BodybuildingPro.com Nutrition Database BodybuildingPro.com Presents: The Role of Nutrition in Martial Arts, Police, Military Personnel
"The role of nutrition in martial arts, police, military personnel"
By Will Brink, author of:
Muscle Building Nutrition
Muscle Gaining Diet, Training Routines by Charles Poliquin & Bodybuilding
Diet Supplements Revealed
Real World Fat Loss Diet & Weight Loss Supplement Review
"The role of nutrition in martial arts, police, military personnel"
For a considerable amount of time, nutrition has not played a prominent role in
the life of many martial artists, police, and military personnel as a means of
improving performance. Top athletes are always looking for an edge. Although the
martial arts are more of a way of life and a life style than a sport per se, the
needs of the martial artist are the same as that of the elite athlete. Mental
aspects not withstanding (i.e. mental awareness, strategy, cunning, etc.), the
need for speed, agility, strength, flexibility, and the ability to recuperate
from tough workouts (and unforgiving sparing partners) is paramount to the
success of athletes and martial artists alike. Police and military personnel can
also have unique requirements that require them to perform at peak physical and
or psychological levels.
Over the past decade our knowledge of sports nutrition has evolved into a
science that has swept the athletic world and has been partially responsible for
the ever increasing numbers of athletes who are pushing the envelope of human
ability and performance. Although a handful of the worlds top martial artists,
police, and elite military units have taken advantage of the ?cutting edge?
nutrition being used by top athletes, the majority of these communities has not
taken advantage of the new science of sports nutrition.
The advantage of
improving one's performance through nutrition and correct supplementation is
obvious for the athlete, but what about the martial artist? Obviously technique,
form, and knowledge of one's chosen martial art is essential to the mastery of
that art, but what if the person, regardless of skill level, becomes a little
faster, stronger, and able to resist and repair from injuries and training
Will they not be an improved version of their former self? Of course
they will! Proper nutrition can make the martial artist, as it has for so many
of today?s top athletes, an improved and potentially more accomplished
practitioner of their art, plain and simple. If a policeman is able to stay
alert, has more endurance or strength, etc., will he/she not have an added
advantage to the job? Of course.. The benefits to the soldier are obvious.
Bottom line? To not take advantage of the science of nutrition and
supplementation, is to short change the martial artists, police, and military
As a trainer for many athletes from various sports, police, and ,military
personnel, and the author of numerous articles on sports nutrition and training,
I have come to a few general guidelines that should be of considerable help and
interest to the martial artist, police, etc. who want to improve both health and
performance. Though nutrition is a complex topic, I have devised a basic guide
to the major and minor nutrients that should be helpful to the martial artist,
police, and athlete alike who are trying to make food and nutrient choices. Of
course this guide is in no way total or complete, and many individual
differences may apply, but as a basic guide to examining these nutrients, it
could give you the edge you have been looking for.
Proteins are made up of amino acids which are the structural units of the
protein molecule. There are approximately 20 amino acids. Eight of them are
considered ?essential? because the human body cannot make them on its own -
which is the definition of an essential nutrient. Link a few amino acids
together and you get a peptide. Link a bunch of peptides together and you get a
protein. The shape of the individual amino acids (and resulting proteins) is
unique and highly specific, so I won't go into great detail about it here.
Suffice it to say, proteins are an essential part of virtually every function in
our body from the muscles, to certain hormones, to our immune system(s) and a
whole lot more. In particular, the amino acids known as the ?branched chain?
amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, and valine) and the amino acid L-glutamine are
of particular interest to active people as they are anti-catabolic (muscle
sparing) and immune enhancing, to name only a few functions and benefits of
these particular amino acids.
Though the RDA for protein is generally sufficient for couch potatoes (with some
debate) the majority of athletes and/or highly active people will benefit from
higher intakes of high quality proteins. Proteins with the highest biological
value (BV) are the proteins that should constitute the majority of the active
person?s diet, as they are superior for maintaining positive nitrogen balance,
reducing recuperation time from workouts, improving immune function, etc. Whey
protein concentrate (WPC) and isolates (WPI) have the highest BV of any protein,
is almost 50% branched chain amino acids, and is high in L-glutamine, which is
why I recommend several servings a day of WPC/WPI to all the athletes/martial
artists/police I work with.
There are several brands of WPC/WPI on the market.
Other high quality proteins such as skinless chicken, fish, eggs, soy, and lean
red meats, have relatively high BV values and are good proteins. Another point
that is important to know, the higher quality the protein, the less the person
has to eat and this allows the person to keep total calories lower by sticking
to these high BV proteins.
