UB wrestlers explain the dangers of unnatural, sudden weight loss
For some, it’s hitting the sauna with several layers of clothing on or wearing a plastic suit and running.
For others, it’s not eating at all –drinking only water for days on end.
All with the goal to sweat out excess weight.
It’s called cutting weight, or “crashing,” in the wrestling world. The time varies within a couple weeks to a month, but it’s the process for a wrestler to lose weight in effort to get down to their allotted wrestling weight. It’s a process that can be done correctly and has been completed by several amateurs.
Still, wrestlers as young as high school attempt to crash in order to make weight – by any means necessary. Buffalo sophomore wrestler Colt Cotten believes it’s the notorious pre-conceived notion that gives crashing a bad name.
“The issue is that guys tend to crash diet before a meet or an event,” Cotten said, “and that’s where people run into trouble and it messes them up, both in performance and in their bodies. It’s not hard to slim down and get your weight down if you do it right. It creates a negative stigma.”
With less than a month before a big event, some wrestlers could be slightly overweight, even by just a few pounds. For some wrestlers, it’s maintaining or lowering their caloric intake while increasing their exercise. For the more uninformed, it’s a process where wrestlers go to extremes in order to drop the extra pounds.
“People tend to think that it’s cutting weight and cutting food out of your system in effort to lose weight, but it’s the opposite,” said head coach John Stutzman. “It’s the recognition of eating the proteins, knowing when to eat your fruits and vegetables. In high school, you don’t have that luxury. Here, we try to teach our athletes about healthy lifestyle choices.”
Both Cotten and sophomore wrestler Sean Peacock saw some of the additional measures to reach their wrestling weight before an event. As some wrestlers, with weeks before an event, go to the furthest extremes to lose enough weight for their upcoming event.
“I’ve seen people starve themselves,” Peacock said. “Going days with barely any food or water and just running, trying to get everything out of their systems so they can compete.”
While Peacock saw some of his teammates people starve themselves in effort to lose weight, Cotten saw others take it to even further extremes.
“Guys would take water pills and laxatives and daily trips to the sauna,” Cotten said. “Big sauna suits; guys where rubber suits and just run all day, barely eating. Some guys would eat and just try to puke everything up.”
Stutzman said that he, along with his staff, tries to avoid that for his team. In some cases, it’s because the athlete has yet to stop growing and could naturally move into other weight classes.
With the help of an athletic trainer, the team is put through tests such as a hydration test, caliber test and testing of the body fat in efforts to avoid unnatural weight loss. As a former wrestler, Stutzman understands the method of crashing in efforts to lose weight. But like Cotten, Stutzman believes there is a method to losing weight in a healthy manner.
“A lot of people think it’s just starving yourself, but it’s not,” Stutzman said. “You have to first drink water and stay hydrated, and then the little things. Not going out and eating at four in the morning, grabbing that slice of pizza or going to the hot dog stand. Being in bed, getting a healthy amount of sleep and eating correctly is the right way to do it.”
For Cotten, the process started with trial and error. As a high school student, he tried to crash the same way others would but eating close to nothing and then going to run 10 miles a day.
He dehydrated himself to cut and lose weight. It helped him in losing weight, but it affected his body the day after the event. He said it took much longer to recover than if he was nourished enough for the competition.
After years of trial and error, Cotten finally found an ideal way to begin the weight loss process.
“It’s a longer process for me,” Cotten said. “I start out about a month or two ahead and work at it. It’s usually a process of eating less and running more. Getting the same supplements and nutrients without getting sick or tired. Generally, eating cleaner and drinking water, combined with the exercise, works best.”
While Cotten worked through different methods in high school, Peacock had a support system to help him understand the correct way to slim down before an event.
After making the mistake of not eating and attempting to exercise to sweat everything out of him in high school, it was his father and coach that set him straight on the “do’s and don’ts” of crashing.
“I made the mistakes, trying the ‘not eating’ thing,” Peacock said. “[My father] told me that I have to eat and that I needed to continue to do what I was doing, but I needed to eat. Then, my coach led me to some of the alternatives to the things I ate and pretty much went from there.”
Understanding the correct ways to lose weight for events, both Cotten and Peacock have found different, yet effective ways to cutting weight, neither involving starving themselves, saunas, or wearing sweat suits. The combination of healthy food choices, lots of water and increased exercised have helped them in gaining their result.
For Stutzman, it’s continuing to work with his team and continuing to preach that message in order to avoid players from crashing.
“It’s a process, getting players to understand what’s right from wrong,” Stutzman said. “Still, I have experience, we have an excellent staff working with them and part of it is on their part to eat the right things. They can’t be downtown eating hot dogs and pizza at 4 a.m. It’s a good balance of food, sleep and water that allows them to be in peak condition.”