By Christina Major  |  2 January 2020   

Over half of all New Year’s resolutions involve weight loss, getting in shape, or eating better. Because we train in the martial arts, we have to take care of our bodies to a better degree than most. Keeping a healthy weight, keeping up with cardio and strength training exercises, and honing our skills is the utmost priority.

But, if you slacked off a little bit, like most of us do now and then, you can use these tips to help get you back on track.

Tip 1 – Eat More Vegetables

The basis of all healthy diets is two-thirds to three-quarters vegetables and fruits. This is where we get most of our vitamins and minerals, a good variety of protein, and some of the healthy fats. Nearly all of the supplements, medications, and treatments for diseases, cancers, illnesses, and problems people face derive from vegetables. (Herbs and spices are technically vegetables)

Add a piece of fruit at breakfast. Snack on some raw vegetables with a dip for a snack. Create your own trail mix and granola using dried fruits and vegetable chips. Plan dinner and lunch around the main vegetable, and then add in a little bit of meat.

Eating with a purpose is key"

Chuck Norris

Norris believes in eating for disease prevention as well as weight maintenance. Norris prefers to eat whole, organic foods to keep his body properly fueled for his martial arts workouts. He also uses healthier substitutions daily- instead of sugar, he uses stevia, which is a natural plant derived sweetener. While Chuck Norris enjoys popcorn when he watches a movie, he makes sure that it’s the non-buttered kind. He even penned an article here where he describes the diet he followed to beat his skin cancer

You don't need to turn vegetarian to enjoy vegetables, just add in more vegetables throughout your day. Even the base foods of ketogenic diets, including Atkins, is vegetables, not meat.

Tip 2 – Drink More Water

Some dietitians believe half of all unnecessary calories, sugars, and chemical additives come from drinking flavored beverages. By switching to water or tea, you cut back significantly on stuff your body doesn't need.

On average, a person should be drinking 6oz of water for every hour they are awake. That equates to about one gallon of water per day. On days with training or in warm weather, that amount should be increased.

Not drinking enough water causes high blood pressure, cramping, fatigue, and weight gain. Contrary to popular thought, when your body consumes enough water, it releases stored water in the muscles, fat, and other storage areas. This leads to weight loss, reduction of swelling, and reduces stress on your heart.

But, when you don’t drink enough, the body stores water to prevent critical dehydration, thus creating edema, bloating, and extra weight. To protect your organs from strikes and blows, it adds a layer of water to compensate for the muscle and connective tissue that’s dried out and brittle. That's why MMA fighters who dehydrate themselves before a match experience more significant injuries.

Tip 3 – Cut the Protein

Most competition fighters consume nearly three times the amount of protein they need. And, they get it from the worst possible sources: processed protein bars and cheap protein drinks.

Protein 23 Amino Acids | Fighting Arts Health Lab

Protein is constructed from the 22 amino acids, and only when we consume them in the proper quantities do we build healthy muscle and tissues. And, only when the proteins are intact, and not denatured, can we make use of them. 

Unfortunately, the processed protein bars and protein drinks contain mostly denatured proteins. That means you're wasting your money on these products, and you're hurting your body.

Consuming too much protein retards proper muscle development, puts a strain on the kidneys, increases the risk of atherosclerosis, and slows your ability to make decisions. That means in the middle of a fight you are weaker, slower, and stupider than your opponent.

Choose to get your protein from whole cuts of high-quality, locally-grown, organic meats.The amino acids in the protein are better balanced, intact, and bioavailable. These meats also contain healthy fats that increase the absorption of the proteins and nutrients, build proper hormones, and protect the neural fibers in the brain from damage.

Tip 4 – Supplement Right

When you eat a diet that’s two-thirds to three-quarters vegetables, you most likely do not need significant supplementation. But, when your diet consists of too much protein and processed foods, you will significantly lack nutrients to build healthy tissues and to heal quickly.

Additionally, if you supplement the wrong type of supplement, you could be creating a deficiency in other areas. For example, potassium salts are often added to protein drinks. Unfortunately, potassium prevents the zinc from being absorbed. A lack of zinc reduces your immune system's ability to recognize and fight illnesses. 

A lack of zinc also decreases sperm production and leads to erectile dysfunction. At this point, you don’t need zinc supplements, you need to balance your potassium correctly. Cutting out the unnecessary protein supplements is a good start.

You should work with a nutritionist to get an accurate reading of what supplements will work best for your body. Randomly supplementing without knowing your body's needs reduces your health.

For a comprehensive overview of supplements check out our story on Nutrients.

Tip 5 – Convenient Junk is Still Junk

For our bodies to be healthy and robust, we need a diet of whole foods that is comprised mostly of vegetables, quality cuts of meat, and 100% whole grains. The body does not require chemicals, preservatives, protein supplements, or specialized drinks suitable only for separating you from your money.

The best way to know whether your food will be healthy for you or not is to look at the ingredient list. It should contain a minimal amount of ingredients and whole foods. By looking at the ingredient list, you should be able to make the product to fit yourself. If it contains isolates, preservatives, chemicals, additives, or anything you can’t pronounce, it's not going to be healthy for you.

Junk Food Donuts | Fighting Arts Health Lab

When you get started eating healthier and more nutritionally, it seems like a bit of extra work. But, you'll save money and your health in the long run.

Food Should Be Simple, Tasty, and Work for Your Body

It really is going back and eating the way nature intended. You don't need to rely on another company to process your food before you get it. You shouldn't have to add preservatives or flavors to make overly processed food tastes like it's supposed to.

When we train in the martial arts, we're getting back to the way nature intended us to be. Our food choices need to reflect the same dedication. Our food builds our bodies, and if we want our bodies to be in top physical condition, we have to feed it the best food. And that’s sticking to healthy vegetables and eliminating processed junk.

Don’t take our word. Just look at what happened to David "The Caveman" Rickels, a Bellator star who admitted publicly that excessive partying and too many trips to the fast food drive-thru line may have cost him a world title. Rickels says he would have had a much better shot at winning Bellator gold from Michael Chandler back in 2013, if he stayed away from Taco Bell and liquor stores.

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About the author

Christina Major is a Holistic Nutritionist, Naturopath, and herbalist. She owns Crystal Holistic Health, a nutritional consulting and writing business specializing in complementary and alternative medicine. She has over a decade of helping people find health, lose weight, and get off medications. Christina has practiced martial arts for 18 years. Staring with an eclectic group in college, she practiced Tang Soo Do and Tai Kwan Do for three years after graduation. After moving to Central PA, she began studying Taijutsu where she obtained a 2nd-degree black belt and studied the art directly under the Soke and top Shihan in Japan. She met her husband, a 5th-degree in class, where they enjoy giving each other bruises and kisses.

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