For a person who is active in the martial arts, has a busy job, and probably
does some weight lifting and/or aerobics, an intake of .7-.8 grams of protein
per pound of lean body weight is what I have generally recommended. For high
level bodybuilders and competitive distance athletes, the protein intake will be
higher, approximately 1g of protein per lb /bodyweight being the most common. In
certain situations, amino acid supplementation is useful, but most people will
have no problem getting what they need by eating plenty of high quality protein
foods. Low grade, high fat, preservative loaded, protein foods such as luncheon
meats, hot dogs, etc., should be avoided for obvious reasons.
Carbohydrates are made primarily of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms that
cycle into a ring. They can be "simple" or "complex" depending on the number of
rings that are hooked together and the way the carbohydrate effects blood sugar
(1). Though the rings can be slightly different in shape, their common theme is
the ring structure. Similar to amino acids that make up proteins, when you link
the simple units (the sugars) together you get carbohydrates with different
properties. As most people know, carbohydrates are a primary source of energy
for the body. The best type of carbohydrates to eat are those that are high in
fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Though foods such as pasta, breads, and white
rice are considered ?complex? they are highly processed foods, totally
inadequate in fiber, vitamins, and minerals and should not make up a high
percentage of a persons carbohydrate intake. Though these foods are often
fortified with certain vitamins, in my opinion this does not truly replace what
is lost during processing, not to mention the many nutrients that are not
replaced. Americans are notoriously low eaters of fiber, and heavily processed
foods mentioned above do nothing to correct this deficit. High fiber
carbohydrate foods such as brown rice, beans, lentils, oatmeal, sweet potatoes,
and many others, are the preferred carbohydrate foods for health, performance,
steady blood sugar levels, and reduced bodyfat levels.
Though the high carbohydrate/low fat diet is all the rage these days, it has not
been in my experience the optimal diet for the many athletes, martial artists,
and ?normal? people I have worked with (see fats below). Data continues to
support the fact that high carb low fat diets are not optimal for either health
for weight loss. Eating too much of anything, including carbohydrates, will make
one fat (too bad the makers of non-fat foods fail to tell you this) and cause a
host of other ills I don't have the space here to cover. There are many
researchers, books, and studies using both animals and humans that seriously
questions the high carbohydrate/low fat diet as the optimal diet for health and
performance. Two grams per pound of lean bodyweight of carbohydrates is more
than sufficient to fuel the energy needs of most athletes if other aspects of
their diet is adequate (i.e. correct use and amounts of certain fats and
proteins). And, as mentioned previously, the source of those carbohydrates is of
The very word sends a shiver down the back of the leanest person. There is not a
more misunderstood nutrient in all of nutrition than fats. Many people know
there are big differences in how various carbohydrates effect the body and some
people even know that different proteins have different properties, but ?a fat
is a fat, no?? is what the majority of people would say if you asked them about
this much maligned nutrient. Fats have just as many biochemical differences in
the human body as do carbohydrates and proteins, and thus have just as many
different effects on the body that range from very good to very bad. It really
depends on the type and amount of fat(s) we eat(2). Americans tend to get their
dietary fats from saturated fats, rancid fats, and highly processed fats ( which
contain by products such as trans fatty acids) , thus giving fats a bad name.
As mentioned earlier, an essential nutrient is anything the human body cannot
manufacture on its own and must be obtained from the diet, or the person will
become sick and/or perish if the nutritional deficit is not corrected. We know
there are a multitude of vitamins and minerals, eight amino acids, and two types
of fats that are considered essential nutrients for life itself to continue. You
should be aware that there is no such thing as an essential carbohydrate, but
that's a whole other story. The two fats that are known to be essential to
health are Linoleic acid (LA) which is an Omega-6 fatty acid and Alpha-linolenic
acid (LNA) which is an Omega-3 fatty acid. Both of these fats can be found in
various foods that have not been heavily processed.
These two fats are highly
sensitive and reactive to heat, light, and oxygen (i.e. they go bad quickly) ,
and are totally ruined or lost during the processing of our foods. The reason
poly -unsaturated vegetable oils that line the shelves of most super markets can
sit there for years on end is because they have been heated, deodorized, and
generally processed to the point that they are the nutritional equivalent of
white bread and table sugar. I recommend people avoid those oils.
Because of all the fat bashing by the popular media and health professionals who
should know better, most people have come away thinking that all fat is bad and
serves no other purpose than to make our hips and stomach wider while ruining
our health. Nothing could be further from the truth. The membrane that surrounds
every single cell in your body, the sheath around nerves, various hormones,
prostaglandins, and countless other parts of the body (especially the brain)
depend on the dietary intake of the right fats.
