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Dietary requirements of Martial Athletes same as Bodybuilders?

Hi guys

One thing that always confused me was the dietary requirements for Martial artists in particular, Hard training Martial Athletes (Kickboxers, Thai Boxers, MMA Fighters etc)

Bodybuilding Diets have been very well documented and there are tonnes of resources and forums etc for them like T-Mag

All i hear in the gym is eat carbs carbs carbs. Through alot of research and finding out about diets via body building sites, magazines etc i’ve learnt about low carb diets, the benefits of both protein and efas and whilst i’ve encorporated these into my diet i’ve always wondered if my diet was geared towards me and the way I train.

For example it seems like 1-2g of protein per lbs of bodyweight is reccomended for bodybuilders. A bodybuilders aim is to pack on muscle. Mine is not really to pack on muscle (although i’ve started weight training more regularly to supplement my training for speed and strength and a bit more muscle too)

One thing is i’ve never been totally cut. I was fat as a kid and lost alot of weight when i took my training serious, 5 years on i still have a spare tire and i think one of the reasons this never went was the amount of carbs i used to ingest. I’ve now reduced the number of carbs im eating by following JB’s Don’t diet diet plan and it’s very slowly coming off but again is this plan good for martial artists or is it just greared towards bodybuilders?

What are the optimum macronutrient ratios if you’re not interested in getting huge but want good athletic performance whilst trying to shed stubborn fat?

Is it enough to create a calorie defecit ( i dont think so cos i believe i eat below what I should be and only seem to lose weight from certain areas)

Anyway thanks for reading this and i appreciate any replies :slight_smile:

Dark -

The only time you should ever cut carbohydrates from your dietery needs is when needing to drop body fat. If fat or weight is not an issue then absolutely do not cut them. I cut them for one week down to about 150g and really felt the difference, this drop lasted for one week, and set me back two steps. Practices suffered, and training in the gym really hurt, I think I even began to feel overtrained and basically shitty. My macronutrient breakdown is usually 50c/30p/20f. The only fat I eat is 15g fish oil, and I tend to eat two hamburger patties with cheese three to four times a week. Other than that fat for me comes from indirect sources. Carbohydrates are berries, oats, whole grain breads, pasta two-three times a week, and tons of veggies, also a lot of them come indirectly as well such as cottage cheese, protein powders, protein bars, pasta sauces, and marinades for chicken. Protein sources for me are basically eggs, tuna, salmon packets, lean beef, chicken, cottage cheese, and tons of powders (around 120g a day). Hope that helped.

Da Boxer

I think athletes need to tailor their nutrition to suit them and their sport, but I do feel that the typical diets you see on T-mag do apply to athletes in many regards.

If following Massive Eating/Don’t Diet/Temporal Nutrition guidelines, I think you’re on the right track. Obviously, as an athlete, some of your goals may be different, so you may need to make some adjustments to protein, carb and fat needs.

Also, Don Alessi and Poliquin use more of a low-carb approach with their clients and athletes with great results.

So although you may need to make some minor changes, I think many of the recommendations are on track for athletes.

boxer thanks for the reply

any other perspectives on this?

I am in a similar situation as Dark Assasin. My primary physical activity/pursuit is climbing. I still cary on a little bit of stubborn fat from childhood (currently at about 9-10%). I have been following the Don’t Diet approach, and I am rather pleased with it all things considered. For the past two weeks, I cut my carbs to 50g in the morning and 50g after working out in the evening. I have been consuming 2200-2400 kcal a day (5’10’’ 150lbs), and I have been following a climbing periodization plan. So far, my climbing performance has been improving. I am currently doing 400m sprints or HIIT usually proceeding some antagonist muscle strengthening three times a week (O.H. Pressing, Dips, core strengthening, etc.).
I feel like I am getting stronger and faster, but not as fast as I know I am capable of (I blame the caloric deficit). I have been feeling a bit overtrained lately, but it has not been that big of a deal. I have the same problem thinking about my diet. How do I eat to maximse body comp., climbing performance, recovery, and health. I am choosing a comprimise between all of these factors. I am seeing improvements, but they are slower than I might hope. I hope this helps the discussion. Any others in this situation (i.e. dieting atheletes)?

