Nutritional Guidelines to Become a Better Martial Artist
by Si Hing A.J. Boyer
- Eat smaller portions more often throughout the day (5 to 6 meals is optimal). Try to eat something every 2 ½ - 3 hours. Eating more often fuels the fire of your metabolism and encourages fat-burning.
- NEVER skip breakfast. Yes, it IS the most important meal of the day! Remember, you’re “breaking-the-fast.”
- Make a combo out of lunch and dinner. Your meals should consist of a lean protein source and brightly colored carbohydrates with plenty of fiber. Great carbohydrate sources include: brown rice, oatmeal (not instant), barley, yams, whole wheat bread, veggies, potatoes, bananas, apples, peaches, pears, melons, broccoli, beans, fat-free or low-fat milk. Great lean protein sources include: low-fat milk, low-fat cottage cheese, whole eggs, egg whites, chicken breast, steak, salmon, tuna, shellfish, low-fat cheese, USDA select or choice grades of beef, pork, lamb or veal (trimmed of fat).
- Just make healthy choices! There’s no need to diet. If you HAVE to get fast-food, for example, go grilled instead of fried or breaded. Most Subway® sandwiches are a great choice, with plenty of vegetables and light or no mayo.
- Stick to organic, natural whole-food sources. Just because ice-cream is brightly colored and a high source of carbs doesn’t mean it contains GOOD carbs. Try to stay away from most packaged and processed foods, like thos you put in a microwave. There are some exceptions to this: oatmeal, brown rice or whole grain bread. Also, anything by Kashi® is great and very nutritious. Just think of it this way—the more processed the food is, the less nutritionally valuable it is.
- Do not mix large amounts of carbs and fats in the same meal. This includes pizza, cheeseburgers, french fries, fried fish, fried chicken—pretty much all the food that deep down you KNOW is nutritionally devoid, but you eat anyway.
- Consume an adequate amount of essential fats. Avoid trans fats (check the labels!). Great sources of healthy fats include: almonds, pistachios, walnuts, avocado, natural peanut butter, olive oil.
- Always consume a post-workout shake. This shake should consist of high-glycemic (or simple) carbs and protein. Avoid complex carbs and fats for your post-workout meal. Drink it no more than 45 min. after you workout! Consume a second simple carb/protein shake about 2 hours later. You want your 2nd shake to have less carbs than the first.
- Overall, you want to consume low-to-moderate glycemic carbohydrates with plenty of fiber throughout the day (except immediately before and after your workout). All of the foods listed above are included here. Complex carbs are absorbed slowly in your body and give you energy for a longer period of time. Simple carbs, like sports drinks, pasta, baked potatoes, bagels, white bread, flour tortilla, or honey are those that are burned off quickly, giving you a short burst of energy followed by a crash. Simple carbs like this are ONLY beneficial immediately pre- and post-workout.
- Drink A LOT of water daily! Stay away from sugary drinks like soda and fruit punch. If you drink fruit juice, water it down.
- Bringing a sports drink to class is recommended. Drink it approximately 10 minutes before and during your workout. Sports drinks contain the carbohydrates and electrolytes you need to help you stay energized. This will also promote a speedier recovery after the workout.
- OR, bring any other carb/protein snack to class. Plan ahead, you may be able to stop at a convenience store and grab a health bar before class, for example. Just make sure it contains protein AND carbs. These two nutrients work together and guarantee greater results/performance.
- Remember that you must consume more calories than you expend. Maintaining a positive caloric balance will optimize muscle development, as well as strength and endurance gains. The more often you train, or the more intense your training sessions are—the more calories you must consume. If you’re feeling lethargic throughout the day and weak during your training sessions, chances are you are not eating enough. Alternatively, if you notice you’re gaining fat, then either you are eating improperly or too much (or both!). Remember, our goal here is to minimize body fat and maximize lean muscle. As a martial artist, fat serves you little-to-no purpose. A healthy percentage of body-fat is necessary, yes, but it is non-contractile tissue that, in excess, will only slow you down.