The importance of the essential
fatty acids for health and performance cannot be understated. It is true that
certain fats, such as, saturated fats, rancid fats, and trans fatty acids (found
in margarine, Crisco, and other products) , can cause numerous health problems
from heart disease to cancer and insulin resistance, to name only a few ills of
a diet high in the wrong types of fat. However, the essential fatty acids (especially
the Omega-3 fatty acids) are anti-lipolytic (stop fat storage), anti-catabolic
(stop the break down of muscle tissue), increase metabolic rate and beta
oxidation (burn calories/increase fat burning), improve insulin sensitivity,
reduce the chances of heart diseases, and a whole lot more (3).
Though early research told us that we need a bit more LA (the Omega-6 fatty acid)
than LNA (the Omega-3 fatty acid) in our diet, we find in practice that a diet
containing higher amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids (LNA) gets the best results in
health, bodyfat levels, and performance. The richest source of the Omega-3 fatty
acid LNA is Flax oil, which also contains a small amount of the Omega-6 oil LA
(4). Flax oil can be found in the refrigerated section of any good health food
store and is derived from the careful processing of flax seeds (5). As a
nutritional consultant to various athletes, I have used flax oil with many of
the country?s top bodybuilders (a group of athletes notoriously fearful of
eating fat) to reduce their bodyfat levels and improve their performance and
health. Two?three tablespoons a day over a salad, taken straight, or in a
protein drink does the trick (6). Another major source of Omega-3 fatty acids
can be found in deep water cold fish such as sardines, mackerel, and salmon (7),
and I recommend that people eat two to three servings of these fish per week.
Good sources of LA are unprocessed vegetable oils such as safflower, sunflower,
sesame, and many other oils found in health food stores.
Fats to avoid are highly processed vegetable oils and other processed vegetable
products (such as margarine), rancid fats, and to a lesser degree, saturated
fats. The key to health and performance is a proper balance of essential fatty
acids (LNA and LA), mono unsaturated oils (found in olive oil, avocados, etc.),
and small amounts of saturated fats found in lean meats and other sources
combined with the right carbohydrates and proteins.
Obviously a full description of every vitamin and mineral and all their
functions would take several large text books, so I won't even attempt it here.
A good multi vitamin is an insurance plan to make sure we get all the major
vitamins and minerals that for what ever reason we failed to get from our food
on any given day. There is not a single cell in our entire body that does not
require the use, or interaction with, some vitamin, mineral, or biological
function that is dependent on the above nutrients in adequate amounts. If you
think we get all the vitamins and minerals we need from our highly processed
food supply (as some health professionals maintain), than I have a bridge in
Brooklyn I would like to sell you. Some (but not all) nutritionists and other
health related professionals will often say something like ?vitamins supplements
just cause expensive urine.?
The last time I checked, chemo therapy, heart
bypass operations, and hundreds of other medical treatments cost considerably
more than the average multi vitamin. If the intake of vitamins were to prevent
any major disease in say one out of a 100,000 people, it would have been worth
every cent in my book. In my opinion, the correct use of vitamins, minerals,
herbs, essential fatty acids, and many other nutritional based compounds, is the
best route to optimal health and performance. Any major brand of multi vitamin
from such manufacturers as Twin Lab, Solgar, or Nature?s Best, to name only a
few good brands, would be fine.
Anti - oxidants
?Anti-oxidants? and ?free radicals? are the hot buzz words these days on
television news shows, news paper articles, and magazine features. Though
scientists in the health and nutritional fields have known about them for
decades, they have recently been getting a lot of attention by mainstream media
and more open minded medical researchers. Anti-oxidants are a special class of
vitamins and other non vitamin compounds that neutralize free radicals before
they can damage cells in our body. What is a free radical? A free radical is a
highly reactive molecular fragment that has a single unpaired electron. The
unpaired electron wants to ?pair up? with another electron.
The free radical
will steal this electron from virtually anything it comes in contact with,
including our cells. This reaction, if left unchecked, leads to a free radical
chain reaction and damage to various parts of the cell depending on where it
takes place. An anti-oxidant can donate an electron without itself becoming a
free radical and thus can break the chain of events leading to an uncontrolled
free radical chain reaction (8). Free radical pathology is now believed to be
linked to diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and dozens of other
afflictions. Without going into a long (and boring) biochemical explanation,
there are many things that cause free radicals to be released, such as smoking,
exposure to various toxins found in air, food and water, sickness, exercise, and
stress in general.
