Sports Nutrition in the Martial Arts

Sports nutrition in the martial arts – learn all you need to know about keeping a diet fit for your needs…

The link between martial arts & sports nutrition is obvious, yet some are still unaware as to the importance of a balanced diet to our performance and ability to realize our full potential.

Sport nutrition is part of the martial arts training system and is usually put as a sub category which supports martial arts physical training. Nevertheless proper nutrition serves as a vital supporter for mental training and development as well.

In this section we will demonstrate the importance and basic rules for a healthy, balanced diet, with emphasis on sports nutrition for martial artists & nutrition tips.

Generally, a well balanced diet allows for:

• Better performance

• Improved strength, speed & stamina

• Shorter recovering time post workout or following an injury

Sports nutrition components

Sports nutrition and nutrition in general are comprised of the following components: the 3 macro nutrients:

• Carbohydrates

• Proteins

• Fats


• Vitamins

• Minerals

• Fluids

We can measure our nutritional intake by weight units.

Nevertheless the 3 macro- nutrients are also measured by the energy or calories they provide.


We measure our bodys' energy requirements in calories.Calories can only be obtained from the 3 macro-nutrients: Carbohydrates, protein and fat.

• 1 gram (0.035 Oz.) Carbohydrates = 4 calories

• 1 gram (0.035 Oz.) proteins = 4 calories

• 1 gram (0.035 Oz.) fats = 9 calories

Calorie intake

Most martial artists underestimate their caloric needs.We need sufficient energy to fuel our body and train to our full potential.

For example, the recommended energy intake is at least 50 kcal/kg/day - kcalorie per kilogram (about 2 pounds) per day - for male martial art practitioners who train for greater than 90 min/day and 45 to 50 kcal/kg/day for female practitioners training the same.

Competitive martial artists (which train in high aerobic and anaerobic conditions) have increased caloric needs.Female martial artists of this kind may need 4,000 calories per day or more, while male may require up to 6,000 calories or more.

A nutritionist, martial arts instructor, health coach or any other certified professional can help us determine exactly what our calorie needs will be.

Carbohydrates in sports nutrition

Carbohydrates (CHO) are the basic energy source for our body, at rest times & more importantly during training. Our body breaks down carbohydrates to smaller sugar particles, which in turn produce the body's energy coin - ATP - Adenosine Triphosphate - FYI...

"If the body is a car the carbohydrates would be the fuel…".

A balanced diet, regardless of the level of sports activity, consists of 55%-60% calories from carbohydrates.

Recommended CHO intake ranges from 5 to 7 g/kg/day - gram (0.035 Oz.) per kilogram (about 2 pounds) per day - for general training needs (up to 2 hours daily) and 7 to 10 g/kg/day for the increased needs of professional or intensive martial arts practitioners.

Meaning that if we have general training needs and we weigh a healthy 80 kilos we should be eating 400 - 560 grams of CHO per day.

(These recommendations are for a healthy body weight calculated according to the BMI formula*)

Our body can only store small amounts of CHO, especially in our muscles and liver, therefore we should consume CHO with every meal we eat, before, after (and sometimes during) training, allowing for 2/3 of the meals' calories to come from carbohydrates. (More on that in "meal planning")

Foods that are abundant with carbohydrates are:

• Grains & products– wheat, rye, oatmeal, rice, pasta, corn

• Roots – potatoes, yams

• Pastries – bread, crackers

• Fruits & vegetables, fruit juice

• Dried beans and peas

Excessive intake of carbohydrates (if we eat more than we use…) will result in an increase of body fat, but other wise is "risk free".

Proteins in sports nutrition

Our muscle tissue is made up of proteins, and so are our blood cells & the majority of our functioning organs.

Proper protein intake is highly important for martial artists, to build muscle and allow cell repair, & can also be used for energy when carbohydrates levels are low.

Exactly how much protein should we consume?

As a rule of thumb, proteins should amount to about 20% of our daily caloric intake.

The answer is an ongoing debate, but at least 0.8- 1 gram (0.035 Ounce) per every kilogram (about 2 pounds) body weight, is the recommended intake for the general population.

For professional martial artists an intake of up to 2 grams per kilogram (g/kg) are needed according to some nutritionists; Making it an average 1.2-1.4 g/kg for “amateurs” (training for at least 2 hours daily).

