Published: January 6, 2023

Heart Healthy Diet for Martial Arts

Heart Healthy Diet for Martial Arts

What does a healthy diet have to do with Brazilian jiu jitsu (BJJ)? Everything! You must know up front, BJJ and Muay Thai are physically rigorous and demanding combat sports. A healthy diet will aid in your bodies ability to handle the physical and mental exertion which you will experience. A healthy diet will aid in the quicker recovery time. We all want to be healthier. Let’s face it you are doing this for a healthier life. We can help you with your goals. (Goal Setting Article) 


In starting a martial arts fitness program you will find the work out you put your body through is intense. Martial arts also engages your brain as well. Having a healthy diet will give your body/brain the vitamins and nutrients needed to sustain a rigorous active exercise regime and aid in the repair and upkeep. Eating correctly will profoundly affect your performance in martial arts as well as your daily live.


Heart Healthy Diet?

A heart healthy diet is a great place to start. Here are 8 steps that will assist you in your decision making regarding what you use to replenish you giving you a better foundation to pursue your aspirations. 


  • Portion Control
  • Eat more Vegetables and Fruits
  • Select Whole Grains
  • Limit Unhealthy Fats
  • Choose Low-Fat Protein Sources
  • Reduce Sodium in your Food
  • Allow yourself an Occasional Treat

-Mayo Clinic Staff


These Eight areas of healthy eating will lead you to a great starting point. Adjusting your choice of foods can be not as daunting as you may feel, read on for and enjoy. We like to say ‘slow is smooth smooth is fast’ on the mats. Martial arts is a great life choice. You can not eat an elephant in one bite so think of making steady incremental changes in your diet. Each month add or subtract something new that aligns with these eight healthy options. These simple and steady changes will make huge impacts assisting you in making good changes and minimizes the stress of trying to change everything at once. 


By giving yourself a month to implement and adapt each phase will lend to the time it takes to create a habit.  The magic number is 21 days to change a habit. Using a whole month will give you a buffer. I am not suggesting you need to do these in any order either. 


Portion Control

What do healthy portions look like? I do not know many healthy people who do not enjoy food and eating. Food is good and even great and just amazing. Portions, portions and more portions. Well according to my grandmother a healthy portion was a heaping plate with of everything. Then there are seconds, and if she was allowed she would double the original portions and we would eat until we were stuffed. I see the picture everytime we went to Grandma’s ‘Lots of amazing tasty food pile high and eating until satiated and then, the living room floor full of groaning stuffed adults and kids fight off food comas, but is this good? Is it healthy? No! Straight up, No! 


How much you eat is as important as what we put in our temples (body). “A serving sizes is a measure amount of a specific food defined by a common measurement. For example, one serving of pasta is about 1/3 to 1/2 cup, or about the size of a hockey puck. A serving of meat, fish or chicken is about 2 to 3 ounces, or about the size and thickness of a deck of cards. Judging serving size is a learned skill. You may need to use measuring cups and spoons or a scale until you’re comfortable with your judgment.” – MayoClinic Staff 


Today with labeling we have quick guides of what healthy portions are right at our fingertips, or more accurately on the back of most packaging. So you feel hungry, now what? Did you know that your body does not identify the difference between hunger and thirst? Drink some water first. More times than not you need water, as most people do not drink enough water. 


Did you know that your digestive process takes time to realise you are full? Eating until you are satiated is not a healthy mindset. “Your stomach can hold up to 4 liters of volume — about 17 cups — but the feeling of satiety is not caused by your stomach being full. Instead, feeling full is a result of your brain reacting to chemicals released when you put food or drink in your stomach. Your brain takes around 20 minutes to register these chemicals. After your meal, the levels continue to rise over 10 to 30 minutes. They stay elevated for three to five hours following the meal, keeping you sated.” – 


If we accept The Heart Association and medical worlds statistics and knowledge the the average caloric intake of a healthy adult woman should range between 1,600 to 2,400 calories per day. An adult male needs between 2,000 and 3,000. Age and physiology play significant roles as well. Consulting with your doctor will aid you in understanding if you burn calories faster or slower than an average person.


