Martial arts are some of the most incredible activities one can take up as hobbies. Aside from teaching people how to defend themselves, it is also great for physical fitness and keeping a good shape.
It is, however, essential to note that though there is potential in martial arts as a way to improve fitness, there is something more important than the type of movement itself when it comes to being healthy: a diet. Eating a healthy diet is even more critical when one trains in martial arts since muscle recovery, fat burning, endurance, and more are dependent on it.
In recent times, veganism has gained popularity due to both its moral and physiological benefits. It turns out, following a vegan diet might also be greatly beneficial for martial arts training. If you are interested to see how to keep reading!
First, let’s clarify what veganism is, and then we can assess what benefits it might have for training in martial arts.
Veganism is a lifestyle, not even a dietary choice or habit. It is more of a moral position rather than one that comes out of the fitness community. Not only do vegans not eat meat, but they also don’t consume any animal product in any way. From clothes made out of animal skin or fur to creams made out of plant-based oils and fats, vegas evade all animal products.
In this article, I will focus on how a diet stemming from such lifestyle decisions might impact martial arts performance.
A vegan diet is not only a plant-based diet; it can also be called a pure-plant diet. One of the most prominent benefits of adopting such a diet and lifestyle is that this inherently contains a massive food-restriction. Once you adopt a vegan diet, you automatically exclude things like processed and junk food, also burgers, pizzas, and more.
Even if you make vegan burgers or pizzas, they will be healthy. Basically, by becoming vegan, you force yourself not to eat anything harmful. You have a moral justification for strengthening this initiative, which is fertile ground for consistency.
So, as it is apparent, this means that your diet will probably improve from where it is now by becoming vegan. However, how does this benefit martial arts performance?
The first obvious benefit is weight loss. An often-cited study done in 2020 by Kevin Hall, Ph.D., and a team of scientists has shown that a plant-based, vegan diet has shown better fat loss than the keto diet, which is often praised for its incredible weight loss effects.
A vegan diet is spectacular for fat loss, and fat loss isn’t only important for people looking to shred some pounds, but also for athletes. It is also important to keep the fat off one’s body, to keep it lean and energized, which is what a diet like the vegan diet, with great fat-loss properties, can do.
Aside from the fat loss, there are an incredible amount of benefits to adopting a vegan diet, such as improvements in cardiovascular health (crucial for endurance and recovery), immune system (also crucial for recovery and dealing with inflammation and illness), and a lot more (source).
All of this can aid in martial arts training, since not only will you be burning and keeping off fat, you will also handle recovery after training better. Your stamina will be increased, your mental clarity will be a lot better, and you also won’t have to worry about getting sick, which can put holes in your training regiment and stop your progress.
As I have clarified, it is great to go vegan, not only for the ethical and moral part, which is mostly up to personal preference but also because of the plethora of health and fitness benefits, which also translate to benefits the training mat and in the gym.
However, the type of vegan diet you eat also matters a lot. You cannot eat rice your entire life, even if it is generally viewed as healthy and is also vegan. You still need a good balance of the three main macronutrients for a balanced diet: protein, carbs, and fats. Aside from these, you need to make sure your vitamin and mineral intake is also on point.
A common question you can get from non-vegan athletes and people in general is: how could you possibly get enough protein out of a vegan diet? Well, there are actually amazing ways to get protein without the help of meat. Beans, lentils, seitan, tofu, tempeh, even broccoli are all amazing protein sources, and there are a ton more.
It is actually not very hard to put together a good diet for martial arts training which is also vegan. It takes planning, though. You need to make sure you are not overdoing anything, which can be an issue. Eating too much of one macronutrient can cause issues like fatigue or digestion problems, so balance it out for optimal results.
A vegan diet optimized for martial arts training has high amounts of protein, and balanced ratios of fat and carbs, but preferably low-fat. However, the type of fat is also important. Choose extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, or perhaps avocado oil for the best health benefits that fats can provide.
Actually, I have a couple of friends in a pretty large gym I train Jiu-Jitsu in, who have been vegan for a while now. All of them agree that it took some time to figure out exactly which foods work for them and how to make proper meals without animal-based protein, but aside from that, all they can say about the transition are positive things.
A great tip they told me in the case I would want to make the transition, is that it is awesome to have a jar of peanut butter always at hand. This can help with the sugar-cravings on a healthy vegan diet, and it also provides a ton of healthy fats and proteins, all vegan.
All-in-all, a vegan diet can greatly improve your performance on the training mats, that is if you pay attention not to overdo or slack on your macro monitoring. It doesn’t have to be gram for gram, but you should try your best to take a look at the nutritional value of the foods you eat so you can make sure you are getting the macro profile you are looking for.
In conclusion, here is a quick list of vegan foods which should be in your pantry or fridge if you want a great martial arts performance:
All vegetables (broccoli, asparagus, Brussel sprouts)
Grains (quinoa, brown rice, bulgur, buckwheat)
Legumes (beans, lentils)
Healthy fats (olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil)
Nuts (macadamia, walnuts, hazelnuts)
Seeds (pumpkin, sesame, flax)
If you make the change towards veganism, not only will you probably feel better about yourself for not contributing to the horrors of factory farming, you will also be a lot better in the martial art you are training in, and following such a diet might even be the catalyst you need to get to the best shape in your life!