Losing Water Weight Is A Bad Idea: Rethinking Weight Loss

Updated: Oct 8, 2018



There are sports that demand low body mass for optimal performance, like running, boxing, and gymnastics, etc.  Wrestling is probably where it matters the most, pound for pound.  

More often than not, wrestlers find themselves shedding the majority of their pounds a few hours before competing.  Well you don't need a genius to say that: "they shouldn't."

Athletes who want to excel in wrestling should focus on a healthy weight loss regime rather than going for quick and unhealthy weight loss tricks, like wearing five layers and working out right next to the heater.

“Water is not extra weight.  Your body stores the water in a delicate balance.  If you disrupt this balance, you will decrease your ability to exercise at your best. Using diuretics, rubber suits, saunas, whirlpools, or steam rooms to dehydrate yourself is dangerous” - Nancy Clark

First of all, weight loss should only be made by those athletes who are above their healthy weight.  A 180lb wrestler at 6'6" shouldn't drop down to wrestle at 165. (Check your BMI). If an athlete is already at their healthy weight, then they should not shed more pounds as it can affect their performance. Of course one may have other reasons, like an opening in the lineup, but this wrestler will still be jeopardizing his ability to perform at 100%.  

If you can lose weight, a healthy weight has you losing a maximum 2-3 pounds per week.  Anything faster is because of water loss or the loss of muscle tissue (which is extremely important for an athlete to give maximum performance). More than 2 or 3 pounds a week is “unhealthy weight loss.”

When it comes to losing weight, there are plenty of options to do it quickly. However, not every method can be the most optimal for the body. Every quick and extreme weight loss trick has a steep price to pay in the form of weakness, fatigue, tiredness, loss of focus, sickness, and much more. And all of us know that a wrestler cannot afford any of the mentioned outcomes when he is on the mat. Such side effects cannot help him win a match.  As much as we have to be tough in wrestling, we also have to be smart and know where to sacrifice and win battles.  

Hydration is not a battle that you want to lose.


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Effects of Losing Water Weight:

Drastic changes are always dangerous. Severe and extreme weight cutting methods like dehydration are also very hazardous for health. An athlete can lose about 15-20 pounds in a week by losing water weight. It sounds great to lose that weight so quickly, but do you know the consequences of losing water weight? What dehydration does to your body? Here are some brief insights into this serious matter.

Energy and Strength Loss:

Dehydration backfires.  A seasoned wrestler knows that all too well.

When you severely cut off calories, carbohydrates, and proteins in trying to lose weight faster, you lose muscle and strength.  Cutting water makes this worse; water helps distribute the little energy, that you are getting while cutting, to your body.  Without water and food, your body's functionality is going to be heavily handicapped.  All that working out that wrestlers do to increase power and speed will yield very little results if they don't stay hydrated.

If you are a college or high school wrestler, you should know that lean muscle is what you need for strength and stamina to excel in your weight class. The more lean muscle mass you have compared to fat and other weight, the more powerful you are in your class.  The most fit wrestlers are around a healthy 7-9% BMI (Body Mass Index).

Good luck on getting there without any water to resupply your muscle tissues. 

With this kind of "rethinking", it's difficult to want to shed pounds so fast anymore.  Do not go for weight loss methods that result in strength loss.  Get the energy you need to keep up your strength and energy. Toughness is always encouraged in wrestling, but safety and health is more important.


Remember that water helps transport the nutrients needed to recover and grow your muscles.

Severe Health problems in the long term:

Dehydration shouldn't be the first tool we use to lose weight in wrestling, but we've all seen it... working out in heavy cloths (garbage bags) to sweat excessively.  As a result, dehydration severely effects mental alertness, strength, and endurance.  You may say, "well it's only for this match tonight," but what about the long-term negative effects on their kidneys and heart?

Dehydration is extremely dangerous for healthy kidneys and the heart. This makes wrestlers vulnerable to many negative long-term health issues including dizziness, exhaustion, low energy, heatstroke, and frequent cramps as well. Dehydration reduces blood flow to muscle tissues which may cause long lasting reduced muscle strength and irregularity in body temperature.  This is especially critical for high school and college wrestlers, whose bodies are still developing.

Losing water weight over time can also result psychological problems.

Your brain is 75% water after all.

It's that serious.

Laziness, lack of focus, mood shifts, and loss of performance are all motivated by a dehydrated body.  The lack of clear thinking can also contribute to depression.  So when you question why some rules exist... now you know why.

Unfit To Compete:

Safe wrestling in a weight class demands you to be mentally and physically fit.  It also demands that you follow some regulations.

We all know the rules against specific water weight loss methods, but why do some of us choose not to follow?  Sometimes even coaches contribute to cheating the regulations set to promote health.

In most areas, if a wrestler is found using a garbage bag to lose weight in by an official, he will get disqualified from competing.  The fact that we still see this happening today is almost shameful.  You also all know the "pee” tests, (or hydration tests) established in most school districts, which you must pass to wrestle.  Then you must all know the wrestlers who put a little water in their cup.  

Sportsmanship and honor counts both on and off the mat. It is also the responsibility of every wrestling coach at school or college to keep track of proper weight loss of wrestlers on a weekly basis. If your coach is failing to do so, then you should strive even harder to educate yourself about your weight and hydration.


Physically, mentally, and ethically- if you use sauna suits, laxatives, or any other outlawed methods, you are simply unfit to wrestle.

Ask yourself, do you want to be unfit to compete?

Importance of Water for Wrestlers:

Hydration in wrestling is of utmost importance. Water increases the metabolism rate, proper bowel functions, and promotes good digestion. It even makes you feel full, thus helping you cut weight in a healthy way. During practice, matches, and workouts, you end up losing a lot of energy, water, and stamina anyways. This energy loss can be recovered by drinking plenty of water afterward. If you want to stick to a healthy weight loss program, then water is your best friend.  If you want to be a champion, then water is your best friend.  If you want to be a great living organism in general, then water is truly your best friend.

Drink one glass of water before a meal. This helps you feel fuller so you will eat less. Focus on proper training with balanced nutrition rather than quick and unhealthy weight loss tricks.

How to Lose Weight without Losing Nutrients:

Do not lose weight at the cost of hurting yourself. Talk to your wrestling coach for an effective weight loss plan. He/she will help you determine how much to calories burn per day according to your body mass, size, and workout time. You should emphasize on losing weight by beneficial methods like HIIT (high intensity interval training) cardio for your stamina and weightlifting for your strength.

Try drinking a gallon a day.  If you keep your diet on track by eating the same amount of calories everyday, then you shouldn't see much of a weight increase.  If you do, cut a few calories, not a few cups of water.  Something that most bodybuilders practice is filling a plastic gallon every morning and carrying it with them wherever they go.  By the end of the day, it should be empty.

Remember from our last articles to sleep properly, eat frequently to promote a healthier weight loss, avoiding junk food and alcohol, and balancing your macronutrients.  Healthy weight loss makes a wrestler stronger, more aggressive, and more competitive. On top of that, he becomes a role model for champions to come.  

See our article on healthy sleeping habits

See our article on having a healthy diet

See our article on being flexible

I hope this information has helped you begin your journey to become a better wrestler, athlete, and person for taking care of your body.  If you want to more help like this, please be sure to subscribe to the blog to not miss out on the next content to help you #DefyDefeat

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