Wrestling with Weight

Wrestling with Weight

Although the wrestling season ended a couple of months ago the effects of it are still lingering, on the biological level, for some. One thing that the sport of wrestling is infamous for is making its athletes cut weight by any means necessary. This can be harmful to the body on both a physical and a cellular level. Throughout this post the effects of wrestling on the body will be analyzed and explained.

When a wrestler begins the season, most of the time they are too heavy for their designated weight class which then requires them to lose 5-10% of their body weight in a matter of weeks. This sudden weight loss has many negative effects on the body. There are three key components to cutting weight which include dieting, dehydration, and extreme exercising. I say dieting but what I really mean is starving themselves. Starving has many negative side effects on the body and in extreme cases, can result in death. After eating a meal the body goes to work breaking down glycogen in order to make glucose which is our primary source of energy. If the body goes too long without the intake of more food it resorts to breaking down stored fatty acids to get its energy. But that is only effective for the body as a whole, not for the brain which must remain on glucose, needing about 120g of it per day having too little is what causes headaches when you haven’t eaten. But once the reserves are used the brain has a “backup plan” because fatty acids are too large and can’t cross the blood-brain barrier. This backup plan involves the use of Ketone bodies which are short chains of fatty acids that are able to cross the blood-brain, once this happens the brain’s need for glucose drops from 120g to only 30g. After about 72 hours the body begins to break down its very own proteins which then releases the amino acids into the bloodstream and is then carried to the liver where it is converted to glucose. At this point the body has reached a point where it is basically eating its own muscle, all the while it is losing a massive amount of weight. Another technique that is often used by wrestlers is that of dehydrating their bodies by means of cutting their water intake and either working out in a sweat suit or sitting in a sauna. They do this because they know that approximately 60% of their body is made of water meaning that some of their weight must come from it. But what they don’t know is what’s happening on a cellular level. When they begin whatever method of dehydration they have chosen it begins with the sweating out of extracellular fluid which in turn causes the water filled red blood cells to shrink and lose their water in order to replace the lost extracellular fluid in an attempt to maintain homeostasis. The effect of this is a decrease in the creation of energy because less water is flowing through the cell membranes which also decrease the metabolic breakdown of ATP making them feel sluggish. Then the sodium concentration outside the cell increases causing a fatigue of skeletal muscle. The final method used by a wrestler to cut weight is that of over exercising. Everyone knows that when trying to lose weight a good place to start is with a good exercise routine but they take it too far by pushing themselves to extremes. Once the athlete has used up all of their stored energy by working out, their muscles begin to atrophy and wither away. Too often do wrestlers combine all three methods of weight cutting leaving their body in terrible physical and biological condition. If they do indeed get to the point of utilizing all three it will take months for the body to fully recover and rebuild all of its reserve energy, which is why the reputation of wrestling as a safe high school sport is declining. However, overall not many people resort to these methods but instead stick to a healthy diet and safe workout regimen to get them down to weight but in a healthy manner, before the season starts.

About Mr. Mohn

Biology Teacher

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