The words fitness and diet are synonymous, but not so much when it comes to Martial Arts and diet. How important is diet for active fighters? Very, but it should be important for other martial artists as well. I found it interesting that different disciplines have different habits for the most part. Obviously the diet of a martial artist will deal with access to local foods. It is important because the diet of a martial artist impacts how they perform.
From eating to gain strength, to maintaining optimal health, diet is an integral part of martial arts fitness.
Here are some researched facts about what past and present martial artists eat.
Pretty famous for their martial arts, Shaolin Monks are usually a secluded group that live in a monastery. They are the martial artists of legend and countless movies. They are believed to be the most disciplined and they are certainly the most mysterious martial artists in the world. The diet of these monks is based on Buddhist concepts, such as simplicity and pacifism. What is eaten is not only to fuel the body at its essential level, but for spiritual reasons as well. The diet is made up of rice, vegetables, and fruits. Because one of the tenets of Buddhism promotes pacifism, these martial artists are vegetarians. Food is either raw or steamed. The simpler the meal is prepared, the better. Unnecessary sugars and fats are omitted from their dishes. They also avoid dairy and meat. Protein sources usually come from soybeans and soy products, such as tofu and seitan. Nuts are also used as a replacement for meat.
More modernly famous, are the Gracies. These Brazilians are famous for championing the first UFC with the small Royce Gracie. The Gracie family knows how to fuel their bodies for martial arts training. First and foremost, they say their meals are spaced out. Rorion Gracie suggests keeping four and a half hours between meals. The only thing that a martial artist consumes between meals is water. No dessert or soda is allowed. The Gracie family thinks that people generally consume too much sugar. Sugar is unnecessary and too much is known to be unhealthy. They also limit themselves to one starch per meal. This is about refueling energy. Too many carbs makes a martial artist feel slow and groggy. Just enough carbs are necessary to fuel the athlete.
My favorite martial artist and who probably has the name of the single most famous martial artist is my childhood idol, Bruce Lee. Bruce Lee was very careful about his diet. He never consumed foods that he thought might interfere with his training or performance. Before they were hugely popular, he used protein shakes. Lee also mixed in supplements, such as ginseng, royal jelly, and vitamins. No coffee for him, he was against its harsh caffeine content.
Lee preferred his tea. Green tea has been shown to improve and speed up the metabolism.
Chinese food, not the kind from Panda Express, was consumed by him as well. He had a famously high metabolism but needed fuel so a carb heavy, low protein diet suited his body type. Most of Lee’s carbs came from vegetables and rice, much like the Shaolin monks. He focused more on carbs for energy than proteins and fats. Like most nutritionists suggest, he ate many meals throughout the day. Bruce Lee ate between 4-5 meals in a day to fuel his workouts and performances.
Ronda Rousey, famed Judoka and MMA champ, is careful about how what she eats might affect her workouts. She is the one of the most modern famous martial artists. Her diet also varies on when she’s trying to cut weight. High carb breakfast is essential for her. Per her interview with ESPN, Rousey usually fuels up with oatmeal or another high carb source to kick start her day. She follows up a healthy snack, with a high carb/half protein lunch. High protein dinner is on for Rousey, also supplements her protein intake with protein shakes and probiotic drinks. The snacks I was talking about were healthy, they include small items such as frozen grapes, almonds, and trail mix. Finally, she subscribes to the belief that you should not eat before bed. Some experts disagree, but obviously, since she always makes weight, it works for her.