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Martial Arts Weight Loss Approaches

Over time, many approaches to losing weight sprang up. Some of them ranged from the bazaar, like ingesting tapeworms, to the unsustainable deprivation. In recent years, specific types of diet have come out to help people lose weight.

Low fat

Low-fat diets are a takeoff of low-calorie diets. They intend to remove enough fat from your diet that it forces the body to shed weight. Unfortunately, when these fats got cut back, the amount of diabetes and heart disease, not to mention obesity, skyrocketed.

The human body needs a tremendous amount of fat every day to sustain life and function optimally, between 50-70% of caloric intake. The zealous cutting of fat out of the diet provided an excess amount of sugars. As we learn more about how fat work in the body, we realize we need a wide diversity of healthy fats. This has led to a moderate fat diet that focuses on healthy fat and eliminates saturated fats. Again, people zealously cutting out saturated fats deprive themselves of healthy nutrients. 

Up to 70%
   Of Daily Caloric Intake is Fat

Many of the healthy saturated fats get converted into hormones directly rather than having to go through a multi-step process to get there.

In the nutritional community, low-fat diets are considered outdated unhealthy and not a viable long-term approach to weight loss and control.

Low Carbohydrate

In opposition to low-fat diets, low-carbohydrate diets have become widely accepted. It started off with the Atkins craze. People jumped on the high protein, high fat, and exceptionally low carbohydrate diets to overcome high cholesterol, heart disease, and obesity.

Low Carb Diet Macronutrient Ratio | Fighting Arts Health Lab

Low-to-moderate carbohydrate diets are considered very healthy. This is true as long as people do not substitute processed foods for healthy foods. The fats chosen for cooking and flavoring need to be healthy, natural fats like butter, coconut oil, olive oil, and rendered fats. Processed fats like vegetable oil, canola oil, and rapeseed oils contain too many omega-6 fatty acids that lead to heart disease.

Exceptionally low carbohydrate diets are not considered sustainable by the nutritional community. Typical, healthy, moderate carbohydrate diets range from 50 grams of carbohydrates per day to approximately 75 

grams per day. For competition fighters, daily training, and high energy martial arts, like Kung Fu, Capoeira, and kickboxing, daily intakes of 75g to 100g are still considered moderate carb diets. Firas Zahabi, owner of TriStar Gym in Montreal, Quebec, Canada supports using a moderate carb diet, but that people have to be smart and eat veggies.

This is different than a ketogenic diet, or keto plan. A ketogenic diet puts a sever restriction on carbohydrates to the point it triggers the body to use fats as its primary energy source. The waste products can be detected in the urine as ketones. The biologic function is a natural and healthy process reserved for periods of low food and starvation conditions. It’s also what killed most Type 1 Diabetics before injectable insulin.

Ketogenic diets are in dispute in the nutritional community. They are very effective at getting people to lose weight, but long-term studies do not support over-all health when the diet is followed for more than a few weeks.

Fasting

Fasting is a practice that has been around nearly as long as religion has been around. Periodic fastings were used to help clear the body and the spirit for divine intervention. Healers in ancient times noticed people became more energetic and healthier during periods of fast. Fasting then moved into the healing realm to overcome disease, encourage the body to heal, and supplement medicine.

Today, fasting is used for religious and health purposes. Many people will recognize the body actively reject food when people are sick. This is a natural, and healthy response by the body. Since 70% of the immune system resides in the gut, the body can either expand its energy fighting food or invaders around the body. People would do very well to listen to their bodies during times of illness and not eat when they are not hungry.

Detoxification diets have become more popular as people are becoming more aware of the chemicals and toxins in our environment. Most detoxifications are fasts. 

With a severe limitation of intake, the body needs to pull on reserves of sugars and triglycerides to sustain life. This causes many toxins to be released back into the system, which can then be flushed out.

Fasting | Fighting Arts Health Lab

Fasting and detoxification are healthy when done correctly. Everything from a short, one day fast to a multi-week fast is achievable when you work with a nutritionist. A person should not attempt to fast longer than three days without the advice of the nutritionist.

Glycemic Index vs. Glycemic Load

When the calorie theory started falling apart, the idea of the glycemic index was created. This is a measure of how much food will impact blood sugar. It’s been a useful tool for diabetics, but it’s far from perfect. For example, many people recognize that carrots and peas have high glycemic indexes, but they do not impact blood sugar the same, nor do they have the same effect as pure sugar.

The evolution of glycemic index became the glycemic load. This is a measure of what the sugar in a particular food will do to the blood sugar in a person over time. Thus, it has resolved the issue of why carrots and peas have less of an impact on blood sugar than pure sugar does.

Glycemic Index | Fighting Arts Health Lab

The glycemic load takes into account how the body digests food, the speed at which various sugars are absorbed, and accessory nutrients within particular foods. 

When a person eats carrots, the vitamin A, vitamin D, and indigestible fibers within the carrots slow the absorption of sugar. Many of the sugars are bound up in fibers and long-chain complex carbohydrates. 

It takes more time and work for our body to digest this food and absorb it. That means the sugars the body does absorb from the carrots take longer to show effect.

The glycemic index is not a good example of a diet plan, but it can help people who are struggling with sugar intake. It is an invaluable tool for diabetics. Pro MMA fighter Kevin Kellerman focuses on eating healthy foods, low in both the glycemic index and the glycemic load to manage his Type 1 Diabetes. Kellerman states, “Good quality, healthy, nutritious food makes so much of a difference in blood sugars and indirect effect energy.”

