How many of us out there train hard, but still feel sluggish or lose energy quickly? Are you practicing regularly but aren’t seeing the physical results you would like? You may need to take a look at the way you’re eating.
We think that by eating relatively well, cutting out certain foods or even cutting out food altogether to get down to a certain weight before events are effective diet methods. Yet diet and nutrition are crucial to positively affect a practitioners overall performance.
Successful martial arts nutrition plans can significantly improve body chemistry for balance, strength for explosive power, better mobility, greater speed, increased energy for intense workouts, higher endurance for sport and self-defense situations, quicker recovery times, better immune systems and the overall maintenance of a healthy body weight. All of these are possible if you treat “dieting” as a holistic framework for eating, rather than just eating less.
Now, we know that diet and nutrition can mean a million different things to each practitioner. Everything will depend on what the athlete is going through, their body type, what discipline they practice, and if competing, how close they are to their next fight.
So with that in mind, here are 5 general rules to follow for long-term improvements with diet and nutrition:
It’s an old but tried and true rule: Don´t skip breakfast! Generally speaking, it is best to make this meal your biggest meal if you can. The worst thing you can do when trying to lose weight (and keep muscle mass) is to go without eating all day, because you will have less energy to train and your body will resort to storing fat. This common and simple quote is a great way to remember how to eat throughout the day, “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper”
- Don´t Cut Out The Essentials!
Your body needs carbohydrates, fats, fiber, proteins, vitamins, and water! However, the amount of each nutrient will differ depending on factors such as your age, build and gender, etc. There are a lot of arguments out there that recommend different amounts of each.
A popular diet amongst many fighters and athletes is the high-protein diet. This means greatly increasing protein intake while lowering other nutritional sources. This is a good form of cutting fat weight quickly and is helpful for building muscle mass, but will not benefit you in the long run. You need to consume other macronutrients for a more balanced diet.
You should also be prepared to adjust your intake. Everyone´s ratio is different. A suggested guide is 30-50% carb, 23-35% protein and 25-35% fat. It is important to note that you must prioritize healthy fat sources like monounsaturated fats (avocados, egg yolks, nuts and nut butter, oils).
- Don´t Worry About Losing Muscle Mass!
Many athletes worry that a “diet” implies strictly losing weight and body fat. They then associate this with losing muscle mass as well.
As stated above, it is important to eat a balanced diet. Plan your protein intake. Proteins are essential for the repair of muscles after tissue tear that occurs during strenuous exercise. That is why proteins are especially important during and after training. However, you should also be including complex carbs and unsaturated fats into your diet.
- Slow down and Chew!
Chewing your food has a big impact on your digestion. The longer you chew, the more saliva is created to help break down food, releasing enzymes to help prepare it for digestion. You know how you feel super lethargic after eating a big meal? The reason for this is because too much energy is being used by your digestive system to break down your food. It is suggested that you chew about 30 times per bite. A common practice to slow down your eating is to put down your utensils to stop you from getting ready for the next bite! I know this might seem strange, but I have recently put it into practice and I swear by it. Take your time and allow your body space to digest between each bite.
- Don´t Eat Past Fullness!
Research suggests your fullness meter will kick in about 30 minutes after eating. So wait, and really think before you go for seconds. Do you want more food because you’re hungry or because you want to taste more food? One trick I have learned and been successful with is to drink a large glass of water after I have eaten (not prior). Studies indicate that the feeling of hunger is similar to the feeling of dehydration. Drinking a large glass of water will increase your feeling of “fullness”. This will also give you time in between eating and time to think about whether or not you really need to go for seconds.
Simply eating a balanced diet is good advice and will suffice for the average person. But, if you want to take your ability to the next level and help your body recover quicker with increased training regimes, it’s important to follow the right nutrition plans! The above suggestions are some general rules that you can follow which will help you for the long run. These are not a quick fix!
We all know the expression “Eat Clean, Train Hard” but how many of you are putting this into practice every day? What kind of balanced diet do you implement to improve your martial arts training? Share your stories with us below!