Martial Lifestyle, Martial Diet?
by Dasha Libin, MS, NASM-PES, MKC, NASE
It happens, you are tying your belt on and, suddenly, its a snug fit. Wether due to injury, a busy schedule or simply the stress of life, martial artists are not always immune to gaining a few (or more) pounds. Although the training we do is high intensity, sometimes altering a regimented schedule can allow for weight gain. Added pounds don’t only effect your belt size, but often your health and performance. Unnatural weight can hinder speed, decrease energy levels, effect mood and over time lead to serious health complications. There are many answers to shedding the pounds, and while activity levels in the dojo will definitely help you regain a martial physique, exercise has the best and most lasting results when paired with diet or ‘clean eating’. Today there are a great variety of eating guidelines or ‘diets’ that have come into martial trends. Diets like Paleo, Slow Carb, Detox, Gluten Free, The Zone have been the topic of locker room conversations. But many questions regarding long term effects, benefits and performance still remain.
Training: the truth is martial arts is one of the best and most versatile ways to stay fit. The motions of Muay Thai, jeet Kune Do, Brazilian JiuJitsu, kali, Boxing and Mixed Martial Arts are low impact on the joints and versatile on the body, creating an on going conditioning effect that will help anyone lose weight and truly embrace the body they deserve to have. Think about Bruce Lee- the man was lean and agile, now think about the 80 year old martial art masters we see teaching and training– unlike any other disipline in the worls they are also mobile, healthy. the coomon factor? Martial Arts Motion, Martial Arts Breathing, martial Arts Mentality and Martial Arts Lifestyle.
Lets Discuus Diet:
Keep in mind that each of these dietary approaches are controversial with dietitians. Doctors writing about the diets they endorse tend to use research studies that can support the diets claims, but typically there is a lot of research still ahead, as most diets are young in relevance to long term effects. In order to be effective, a diet is something that must be considered a ‘lifestyle’. The key to finding what fits you is finding something that fits your lifestyle and is a healthy choice for your body.
The Zone diet is perhaps the most practical and easiest to start for a person that hates diets. The concept is to follow a specific food ratio, which includes forty percent carbohydrates, thirty percent fat and thirty percent protein. While the concept meets dietary regulations, there are no guidelines on the ‘type’ of carbohydrates, proteins and fats you should eat. For the best results, make sure to keep all of nutrients ‘clean’. Aim to find your fats from milk, fish and nuts, your carbohydrates from vegetables and whole grains and proteins from grilled fishes, meats and chicken.
‘Paleo’ or the Paleolithic diet has hit the scene, and is highly regarded amongst many martial artists. Paleo makes sure to advocate that they are a ‘way of life’ and not a weight loss diet, but in reality a regular individual switching over to Paleo will most definitely see significant weight loss. The idea of Paleo is living the dietary lifestyle of a hunter-gatherer, using our ancestors as examples. The diet includes lean meats, seafood, vegetables, fruits and nuts. There is no dairy in this diet, making anyone that considers Paleo in need of calcium supplementation. The additional adjustment will come from a potential of lower energy levels due to a lack of complex carbohydrates. People taking on the diet will know with in the first several weeks if it works for their body type and level of activity. Fatigue and mood swings are one reason many can not sustain this type of eating, but there is a good population of people that adjusts to the lifestyle easily.
Slow Carb diet is also a low carbohydrate diet, but it lends itself more to maintaining a low glycemic level during eating. Energy from a lack of complex carbohydrates is supplemented with beans, which are rich with low glycemic carbs. The key points of this diet are to avoid white carbohydrates, fruits, dairy and any calories drinks. For some the best thing about slow carb is that it gives one cheat day a week, where you are allowed to eat anything and everything in larger then normal quantities. The overindulgence is said to help with relapsing and is also a way to re-set your metabolism. Another good point is that the diet allows red wine daily, which is a welcomed relief to people that are used to having a drink on weekdays. Calcium, while found in many greens is still an issue, and supplementation should be taken. Many people are also not big fans of beans, which are a big part of this eating plan and are mandatory for a martial artists energy on this diet.
The Detox diet is perhaps the most controversial of all. The concept is to cut out major food groups from your diet for a time period of anywhere from twenty four hours to several weeks in order to ‘cleanse’ the body from all of the toxins building up from the various foods we eat. While many cultures believe in fasting for a day or two, a prolonged period of fasting for an active individual like a martial artist is not ideal or even safe. A harmful side effect to training and fasting is fatigue, poor recovery and in-turn injury. To detox correctly try ‘detoxing’ unnatural or processed foods from your diet. Your energy levels will increase and after several weeks of not having your junk and processed food fix, you will stop craving it. Lets call this a ‘modified’ detox.
Figuring out he correct diet will take research, commitment and honesty. If you are intent on trying a form of a low Crab diet like Paleo or considering a regiment from the Zone, it would probably take two to three weeks to see how your body reacts. As martial artists we put out a lot of energy, it is important to understand how different dietary restrictions can effect our performance, recovery and lifestyle. The wrong diet for your body can cause stress, fatigue, overtraining and injury. Keep in mind that the first week of any diet is awkward, most often diving directly into a whole new lifestyle is difficult and stressful on the body. Instead, aim to change one major meal a week, perhaps starting with the meal you enjoy least. This way the changes are gradual and better fitted for an active martial artist.
In the end, if one of your goals for 2012 is a new physique, keep several things in mind. First, always pair your training with a meal plan that fits your activity levels, your body’s internal demands, your doctors advise and your own ability to stick to a lifestyle. Do not try to find an immediate answer in crash diets. Eating and training should mold into your lifestyle, if the diet is impractical, kick it. If you don’t, you will just find your weight regained after you drop the regiment. One of the most difficult stresses on a martial artists body is gaining weight, loosing it and then gaining it back. Overtime the Yo-Yo effect can affect your neuromuscular efficiency and contribute to injury. In the end, the best way to live life is clean eating. Keep in mind that dietary fulfillment comes from balance and control. As for diet pills, walk away from easy answers, because most often then not the instant road to success is a faulty one.