Here fellas, to simplify things, I will give you my current eating plan, and must add that by far this has worked the best at keeping me lean(6%BF) for three months now.(Also I will add that Tampa-Terry had a lot to do with this)

7a.m.- 90g C, 50g Pro, 5g fat
1 cup steel cut oats
1 cup blueberries and strawberries
2 scoops lc grow

9a.m. - 12g cho, 48g pro, 2g fat
1 cup FF cottage cheese
1 scoop low carb grow
blend in ice, water, and no calorie syrup(tastes freekin great)

11a.m.- 6g cho, 54g pro, 30g fat
6 eggs (2 whole, 4 whites)
5oz extra-lean red meat

2p.m. - 10g CHO, 32g pro, 18g fat
Muscle-Milk protein shake by cytosport

5:30pm - 75g cho, 25g pro, 5g fat
Post-workout shake

7p.m.- 100g cho, 50g pro, 5g fat
1 can yams, or four slices whole grain bread
1 chicken breast
FF cheese slices

10p.m. - 50g cho, 54pro, 4g fat
1 cup cottage cheese
1 can FF yogurt
1 scoop low carb grow
1 cup blueberries

there you go guys, that’s just me, but it’s worked incredibly. Im always full and never crave a damn thing. I enjoy this and follow it on the weekends as well except I tend to cheat with whatever and whenever on weekends.

Da Boxer

I posted a really long reply dunno what happened? I wonder if it went through

anyway in summary of that mysterious post i just wrote

  1. Thanks for the info :slight_smile:
  2. I like the dont diet diet approach been doing it for about 3-4 weeks now and feeling good (though im taking photos every week and no difference there yet :frowning: )
  3. Im doing HIIT 3-4 times a week i might add a longer run in there and run 5 days a week instead of 3-4
  4. Al, your diet looks good, similar to mine but i have less carbs than you. I find too many carbs makes me look really flabby :frowning:

Thanks again guys

Well, my experience tends in the direction of al’s. I’m an mma fighter, so every week I box, wrestle, grapple, lift weights, do HIIT, and one steady state cardio session, quite an energy expenditure. I’ve cut carbs to ketogenic levels before just to see what happens, and I do okay for about a day and a half, but after that, I fall apart.


With that having been said, I’ve been trying to cut down and maintain performance over the last couple of weeks, and I’ve found I can get away with as little as 25-30% of my calories coming from carbs, provided I use them “strategically,” i.e., post-workout and sometimes in the morning, just like most folks on this board recommend.


I think you’re just going to have to tinker with your diet and find your minimum carb intake for yourself.

Hey, there, Dark Assassin. An interesting question you pose there.

Re the protein, 1.5g per pound of TBW (or at LEAST LBM) is a good solid number whether for the body builder, the dieter or the “aerobic athlete.” Intense aerobics, fighting, sparring, etc., can be highly catabolic. And except for special circumstances, most people would prefer to drop BF vs LBM. Taking in small, frequent protein-containing meals will help protect LBM.

John Berardi’s Don’t Diet approach with its concepts of P+F and P+C food combining is HUGE as it relates to optimizing your body composition. That is appropriate to ANYONE who would like to reduce BF and shift their body composition in favor of LBM.

The fish oil Boxer Al mentioned is another biggie. It’s a high-performance fat, “essential” for high-performance athletes. Go into the book store and read the article on athletic performance in Barry Sear’s book, The Omega Zone, and come to your own conclusions.

Carbs. (grin) I saved the best for last. On the one hand, you need carbs to fuel the type of work you do. But on the other hand, it’s difficult to lose weight on a carb dominant diet. What’s a fighter to do?

First off, the amount of carbs a person needs is highly individual. It depends on LBM, genetics, insulin sensitivity (or not). You’d do well to track everything you eat in a food log and find out what your optimal number is as it relates to carbs. Too many carbs and a person becomes “brain foggy.” Too few carbs and a person becomes “weak.” Find the range for you by raising the number for a few days, lowering it for a few days. All you can do is play around with your carb intake and find out what the numbers are for YOU.

From there, if you’re trying to drop BF or make weight, you can drop the numbers a bit and incorporate strategic carb refeeds. That way you have the fat-burning benefits of a low-carb approach and the performance-enhancing benefits of a carb refeed. How often you need to refeed will once again depend on your needs, how low you go with your carbs, how intense your training is, etc. Refeeds might need to be done once or twice a week or more often than that. You’ll know when performance is starting to suffer.

If you use the search engine, there’s plenty here on the T&N Forum regarding refeeds.

Boxer Al, thank you for the kind words, but I’d argue that your world-class results are due to your inquiring mind and your execution and discipline. You and I have just had some – shall we say “interesting” discussions. (grin)

yeah i went down to ketogenic levels at one point too
i did for about 4 months!!
(tried to adapt) it got to a stage where energy levels would be fine but when doing heavy pad work my muscles would fatigue really quickly so i thought i deffo need carbs
i slowly introduced them back in and so far so good.
I’m gonna try JB’s insulin sensitiity test thingy as soon as i can get my hands on a glucose meter but they’re not as expensive as i’d thought theyd be

Hi tampa terry

Thanks for the insight

I really feel that Dont diet diet is almost a perfect diet hehe

anyway i agree with all u said and i have been keeping a food log and i recall yesterday my carbs were < 100g (i’m about 135-140lbs) so it’s not mega low relative to a 200lbs lifter
anyway today i deffinately don’t feel as good as I did yesterday (when on the day prior to it i must have had > 150g carbs) so I think 150g is a good amount for me, i guess that sits nicely to allow 2 or 3 P +F meals
i take about 10g of flax oil per P + F meal or if im having salmon i miss it. Before bed i have a fish oil cap too but it’s one of those u get at the supermarket aimed at “Normal” people although it’s concentrated it provides 400mg of DPA and EHAs, s this enough or should i double the dose?

