricting fluids. Average caloric intake appears to be approximately 1000 calories lower than their estimated caloric expenditure. Uosm on Friday indicates approximately 3% loss of body mass by dehydration. It is estimated that in order to make weight on Saturday this would increase to 5%. While they did not lose FFM due to weight cycling, it appears that in order to achieve wrestling weight, they become significantly dehydrated.

Faculty Mentor: Amy Olson, PhD, RD