Cognitive Behavioral Strategies

As with most bad habits, overeating and consuming too much food is often based on behavioral issues. Psychologists, life coaches, and health coaches center many of their practices on helping people discover the actual underlying reason why food takes up so much of our lives. By changing some of these habits and underlying causes, many people naturally start choosing healthier foods and less of it.

There have been hundreds of different underlying behaviors and habits associated with weight gain. If you believe you have some of these issues, we recommend talking to a nutritionist or health coach to discover your underlying beliefs and getting solid advice for changing some of the behaviors. You are already doing many of the same strategies in your training. What techniques are you applying to practice daily, keep aware, and choose wisely? Discipline is the ability to do what needs to be done when it needs to be done without having someone tell you to do it. 

CBT | Fighting Arts Heath Lab

Your diet is the perfect example of long-term discipline. Don’t eat the candy and eat the apple. It’s all about control and discipline.

Now, apply that same effort to your diet.

Weight Loss Medications

Medications for weight loss work. Unfortunately, every single weight-loss medicine that has been on the market has caused severe health side effects and have been removed. Currently, there are no medications on the market that are considered safe.

Medication should be a last resort for anyone looking to lose weight. Many times, people choose pills and supplements for losing weight because they don’t want to change the underlying behavior that causes them to gain weight. This is one of the ways people get into yo-yo dieting.

Once the medication stops, people gain the weight back they had previously lost. The underlying behavior and habits are still present. People who use medicine rarely learn how to cook healthy food or choose healthy meals.

Most weight loss medications have dehydration as a side effect, which is a massive problem in the competition fighter world. Additionally, heart problems and long-term increased the risk of heart attacks should warn most martial artists away from any weight loss medication or supplementation.

In fact, fights were canceled because of extreme weight loss and these medications. In April 2018, Fighter Max Holloway was declared medically unfit to fight due to rapid weight loss and suspected medication abuse.

As there are no safe medications for weight loss, we do not recommend seeking out such medicines or choosing supplements to help weight loss.

Weight Loss Surgery

Weight loss surgery is also not recommended. Studies show that significant behavior changes are necessary before the surgery to predict success and health afterward.

Unfortunately, studies show at least half of all surgeries result in patients regaining the weight lost, with some evaluations as high as 90%. The studies show it is a lack of self-discipline that leads to the weight gain.

90%

There are various forms of weight loss surgery including:

Gastric Bypass

Gastric Bands

Gastric Sleeves

Unfortunately, none of these change a person's behavior without the person choosing to change the behavior. Additionally, people who are looking at weight loss surgery have to demonstrate they are making better choices and can lose the weight on their own. We believe that if you can drop the weight on your own through proper diet and exercise, you should continue to do so. That way, you don't damage your body.

Most people will not keep the weight they lose off after two years. Since they have not changed their eating habits, they’re still eating more food than they should, but now with restricted nutrients. Then, they overeat to the point they stretched out what is remaining of their stomach.

Weight loss surgery is not a viable option for people in the martial arts. The operation itself involves cutting through the core muscles, which permanently damages the structural integrity of your core. This will limit your movements and ability to take a hit. Additionally, the bands and sleeves are physical objects that can be damaged or used to cause further damage to the body.

Vegetarian & Veganism

It looks good on the surface, eat everything but stuff that can look back at you. Research shows vegetarian and vegan diets help people to be healthy, right?

Not quite. Nearly all short-term (<6 months) studies show that a meatless diet is exceptionally healthy and helps reduce disease in all categories. However, there are no long-term studies that show the same results.

Long-term vegetarian and vegans show nutrient deficiencies, bone loss, impaired digestion, amenorrhea, and depression.

The most significant issues with vegetarian and vegan diet studies appear to be compliance. The average person craves meat and the nutrients within mean between two and five years after starting a vegetarian lifestyle. This makes studies of 10 years or more nearly impossible.

Veganism | Fighting Arts Health Lab

Most results are thrown off by the inclusion of wheat and grains. In vegetarian diets that are low in grains, the nutritional deficiencies are higher and the risk of illness increased. However, vegetarians that eat more grains tend towards obesity and lifestyle diseases like heart disease and diabetes. This is not a pass to eat all the meat you want.

We recommend following the principles of a vegetarian diet – eating mostly fruits and vegetables. Meats should be the smallest portion of your diet. This gives you the best of all worlds.

Other Fad Diets

Thousands of fad diets have appeared over the years. Most work, but have horrible and debilitating side effects. The reason for their success and expansion is they worked for someone.

The reason they aren’t still around is they don’t work for long, are too complicated, or hurt people. The biggest key to how well a diet works and is right for you is to see how much study is put into supporting it and how much opposition it has.

First, universities and research centers only put effort and money into research that will pay off in the end. Fad diets don’t last long enough to study. That’s why it took nearly a decade for low-carb diets to have any scientific validation they work.

Secondly, nutritionists and dietitians know most fad diets fade away in a few months to a few years if they don’t work. Diet drinks fall into this category; there have been hundreds of them.

Finally, you should look at research that supports the diet. All good weight loss programs will find dozens of studies to show why the various bits of their diets work. Fad diets grasp at straws or ignore basic physiology altogether.

Some of the top fad diets include diet drinks (Shakeology, Isogenix), the alkaline diet, Weight Watchers (their diet plan has significantly changed five times), volumetrics diet, raw foods diet, Nutrisystem, Master Cleanses, baby food diet, and cabbage soup diet.

To learn how to lose weight quickly and maintain your desired weight over time read the next article on “Keys to Long-Term Weight Control.

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