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food guidelines

Imagine it is the day of the match and there you are all warmed up and ready. You bow onto the mat, wait for the referee, and then, once signaled, you start stalking your opponent. With your heart racing, and your adrenaline pumping, you realize that this moment is the culmination of all of your training. Now is not the best time to start thinking about what you had for breakfast, but now is when it will matter the most.

Food is an integral part of competition, and nothing matters more to your body than what you put into it. I don’t believe there are any magic foods or pills, but still there are some fundamental guidelines that you can follow that will help you be as successful as possible.

There is an entire industry of supplements, specialized food, and maybe some good old-fashioned quackery to boot, that you must wade through when you consider eating for competition. Start with the basics. My philosophy is that, like your training, you are a product of what you do the most. Like your training, there are some fundamentals that you must adhere to and the most basic one is drinking plenty of water.

Fundamental Food Guidelines that You Can Follow

1. Hydration

food guidelines

My philosophy is that it is better to stay hydrated, than to have to get hydrated. If you start training or competing, and you are not well hydrated to begin with, than it seems that the deficit you start from is difficult to make up. When you are training, and more importantly, in your everyday life drink plenty of water. I drink water all day, and when I train, I drink more. I try having a glass of water before any other beverage. I add a liquid vitamin enhancement to my water most of the time, but the vehicle (water) is more important than the passenger (enhancement). Even if you don’t add anything to it, you still need plenty of water. Drink up!

2. Food as Fuel

food guidelines

Like water, eating consistently healthy meals is more important than relying on some kind of super performing agent that is supposed to make up the difference for poor nutrition. If you are constantly eating bad foods, (I don’t need to name them do I? Ok, I will, anything you order by number over a low counter) and then suddenly adding some good nutrition at the last minute, it won’t make much of an impact. A good lean healthy diet is the best strategy.

My friend, Richard Trammell in his book How to be A Champion had some straightforward advice about diet. He was a “lacto-ovo vegetarian (no flesh, but eggs and dairy)” and found that he was “able to train hard and recover quickly,” (p.24) by eating this way. He ate a lot of carbohydrates and said that it helped him “recover faster from harder workouts.” (p.24) Richard was a three time world and USA Shidokan champion, so if you are looking for a place to start, this is good advice.

3. Supplements

food guidelines

One only has to walk into the local vitamin chain store, or even the special organic/health section of your local grocer to see the enormous amount of products that are dedicated to athletic and martial art performance. Clearly, it is a big industry. So, if you are a competitor should you just load up on a ton of supplements and plan on conquering all in your path? Not so fast.

I have used supplements, and I have found some of them beneficial, but when you are choosing supplements you have to think about them critically. What may work for one person may not work for another. First ask: What do you need? In some cases just adding a multi-vitamin is enough. If you decide to add B-Complex during training, because you are deficient, then that is a good choice. If you don’t need it, then it will literally be money down the toilet. It is important to remember that supplements do just that, supplement. You still need to start with a good healthy and hydrated base.

4. Listen To Your Body

food guidelines

This can be controversial, I suppose, but I believe that if you are in tune with yourself during your training, you may do well to follow your internal cues. Now excluding the outliers who’s bodies tell them they need a double hot fudge sundae, I think that if you stay hydrated and eat a healthy diet, your body will let you know if you need anything else. Ask yourself, how do you feel? Most of the time people will say that they need more energy.

When it comes to needing more energy, the answer is usually simpler than an ancient secret root or a newly concocted supplement. First thing first: Are you getting enough sleep? Before you load up on Ginseng or caffeine try getting more rest, especially before competition. For me the day before competition is rest day, and I get to bed early. Sleep is usually the best answer to getting more energy and much cheaper than looking for a supplemental energy source. Sometimes we can overlook the most obvious solutions.

As a rule, I stay away from fads. I don’t believe that there is a magic supplement or food that will win for you, that job is always yours. I recommend being cautious and being wary of extraordinary claims in all instances. While what you take into your body is important, and it will have a substantial effect, it will always be up to you to win. Train hard, be positive, and eat well. That is the best recipe to follow.

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