Thanksgiving is one of the year’s most important and widely celebrated holidays in the United States, featuring family, football, and most importantly, food.
Thanksgiving food is important in so many ways. It serves as a way to exemplify the culinary expertise of food-savvy family members, allows us to inject and intertwine various cultural and family traditions, and creates an incredible bond over delicious foodstuffs that we look forward to all year. Even those who are conscious of their nutrition and dietary intake year-round still participate in Thanksgiving because the overwhelming joy presented by eating the day’s food is so important, and in the grand scheme of things for most people, it won’t affect them much at all.
However, there is one group of people who, sadly, do have to be concerned about the Thanksgiving feast, and that group is wrestlers.
Wrestlers in high school, college, and the international stage compete in specific weight classes and must weigh in at or below their specified weight class. To give themselves an advantage and wrestle other competitors who are technically smaller than them, wrestlers will practice something called “cutting weight,” in which they will manipulate their water and food levels to retain the least amount of weight possible and temporarily lose weight quickly, which they will put back on through proper food and rehydration after weigh-ins the day of the match or tournament. It is a controversial practice that the wrestling community has tried to make changes to through hydration and body fat tests, both of which are supposed to ensure that wrestlers aren’t cutting unhealthy amounts of weight. However, despite these measures, many wrestlers still cut a lot of weight each season and thus have to pay attention to their nutrition and hydration to ensure they’re on point.
For most people during Thanksgiving, including dieters, and other nutritionally conscious individuals, they know one large indulgent feast with their family isn’t going to be detrimental to their progress; however, for wrestlers, one day could make or break their weight-cutting efforts.
Wrestlers are trying to do everything they can to limit “extra” weight from meals by reducing sodium and being smart about carbohydrates, water, and overall food volume. These things are all great at making you” gain” temporary water weight. Most people don’t have to concern themselves with the various weight fluctuations and specific numbers involved in their weight, but wrestlers do.
It seems the Thanksgiving feast is the antithesis of the wrestler, with all of its components seemingly being hell-bent on making you hold the most temporary weight possible. The traditional thanksgiving meal is abundant in carbohydrate and sodium-rich foods, both of which hold water in the body. Normally this isn’t an issue, but when consumed in the quantities usually enjoyed during Thanksgiving, can cause major unplanned fluctuations. Also, the sheer amount of food eaten can simply cause you to retain temporary weight due to the sheer volume of food consumed. All of these compounds cause you to retain a lot of temporary weight.
For most people, this isn’t an issue because they haven’t been doing any preventative measures to keep their weight as low as possible, but for wrestlers, who may have been cutting weight all week, are in a state where their bodies will want to hold onto all of this sodium, water, and food mass, causing a supercompensation of weight that is more extreme compared to the general populace.
Many wrestlers have tournaments or matches on the Saturday or Sunday following Thanksgiving, and a poorly thought out feast can result in you being over your weight class since the matches come up so quickly after Thanksgiving.
The matches being so close to Thanksgiving makes it a two-fold problem for wrestlers. On one hand, wrestlers may have to miss out on enjoying the full extent of their family meal, possibly offending or upsetting other family members. However, if a wrestler who is cutting and has a weigh-in coming up soon fully participates in the feast, they risk not making their desired weight class for the tournament, or even worse, having to compensate by unhealthily cutting large amounts of weight in a few days, a practice that is very dangerous and has even resulted in some wrestlers dying from the extreme dehydration.
This doesn’t mean that wrestlers can’t participate in the day’s festivities. They can still participate in the other facets of the holiday, such as cooking, family thanks, and football. Wrestlers should let their family know that they are cutting weight, so Grandma isn’t offended when you don’t go back for thirds of mashed potatoes. Wrestlers can still enjoy some of the wonderful food on Thanksgiving, but they should be smart about their consumption in order to prevent weight class conflicts or drastic and unhealthy compensatory weight cuts.