Excess protein is burned for energy or stored as fat by our body. Nevertheless protein which is used for energy can create kidney overload and other health risks such as dehydration.

Although protein needs are higher for professional martial artists than those of the general population, normally both can reach them through a well-balanced and calculated diet, and if not - protein supplements are available.

The benefits and hazards of protein supplements will be discussed in the supplements section.

Foods that are abundant with proteins are:

• Meats

• Poultry

• Fish

• Eggs

• Dairy products

• Nuts

• Soy beans & products such as tofu

• Dried beans

Proteins are made up of amino acids, and we now know that amino acid balance and protein quality are just as important as the total amount of the protein consumed.

Meaning that it's not only important the amount of protein we intake, but rather the quality of it.

The common method to assess proteins' quality is the BV method – Biologic Value which is determined by the amino acid composition in the food.

For example, with 100 being the highest score, here are the top protein foods excluding supplements:

Biologic Value -

• Whole bean: 96

• Whole Soy Bean: 96

• Chicken egg: 94

• Soybean milk: 91

• Cow milk: 90

• Cheese: 84

• Rice: 83

• Defatted soy flour: 81

• Fish: 76

• Beef: 74.3

Fats in sports nutrition

Body fat is important for sustaining prolonged training, and is the biggest storage (like said above excessive CHO turns into fat..) component in our body.

If during low level aerobic activity (such as tai-chi form training) our body is low on energy (not enough carbohydrates), it will use our body fat as energy.

However, if during high level aerobic or anaerobic training our body will be low on energy then it will begin to burn muscle.

Fat should not exceed 20%-25% of our daily caloric intake, and unsaturated fats are a healthier source for fat in our diet, such as:

• Olive & Canola oil

• Olives

• Nuts

• Avocado

• Seeds

• Fish oil

Vitamins in sports nutrition

Vitamins are compounds which are essential to our metabolisim. Our body can not produce vitamins therefore we must consume them as part of our diet.

Martial artists, naturally have a higher need for vitamins because of their increased metabolism, (especially B vitamins).

The rule of thumb for consuming vitamins is: the least processed the better.

Some martial artists will need to complete their vitamin intake through vitamin supplements

However vitamins do have an upper limit restriction which can be reached through misuse of supplements

(Vitamins and supplements will be detailed in future articles).

Minerals in sports nutrition

Our bodies are made up of minerals. They are its building blocks. We need a daily supply of them in changing amounts for our bodily mechanism to function well.

The most important minerals are iron and calcium.

Calcium rich foods are:

• Diary product

• Beans

• Eggs

• Green vegetables

• Fruits

• Dried Fruits

• Seeds

• Nuts

Iron rich foods:

• Meats

• Beans and lentils

Fluid intake in sports nutrition

Adequate fluid intake maintains coordination (and other physical attributes), concentration & endurance in martial artists.Body temperature is regulated by water, which also maintains muscle ability to contract. Water helps our body to get rid of excess salt and waste.

During strenuous training, martial artists must drink enough water to maintain their pre-exercise weight (so we should weigh ourselves during training) But why if we don’t will hurt our performance and the gains whe can get from our training?

1 kg of weight lost is equal to 4 cups of fluid that should be replaced. It is important to remember that thirst is not a dependable indicator of the need for fluids, and martial artists must make a habit of drinking water frequently, both during and after work-out.

Caffeine and carbonated beverages cause a loss of fluids, and therefore should be consumed moderately, especially before training.

Alcoholic drinks, aside from being diuretic (excessive urination...) causes unwanted liver effects which makes it undesirable altogether.


Sports Nutrition is an important supporter of our martial art training, it provides the energy basis for our physical and mental training .

Respecting it can enhance our martial art development and save us, in severe cases of neglecting, from "reverse effect" in our training.

We will soon provide the articles on the following subjects:

• Vitamins

Workout Nutrition

• Minerals

• Food supplements

• Meal planning

• Pre exercise meal

• Post exercise meal

• Nutrition tips

• Bone building

• And more

Read through the listed articles so you can really realize your full potential

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*BMI ( kg/m² )= (weight in pounds * 703 )/ height in inches²

BMI - Weight Status

Below 18.5 - Underweight

18.5 -24.9 Normal

25 - 29.9 Overweight

30 & Above Obese

Note that highly trained martial artists may have a higher BMI because of increased muscularity rather than increased body fatness.

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