Martial arts training requires a strict and well balanced diet just like any other sport. Martial Artists need a diet that provides adequate energy, in the form of carbohydrates and fats, as well as essential proteins, vitamins and minerals.
Most martial artists aim to consume a diet that consists mainly of carbohydrates – around 55% to 60%, (10% to 15% from sugars and the rest from starches). No more than 30% of Calories should come from fat, and 10% to 15% from protein.
Carbohydrates for Martial Artists
Many people think that protein is the essential ingredient for building muscle. However, protein only repairs and grows new muscle tissue. To fuel muscle, we need glycogen, which is provided by carbohydrates. When a person eats carbohydrate, it is broken down into glucose molecules. Glucose is the only form of carbohydrate used directly by muscles for energy.
The glucose is carried in the bloodstream to the muscles and used to produce muscle contraction. Any glucose that is not used is stored as glycogen in the liver and muscles. When you start exercising, the glycogen reserves in the muscles are broken down to provide energy. However, the body can only store a limited amount of glycogen, usually enough to provide fuel for 90 to 120 minutes of exercise.
For exercise that lasts longer than 90 minutes, the athlete would benefit from consuming carbohydrates during the exercise in order to help maintain their blood glucose levels. Another method athletes use is carbohydrate/glycogen loading, which helps to increase the amount of glycogen stored in the body.
East Plenty of High-Protein Meals
Studies have shown that exercise increases protein breakdown and, therefore, dietary requirement. The exact amount depends on the following factors:
- The type, intensity and frequency of exercise. The longer a person exercises, the more protein is broken down. If not enough protein is consumed to compensate, or if a person trains too frequently, this net loss of lean tissue will eventually affect performance. This is known as overtraining.
- How long a person has been training. Studies have shown that new students have higher requirements per kg of body weight than more experienced athletes. However, as the body becomes used to training, it becomes more efficient at recycling proteins.
- Calorie and carbohydrate intake. If a person does not eat enough calories to meet their needs, protein will be broken energy rather than being used for growth and repair. This again is a form of overtraining caused by poor nutrition.
Too Much Protein Makes Gain a Weight Category
Eating more protein alone will not increase the size of muscles – many people head off to the protein shake store when they start training, without realizing that they are not actually training hard enough to warrant the need to drink them! Muscles develop from training and exercise.
A certain amount of protein is needed to help build the muscles, but extra servings of protein foods or protein supplements do not assist in muscle development. Extra protein is not converted into muscle and does not cause further increase in muscle size, strength or stamina. Protein cannot be stored in the body and excess protein will be burned for energy or stored as body fat. So, be warned. Too much protein makes you fat!
What you eat on a high-protein diet
- Typical breakfast: bacon and eggs. Try to eat organic bacon, as bacon contains nitrates which can cause long term health problems.
- Typical lunch: small salad and an open double cheeseburger (i.e. hold the bun)
- Typical dinner: steak or fried chicken, with salad topped with cheese or crème fraiche dressing.
For more ideas on what to eat to get more protein, refer to Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution recipe books, as these are jam packed with high protein recipes.
These rules extend beyond martial arts of course. For addition ideas for a martial artists diet take a look at the Bruce Lee diet.