My usual day if im training hard looks like this:

am Cardio session

Meal 1. Oatmeal
2 scoops of whey protein
Green tea
500mg ALA

Meal 2. Small Apple
Can of Tuna

Meal 3. Chicken/Tuna or Salmon(no flax)
Veggies
10g Flax Oil

Meal 4. Cottage Cheese or MRP

Meal 5. If training: PW shake 50C 35P
500mg ALA

    (Usually chicken/fish with  veggies and flax if no training)

Meal 6. (If I’ve trained)
Chicken + Veggies
I’m not sure if i should add more carbs at this meal so close to bed time + fish oil caps

    (If no training)
    2 scoops of whey + fish oil caps + a few tbsps of low fat yoghurt

How does that look?

Dark Assassin, looks AWFULLY good!

Re the ALA, be sure to take it 30 minutes BEFORE you eat your oatmeal and 30 minutes BEFORE you take in your post workout shake if you’re using it as a glucose disposal agent. You might want to do some research on rALA here on T-Mag too. It’s the superior version. 1FAST400 has some good prices.

Re the fish oil, you receive benefits at 6-10g of EPA/DHA. I use Health from the Sun’s Ultra Omega 3 (liquid). They do have a capsule version, but you’d have to take something like 18 capsules to get 6g or 30 capsules for 10g. The health benefits, cognitive benefits, cardiovascular benefits, anti-inflammatory benefits are in that 6-10g range. As I said, read that chapter on athletic performance in Barry Sears’ book, The Omega Zone at ye local Barnes & Noble.

On those meals that you’re eating P+C, go ahead and take your flaxseed oil in at another time. It does not need to be split up like a multi-vitamin to be effective. You could have your daily dose of fish oil with a protein shake before bed.

I like to take my fish oil with my tuna, by the way. I find it to be a yummy combo . . . not that everyone agrees with me. (grin)

I like to time my P+C meals. We are most carb sensitive (a good thing) upon waking (fasted state) and post workout. If you work out late, I’d definitely take in a P+C meal post workout, even though it flys in the face of “tradition.” Post workout your body will suck up carbs like a dry sponge soaks up water. The carbs you eat definitely won’t go to fat. It will just refill glycogen stores (a VERY good thing).

As far as dropping the last little bit of BF, try a few things for me. We’re talking a one- or two-week test.

  1. Cut out the cottage cheese and yogurt. Milk sugar preferentially refills liver glycogen and is easily converted to triglyceride and stored as subcutaneous fat if liver glycogen is full.

  2. Try chewing all of your protein (except your PWO drink). You’ll burn/spend more calories chewing your protein, mechanical digestion, breaking down the protein into amino acids, remodeling of amino acids, etc. Thermic effect of food.

The above two changes assume you’re weighing yourself on a daily basis and weighing and measuring your food and keeping a food log. I’m not asking you to reduce your calories or your carbs. We’re just experimenting.

Everything else looks awesome – actually, it looks pretty darn good the way it is. I just threw a few things out for your consideration.

And finally, in the spirit of throwing things out for your consideration, give some thought to Hot Rocks. At a given caloric intake it will shift the LBM to FM ratio in favor of LBM.

Thanks Tampa Terry!!!

That is EXACTLY the kind of reply i’ve always wanted when i posted info for a diet
most helpful and informative

thanks a million

You’re right about the dairy in my opinion
I only use it cos it’s cheap and has casein but too much dairy makes me feel ill, i have a mild intollerence to lactose.

I think i’ll chuck out the cottage cheese and replace it with tuna or something.

Again thanks

Oh and another reason for adding the dairy was I was worried about my calcium intake

Hey, there, DA. FYI, broccoli is high in calcium. So are a lot of the dark-green leafy vegetables. Cows’ milk is high in calcium, yet they don’t eat dairy or take a calcium supplement.

Yeah, that whole dairy thing has helped me break more than one plateau. It doesn’t cause a problem for some people, but for a number of others, it really works against their body composition goals.

Thanks for the kind words. Keep working towards that goal of yours and don’t ever, ever give up.