Rapid weight loss in the days prior to wrestling matches does not affect the strength of wrestlers but may cause them to experience mental confusion, says a new study.
Researchers at California State University studied the effects of rapid weight loss on the physical and psychological status of 16 collegiate wrestlers.
Risto H.J. Marttinen and his colleagues monitored the daily level of the weight, mood and strength of the athlete subjects during a 10-day period prior to wrestling matches.
During the study, the participants were allowed to "self-select" their desired amount of weight loss and the methods for lowering weight such as exercise, calorie restriction, and fluid deprivation.
The data showed that the wrestlers reduced their weights up to eight percent in nearly two days ahead of a match while they had a whole 10-day time, researchers wrote in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.The average weight loss was about six pounds (2.7 kilograms).
According to the findings, those athletes that lost the most body mass or four percent or more, experienced significantly higher levels of confusion on the day of the match, while other psychological factors and physical strength remained unchanged.
However, those wrestlers that reduced their body mass by less than four percent showed no increase in confusion level.
"In a sport which requires split-second decision making, a higher state of confusion and tension can detrimentally affect the wrestler's performance," wrote the researchers.
Although the study is not a large scale one, the scientists suggest that athletes and their coaches follow a more gradual schedule for losing weight before matches to avoid lower alertness during competitions.