People come to learn Chinese martial arts. From Kungfu, to Kickboxing, Self-Defense and moving meditation (Tai Chi), we teach a wide variety of practices under this heading.
I also frequently share my opinions about physical conditioning, and teach a variety of the strength and conditioning methods I find to be most beneficial. However, there are several other areas that are very important and deserve attention. These include diet, rest and recovery, and psychology among a few others.
Today I'd like to share with you my opinion and approach to diet and nutrition:
Try and eat “healthy”. Shaolin monks are not all vegetarians and you don’t have to be either. In addition, I do not believe this is a single “right” way to structure your diet. There are many different approaches that work well for different people. You must find out what best suits your needs, and your goals. Think of food as medicine and poison and consume the substances that will help your perform optimally. Remember that there are many good variations in diet that people make to accommodate their taste/preference, dietary and regional restrictions.
Honestly, I think you should try and keep it as simple as possible. I’ve always like the general advice from CrossFit’s Greg Glassman:
“In plain language, base your diet on garden vegetables, especially greens, lean meats, nuts and seeds, little starch, and no sugar. That's about as simple as we can get. Many have observed that keeping your grocery cart to the perimeter of the grocery store while avoiding the aisles is a great way to protect your health. Food is perishable. The stuff with long shelf life is all suspect. If you follow these simple guidelines you will benefit from nearly all that can be achieved through nutrition.”
I advocate eating whole/natural foods and organic/grass fed/pasture raised products when possible. Personally try and stay away from packaged and processed foods. That’s not to say I don’t eat deli meat or bread ever, but the bulk of it is rice, vegetables, fruit and meat. Try and stay away from the packaged stuff that never seems to go bad.
Drink more water. Honestly, drink more and see how you feel. I’ve consistently found that if I’m not drinking at least 64 oz a day I feel achy and tight. I’ve found I do best using a big container of water (~64 oz.). Fill it up in the morning, finish it, refill it and keep drinking. In general, you should try to drink between half an ounce and an ounce of water for each pound you weigh, every day. For example, I weigh 180 pounds, so I try and drink that would be 90 to 180 ounces of water a day depending on my activity levels. Think scientifically here and test/re-test. If at one point you feel uncomfortable then don’t force it, simply scale back on the intake. Continue to re-evaluate and adjust as needed. The biggest hurdle in this process seems to be the consistency. Think about your water intake as practice, and just as you practice anything else, you’ll get better at it. You will form the habit of continually drinking, and your bladder will adjust. It will get easier in time. Good habits will have profound impacts on your performance, but really on your health and wellness in general. Long term, hydration is one of the most important things you should be aware of.
Supplements are meant to supplement your regular diet. So I always suggest getting your diet and hydration in order first. Seriously, I have a friend who was telling me about a new supplement he was taking. I asked how much water he drank in a day and he said “I’m so busy at work, I don’t have time to drink water”. This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. Seriously, no supplement is going to help him more than drinking an the optimal amount of water. I can’t emphasize this enough- get your diet and hydration solid first. Only once you are really squared away would I recommend looking in to supplementation.
Supplements can be tricky. With many misleading advertisements, and the idea that simply taking a pill can change your game, it is very tempting to start spending your hard earned (or parents hard earned) money on things you really don’t need. My advice is to try and get as much of whatever you think you need to supplement in your regular diet. You want more vitamin C, fish oil and protein? First, try eating an orange, some fish and some eggs or chicken.
One simple trick: Try making your own smoothies. Easy way to get lots of good stuff.
What works for you?