What Should a Wrestler Eat Before a Match?

Wrestlers are put under a lot of pressure to perform at their best, while still making weight. Teenagers should focus mainly on fueling properly to have energy to perform their best. This makes pre-match meals and snacks of the utmost importance!

Immediately before a match wrestlers should focus on simple carbohydrates such as fruit and sports drinks. Meals the morning of and the night before should contain good sources of complex carbohydrates, but should be balanced with adequate protein and fat as well. What a wrestler should eat depends on how much time there is before their match.

Read on for more information about what wrestlers should eat leading up to a match and tips for making weight.

What Should a Wrestler Eat the Night Before a Match?

The night before a match, wrestlers should get a balanced meal of protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Your meal should be satisfying and delicious! If you need another snack before going to bed, choose one that is a bit higher in protein but still has some carbohydrates to keep you fueled for the next day.

A good way to plan your dinners the night before a match is to pick a protein, a starch, and a vegetable. Loading up on vegetables at dinner will also help keep your bowels regulated and give your body added nutrients to aid in recovery after your match.

Remember that eating regularly is important for athletes, and especially for wrestlers. Try to eat something every few hours throughout the day. There should be no need to eat a huge meal the night before a match if you are fueling properly throughout the day and week! 

Be careful of high sodium foods the night before and morning of a match. High sodium content can cause water retention, and might make your weight appear higher than it actually is when you have to weigh in before the competition. Fast food and frozen meals tend to be higher in sodium, so it might be wise to avoid those when possible.

What Should a Wrestler Eat Right Before a Match?

Right before a match, wrestlers should focus mostly on carbohydrates. Remember that carbohydrates are what give your body energy! Including some protein is likely also helpful as it will aid in muscle recovery. However, meals high in protein can sometimes cause gastric distress, and slow digestion, so a little bit of liquid protein might be a good thing to try!

You likely don’t want to eat a huge meal right before you weigh-in and compete, but you should still be eating regularly throughout the day. This starts with a balanced breakfast! Then, eat regular meals and snacks throughout the day, followed by a high carbohydrate snack right before your match for improved performance. 

Definitely DO NOT skip meals to make weight. It will do more harm than good and ultimately impact your performance. 

Do some experimentation to figure out what foods make you feel the best and give you energy before a match. It will be a little bit different for everyone, so find out what works best for your body! 

Start experimenting with pre-match eating before the day of your match! There is nothing worse than not being used to a new fueling routine and having bloating, cramps, or uncomfort during the match. Yikes!

What Should a Wrestler Eat After a Match?

Athletes should be sure to eat after they exercise. Even if their practice or match is later in the evening after dinner, wrestlers should still have something to eat!

Since it usually takes a little bit of time to get home, cook, and eat a meal, I usually recommend that wrestlers have a snack within an hour of exercise and then consume a meal within a couple hours. Maybe that means bringing food with them to eat on the way home from a match.

The ideal post-exercise snack includes both carbohydrates and protein. Carbohydrates will help replenish the energy stores you just burned through, and protein will help with muscle recovery.

If you have multiple matches or practices in a day, fueling in between will be essential! When matches are really close together, try and at least get a high-carb snack in between to replenish energy stores and prepare you for the next match. If you have more than an hour and a half between matches or workouts, you can include protein as well!

Healthy Tips for Wrestlers

Since there is a lot of pressure for them to make weight, wrestlers often find ways (usually unhealthy) of quickly decreasing their weight like skipping meals, using saunas, spitting, exercising in heavy clothes, and more. It is important that wrestlers understand that these behaviors can be harmful, not only to their performance, but also to their health!

Here are some general tips for wrestlers that will both improve performance and keep their bodies healthy and strong.

  1. Avoid large weight fluctuations. There will be normal fluctuations with water weight, especially after intense practices and competitions, but water intake should increase afterwards to make up for losses.
  1. Stay hydrated! You should be drinking regularly throughout the day rather than huge amounts at the same time. One of the best ways to know if you are hydrated is to look at the color of your urine! A pale yellow is a sign that you are well hydrated, while darker urine usually means you are dehydrated and urine that is almost clear likely means you are overhydrated.
  1. Focus more on performance and less on weight. Intentional weight loss is usually not recommended for teenagers. Teenagers are at an important phase of growth and development, so they should be eating enough to sustain that. When you eat to perform your best, your body will naturally settle into a weight that is appropriate for you.
  1. I can’t say it enough- DO NOT SKIP MEALS. Skipping meals puts your body into what I like to call “freak out mode,” which really isn’t healthy and can have major negative impacts on performance. 
  1. Get enough sleep. Sleep is often an underrated part of sports performance, but it is essential for maximum energy levels and recovery. 
  1. Keep food and snacks available throughout the day. It is challenging for teenage athletes to eat regularly if there isn’t food available! There are a lot of easy grab-and-go options in stores.
  1. Practice mindful eating. Remove distractions while you eat and really focus on how the food tastes and how it makes you feel! Listening to your body will also help you settle into a weight that is appropriate for you.
  1. Find ways of managing stress. Being an athlete can be both physically and emotionally taxing. Talk therapy and meditation are a couple ways that athletes can deal with stress and emotions.