Anti-oxidants such as vitamin E and C and other compounds such as selenium, N-acetyl
cysteine (NAC), and proanthocyanidins (derived from grape seed extract), to
mention a few, will help recuperation from tough workouts, improve immunity,
possibly prevent certain diseases, and improve your health in so many different
ways it would take another article to explain. A good anti-oxidant formula made
by any one of the brands I mentioned previously, should be added to the diet in
addition to the multi- vitamin. Whey proteins can also greatly improve anti
oxidants status and is recommended.
The topic of sports nutrition supplements, such as: androstenedione and other ?andros,?
Arginine, Colostrum, CLA, Creatine, Ecdysterone, GH Supplements, Ginseng, HMB,
Myostatin Inhibitors and Tribulus, to name just a few, is beyond the scope of
this article. Each supplement has its potential uses, dawbacks, doses and other
variables that need to be examoned on an indavidual basis. People in the martial
arts, law enforecement, or military that want to understand these supplements ;
whether or not they are worth useing, doses, types, etc., should consider
reading my ebook on the topic of sports nutrition supplements, nutrition, and
training called Muscle Building Nutrition at: http://www.MuscleBulidingNutrition.com
The above list of foods and supplements is in no way complete or the entire
picture when it comes to additional ways the martial artist, police, and
military personnel can improve his or her health, strength, bodyfat levels, and
recuperative abilities. However, the information presented here can make for a
foundation of health and performance that could add a considerable edge for
those who seeks it.
(1)The way a carbohydrate effects blood sugar after it is eaten is known as the
glycemic response. The glycemic index (GI) is a list of foods and how they
effect blood sugar. Some foods we think of as ?complex? actually raise blood
sugar much faster than many foods we think of as ?simple.?
(2) The health problems related to fats is are far more complex than most people
appreciate. The pathology of disease(s) caused by high fat intakes of the wrong
types of fat is a complex interaction between certain fats, carbohydrates, a
lack of certain vitamins and other nutrients, free radical/anti-oxidant
mechanisms, and other factors that are poorly understood.
(3) For more information on the many benefits of the essential fatty acids and
to find out more information about fats and health in general, read ?Fats the
Heal fats that Kill? by Dr. Udo Erasmus published by Alive books.
(4) LNA and LA are in a 4:1 ratio in flax oil.
(5) Like fresh eggs, milk, meat, etc, all fresh unprocessed oils will spoil (go
rancid) if not refrigerated constantly and eaten shortly after opening the
(6) All highly unsaturated oils, including flax, should NEVER be used to cook
with as this will change the structure of theses oils making them toxic and of
little use for the purpose they are intended for.
(7) The ?fish oils? DHA and EPA can be formed in the human body from LNA by
(8) It is important to note that free radical reactions are a normal and
essential part of metabolism. It is the uncontrolled free radical chain
reactions that we are concerned with.
About the Author - William D. Brink
Will Brink is a columnist, contributing consultant, and writer for various
health/fitness, medical, and bodybuilding publications. His articles relating to
nutrition, supplements, weight loss, exercise and medicine can be found in such
publications as Lets Live, Muscle Media 2000, MuscleMag International, The Life
Extension Magazine, Muscle n Fitness, Inside Karate, Exercise For Men Only, Body
International, Power, Oxygen, Penthouse, Women?s World and The Townsend Letter
He is the author of Priming The Anabolic Environment and Weight
Loss Nutrients Revealed. He is the Consulting Sports Nutrition Editor and a
monthly columnist for Physical magazine and an Editor at Large for Power
magazine. Will graduated from Harvard University with a concentration in the
natural sciences, and is a consultant to major supplement, dairy, and
He has been co author of several studies relating to sports nutrition and health
found in peer reviewed academic journals, as well as having commentary published
in JAMA. He runs the highly popular web site BrinkZone.com which is
strategically positioned to fulfill the needs and interests of people with
diverse backgrounds and knowledge. The BrinkZone site has a following with many
sports nutrition enthusiasts, athletes, fitness professionals, scientists,
medical doctors, nutritionists, and interested lay people. William has been
invited to lecture on the benefits of weight training and nutrition at
conventions and symposiums around the U.S. and Canada, and has appeared on
numerous radio and television programs.
William has worked with athletes ranging from professional bodybuilders,
golfers, fitness contestants, to police and military personnel.
See Will's ebooks online here:
Muscle Building Nutrition
A complete guide bodybuilding supplements and eating to gain lean muscle
Diet Supplements Revealed
A review of diet
supplements and guide to eating for maximum fat loss
He can be contacted at: PO Box 812430
Wellesley MA. 02482.
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