CMAA Challenge - July 2012

CMAA Monthly Challenge: July

After writing this entire challenge I changed my mind. While, the months challenge had been originally geared towards diet and nutrition, I thought of something else of great importance, something much easier to implement and something that we should make habitual right now- DRINK MORE WATER! Drink your 8 glasses a day and then work up to 9 (for women) or 13 glasses (for men). Also drink more if you’re outside in the hot weather or working up a sweat training (as I expect we all are!).

That’s it, that’s the challenge. It couldn’t be easier. Now do it and be healthier.

Now some of you may already be doing drinking enough water. Since I already wrote the dietary challenge out, and since you ambitious over achievers already know you need to drink, keep reading to refocus yourself on what you (already know you) need to eat!

Having spent the last few months focusing our challenges on flexibility, mental clarity, and physical conditioning, I would like to now address another element of a martial artist’s lifestyle- diet and nutrition.

Diet alone is one of the greatest factors in our overall health. From our body composition (fat to muscles ratio), energy levels, physical performance, recovery rates during rest periods, and our own continuum of illness->wellness->fitness, our “diet” is one of the most important components.

If we look at the Shaolin Kungfu monks, the Daoist Taichi priests, or the secular martial artists who train and compete professionally – diet is a common area of concern.

Please note, when I use the word “diet”, I do not mean it to be “a regimen of eating and drinking sparingly so as to reduce one's weight”, or the removal of a specific nutritional category (ie. low fat/no fat, low carb diets). I use the word to refer to our habitual nourishment as considered with regard to nutritional qualities, composition, and effects on health.

Diet and nutrition can be a very complicated subject and there are MANY different approaches. In keeping with the Chinese way of “Zhong Yong” the “Middle Road” we may best approach diet and nutrition with the western idea of “everything in moderation”. However, we can take this one step further and say, “everything healthy in moderation and sweets sparingly”.

Greg Glassman, fitness guru and founder of CrossFit said it the best with “Diet lays the molecular foundations for fitness and health” and adds, “Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat.”

Are any of us really surprised to hear that? I don’t think so. Is it possible that the greatest martial artists in the world like the Shaolin monks and Daoist priests had it right?

Well, if you were wondering whether or not there were any more specific dietary guidelines you could follow, the answer is yes. It’s not called the Shaolin/Daoist or Martial Artist’s Diet (although it could be), it’s called the Paleolithic Diet. The diet is also known as the Paleo Diet, Caveman Diet, Stone Age Diet and Hunter-Gather Diet.

General guidelines for the Paleo diet include lean protein sources, such as lean beef, fish, poultry and wild game with a variety of fruits and vegetables. Foods to avoid include dairy products, sugars, refined carbohydrates, processed foods and starchy vegetables.

Personally, I follow a slightly a modified version of this diet known as "The Paleo Diet for Athletes" by Loren Cordain, Ph.D. This modified variant outlines several Paleo foods that are acceptable for athletes. Martial artists can add certain foods such as pasta, bread and rice during periods of extended recovery between workouts.

Again, I use these dietary guidelines as a general guide to nutrition. I still eat oatmeal, yogurt and drink milk. I still eat sweet potatoes and enjoy dessert foods. However, I do think focusing our diet on non-processed, whole foods and a well-balanced diet is the key to nutritional health.

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This month’s challenge is to focus on restructuring your food pyramid. Good luck. Drink your water, eat healthy, train Chinese martial arts and be happy!