Wrestling with Nutrition and Learning
Chris Golden, Midde School Learning Specialist

This winter I have the pleasure of coaching my son’s high school wrestling team. They are a wonderful group of people who work hard, support one another and make me immensely proud of their determination and dedication.

For those not aware, wrestling is a sport where the participants compete in weight categories. As a result, many wrestlers can become obsessed with their weight and will forego eating and drinking to “stay on weight.” Having wrestled in high school and college, I can attest to this obsession and have seen more than one of my fellow wrestlers develop some very unhealthy eating and hydration habits. As a coach, I have tried hard to break this pattern of thought and behavior. My message to athletes has always been, “food is fuel” and the better the fuel, the better your learning of wrestling techniques will be and the better your body will perform. It is a message that I try to drive home daily with my athletes and I hope that I am making some headway in that regard.

All of this has gotten me thinking about the role nutrition plays in our kids’ learning in the classroom too. A quick internet search about the “importance of nutrition in student learning” yielded a heap of scholarly work on the role of nutrition on student achievement in the classroom. For example, studies have concluded that eating a healthy breakfast is linked to improved mental function, (especially memory), lowered absenteeism and enhanced mood. Other studies found that sufficient hydration may improve intellectual function in children and adolescents, which is critical for learning.

This may seem like a gigantic “duh” for most people and it’s not that I really needed online validation for what I already thought and knew. What it did do for me, however, is provide more concrete evidence  when I urge my students, and wrestlers, to forego the chips and candy in favor of fruit, vegetables and lean meats and to make sure to bring a full water bottle to school each day. Consistent messaging from parents, coaches and peers will make these principles into habits, so please do your part!

Thanks for reading!


  1. Taras HL. Nutrition and student performance at school. Journal of School Health. 2005;75:199–213.
  2. Rampersaud GC, Pereira MA, Girard BL, et al. Breakfast habits, nutritional status, body weight, and academic performance in children and adolescents. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2005;105:743–760.
  3. Hoyland A, Dye L, Lawton CL. A systematic review of the effect of breakfast on the cognitive performance of children and adolescents. Nutrition Research Reviews. 2009;22:220–243.
  4. Popkin BM, D’Anci KE, Rosenberg IH. Water, hydration, and health. Nutrition Reviews. 2010;68(8):439–458.
  5. Kempton MJ, Ettinger U, Foster R, et al. Dehydration affects brain structure and function in healthy adolescents. Human Brain Mapping. 2011;32:71–79.
  6. Edmonds CJ, Jeffes B. Does having a drink help you think? 6 to 7-year-old children show improvements in cognitive performance from baseline to test after having a drink of water. Appetite. 2009;53:469–472.
  7. Edmonds CJ, Burford D. Should children drink more water? The effects of drinking water on cognition in children. Appetite. 2009;52:776–779.
  8. Benton D, Burgess N. The effect of the consumption of water on the memory and attention of children. Appetite. 2009;53:143–146.