Martial Arts - Diet & Nutrition

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Martial Arts - Diet & Nutrition

This section explores how nutrition and different diet plans help martial artists improve their physical performance. It also explores different diets used by famous martial artists such as Bruce Lee. Proper sports nutrition can help promote improved muscle development, greater endurance and faster exercise recovery. In contrast, poor dietary habits can result in excess weight gain, slower speed, lack of energy, etc.

Please discuss your diet with your doctor in order to avoid aggravating or creating any potential medical issues. In order to maximize your physical abilities, you should also visit our Martial Arts Physical Fitness section.

Section supported by Martial Arts Food

Foods/Drinks to Increase - Discuss with your doctor.

  • Water - You sweat a lot during martial arts training. You need to replace this "lost" water. Try to avoid getting your water through drinks such as sodas (as you are just consuming tons of excess sugar).
  • Soy milk or skim milk - Get your water with added calcium (good for your bones). Focus on skim milk or soy milk because regular whole milk contains a lot of saturated fat. However, while popular in Asia, soy milk is more controversial in the West. Some fear that soy-based products have isoflavones which mimics estrogen.
  • Lean meat - Meat provides athletes with protein (which helps muscle development). Focus on low-fat meats such as turkey and chicken (no skin and trim any visible fat).
  • Tofu - Created many, many years ago in China as a meat substitute. Tofu is a source of protein made from soybeans. If you don't like regular "mushy" tofu, you should buy the extra firm type (more like meat). Also use spices to give tofu flavor because it is bland. However, while popular in Asia, Tofu is more controversial in the West. Some fear that Tofu and other soy products have isoflavones which may mimic estrogen.
  • Whole grain - Eating whole grain products provides you with health benefits such as fiber, vitamins and antioxidants.
  • Vegetables - Load up on vegetables such as broccoli, sweet potatoes, beans, spinach, onions, carrots, etc.
  • Fruit - Also try to get more fruit into your diet. Fruit provides you with nutrients such as fiber, vitamin C and antioxidants.
  • Healthy oils - When you are cooking your food and you need to use vegetable use, try to focus on the healthiest oils such as olive oil and canola oil. These oils are low in (bad) saturated fat and high in (healthy) monounsaturated fat.
  • Healthy low fat spreads - Try hummus (made from chick peas) versus butter or cream cheese (which have too much saturated fat).
  • Healthy snacks - Fresh fruit, dried fruit, yogurt, low salt pretzels, celery sticks, etc. Snacks like regular potato chips are packed with salt and saturated fat.
  • Salt replacements - Replace salt (which can raise your blood pressure) with spices (i.e. pepper, curry powder or hot pepper flakes) and herbs (i.e. chives).

Foods/Drinks/Items to Avoid or Reduce - Discuss with your doctor.

  • Fast food - Most fast food has too much fat, salt and excess calories.
  • Fatty meat - If you like to eat red meat, trim off as visible fat as possible. Saturated fat can boost your LDL (bad) cholesterol.
  • Sugary drinks - Sodas are full of useless sugar or high fructose corn syrup.
  • Sugary snacks - Things like candy are just helping you to pack on the pounds.
  • Salty snacks - Too much salt can boost your blood pressure. High blood pressure can lead to heart damage, strokes and kidney damage.
  • Unhealthy oils - The worst are transfat and oils with lots of saturated fat such as palm oil.
  • Unhealthy spreads - Spreads such as butter and cream cheese are full of saturated fat.
  • Alcohol - At the very least, alcoholic beverages can add extra calories that you will need burn off. Excessive alcohol consumption can also result in liver damage, high blood pressure, increase the chances of certain types of cancer, etc.
  • Tobacco - Reduces your "wind" and thus your endurance. Tobacco usage can also contribute to lung cancer, strokes, etc.

Famous Martial Arts Diets

  • Bruce Lee Diet & Nutrition - Bruce Lee focused on health foods, high-protein drinks, supplements and vitamins. He avoided refined flour and baked goods.
  • Gracie Diet - This diet was developed by Carlos Gracie, the founder of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. This diet recommends cutting out junk food, desserts, alcohol and tobacco. It focuses on proper food "combinations" so they "combine to cause healthy chemical reactions".
  • Shaolin Warrior Monk Diet - The Chinese monks who train at Shaolin Temple are vegetarian. Their diet consists of rice, beans, tofu, vegetables, noodles, etc.
  • Okinawan Diet - Okinawa is the origin of about 7 unique martial arts styles and several other blended styles. The people of Okinawa have the highest population of centenarians (people over 100 yrs old) largely due to their active lifestyle and healthy diet. Roughly 1/3rd of their daily intake is yellow/green vegetables. They consume small quantities of rice, fish, and sweet potatoes. Pork is usually once a month for special occasions. Another important aspect of their diet is eating till you are ~80% full, this emphasizes avoidance of gluttony as well as calorie restriction which has been scientifically proven to extend the lifespan of an organism.


  1., Taekwondo Diet & Nutrition,, Added - 09/09/14
  2. Gracie Diet,, Added - 09/09/14
  3. WebMD, Do You Need Protein Powders?,, Added - 09/09/14
  4. Huffington Post, Inside the Life of a Shaolin Monk,, Added - 09/09/14
  5. Mayo Clinic, Nutrition Basics,, Added - 09/09/14

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