What Foods are Good for Wrestlers?

A healthy eating pattern for wrestlers is one that includes a variety of foods from all of the food groups. Fun foods and treats that you enjoy can also be part of a healthy diet. 

Grains Aim to make half of your grains whole grains for added nutrients and fiber!

  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Bread
  • Tortillas
  • Crackers
  • Pretzels

Protein Look for both plant and animal forms of protein that are low in saturated fat. 

  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Low-fat Milk and soy milk
  • Greek Yogurt
  • Eggs
  • Tofu
  • Edamame
  • Cheese

Dairy You will notice a lot of dairy foods are also good sources of protein! 3 cups of dairy is recommended for teenagers a day to also support bone health.

  • Low-fat Milk
  • Cheese
  • Yogurt

Fruits and Vegetables Great sources of fiber, as well as important vitamins and minerals. Try to get lots of variety and lots of colors! Fresh fruits and vegetables, fruits canned in light syrup, canned vegetables with low sodium, and frozen fruits and vegetables can all be healthy options.

  • Starch vegetables include potatoes, corn, and peas. These can be used similarly to a grain when planning meals.
  • Other vegetables include carrots, celery, leafy greens, green beans, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, tomatoes, etc.
  • Fruits include berries, cantaloupe, pineapple, apples, bananas, kiwi, watermelon, oranges, pears, peaches, etc.

Healthy Fats/Oils Trans fats (hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils) should be avoided as much as possible. Athletes should reduce their intake of saturated fats and increase their intake of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

  • Olive oil
  • Nuts
  • Nut butters
  • Seeds
  • Avocado

What Can Wrestlers Eat When Cutting Weight?

This seems to be a popular question for wrestlers who might benefit from wrestling in a lower weight class. Remember that teenagers are in a really important phase of growth and development, meaning that weight loss could be harmful to them.

Most people attempt to cut weight by restricting calories or cutting out certain foods or food groups. This is especially dangerous for teenagers when they are in this period of development because it often leads to missing out on important nutrients. Restricting foods or calories could lead to malnutrition, stunted growth, and other issues.

If you are still wanting to cut weight, it should not be a focus during the season. You should be training and competing in-season at a pretty stable weight. Work with a dietitian to establish healthy eating habits that support a healthy weight. 

Body fat percentage should not drop below 7% for teenage boys and should not be below 12% for teenage girls. Trying to drop weight to get below these percentages is very unsafe for teenage wrestlers.

Pre-Match Snack Ideas

The closer you get to your match, the more you will want to focus on carbohydrates! If you struggle to eat before you exercise, try a liquid carbohydrate. Liquids are often a little bit easier on the stomach. Here are a few high-carb snacks to give you a boost of energy before you wrestle.

  • Applesauce
  • Fruit
  • Dried fruit
  • Fruit smoothie
  • Crackers
  • Pretzels
  • Fruit snacks
  • Fruit leather
  • Sports drink

Post-Match Snack Ideas

Post-match snacks should include both protein and carbohydrates. Here are a few examples.

  • Greek yogurt with granola and berries
  • Crackers with hummus, cheese
  • Chocolate milk
  • Protein drink and a bagel (check with your doctor before using protein supplements)
  • Peanut butter or ham and cheese sandwich
  • Fruit, nuts, and cheese
  • Protein drink and Gatorade
  • Protein bar and dried fruit


Teenage athletes are under a lot of pressure to perform at their best and win matches! They don’t need the added pressure of getting their body to a certain weight. If they focus on eating healthy, and timing their intake of carbohydrates, protein, and fat to match their exercise, they will not only perform better, but they will also settle into a weight that is best for them.

Teenage athletes should consider working with a sports dietitian to help them make a plan that works specifically for them and meets all of their individual needs. Eating properly, hydration, and getting enough rest can really make a huge difference for an athlete that wants to perform at their best!


LeBarron A. Sports nutrition for teens/Smart food choices for teen athletes/MPSSAA recommended wrestling hydration goals for certification/Best nutrition for high school female wrestlers/High school wrestling match day nutrition goals/Proper nutrition before & after high school wrestling match or practice. mpssaa.org. Published/Updated 2015-2016.

Katherine Harmer, RDN

I'm a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with a love for coaching others to success in their health goals, especially teenage athletes. Tennis was my sport of choice in high school. Now I'm a little bit older, a little bit smarter, and a little bit worse at tennis.

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