Some great tips for you are regularly scheduled meals and snacks. Your body will adapt to this and adjust. Yes it is not only good to feel hungry it is healthy. Eating filling and healthy carbs is also a great solution for snacks and in between regular meals. Fruits and vegetables are truly the best option. Look at the time between meals you may find that 4 or six hours is to much time between meals. So space out your meals reduce the portions and drink water. One of the controlling factors is your stomach size when reducing your portions you will find over time you will be less hungry because your stomach adjusts to accommodate the volume of sustenance you are putting in it. Small steady adjustments with your portions will help ease changing how you eat.


Eat More Fruits and Vegetables

Easy to grab and go small powerful healthy carb generators fruits and vegetables are an awesome snack and in general great all round. This is an awesome read regarding a good diet. Fruits and vegetables provide so many important key components for your bodies and brains health. If you did not know, they are treasure chest of Vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory benefits and fiber. While fresh or frozen is the best choice, low sodium canned vegetables and canned fruits packed in 100% juice no added sugars or water are reasonable substitutes. Increasing your fruit and vegetable intake is a simple easy fast adjustment you can apply to your diet with little stress. 


Select Whole Grains

Whole grains can be a fairly simple adjustments as well in the pursuit of a healthy diet. Instead of buying refined grains replace them with whole grains. E.G. Whole wheat flour instead of refined, Whole grain breads instead of white bread, High fiber cereals instead of muffins, waffles donuts, biscuits, brown rice, barley and kasha, whole grain pasta over egg noodles, Oatmeal and granola bars over butter popcorn of high fat snack crackers. Looking for simple solutions that are easy to do make adjusting one’s diet easier and more successful.


Limit Unhealthy Fats

Well that’s great advice! But, what does it mean? What are good fats? What are bad fats? According to the American Heart Association you should avoid Trans fat Period. As far as saturated fats, no more than 5-6% or 11 -13g of your total daily calories should be derived from these. Saturated and trans fats and a handful of saturated fats are the ones to avoid. Good fats you should choose: olive oil, canola oil, vegetable oils, nut oils, margarine(trans fat free) and avocados. Those to limit; butter, lard, bacon  fat, gravy, cream sauce, non dairy creamers, hydrogenated margarine/shortening, cocoa butter and cottonseed oil to name a few. Want to learn more. 


Choose Low-Fat Protein Sources

Eating poultry, fish and eggs are some of the best sources of low-fat protein, but there are more great sources as well as details of these which can take eat up a notch. With fish fatty cold water fish like salmon are superfoods. With your poultry try skinless and avoid breaded versions. Low fat dairy products such as skim milk, yogurts and cheese are excellent as well. Legumes are beans, peas and lentils to name a few. Proteins to avoid are things like full fat milk or dairy products, organ meats like liver, Spare ribs, hot dogs, sausages, bacon and anything fried or breaded. The role of proteins within your body chemistry and physiology is mood and sleep hormones, build connective tissues for skin, cartilage, bone and muscle. Did you know proteins assist in wound healing and even help you detoxify. When your hungry proteins such as a handful almonds can help stave off hunger? When looking at a vegetarian or vegan diet pay close attention to the types and amounts of proteins you are getting. 


Reduce Sodium in your Food

Sodium is used for flavor and mostly for food preservative. So this makes it hard to avoid in most processed foods. This can be a difficult one to address as many processed foods are easier and faster to make. With some diligence you can read ingredients and be aware of the sodium content. While salt has sodium in it, it is far better of a choice. Most packaging now days has low sodium contents address in plain sight so find these is a bit easier. Sodium is a leading cause of high blood pressure and a major factor in cardiovascular disease. Finding herbs and spices to enhance flavors is a great option. Keep your eye on condiments as they can have huge quantities of sodium as well. Some of the high sodium calpritates are canned soups, frozen dinners, tomato juice and restaurant meals.


Allow yourself an Occasional Treat

Just like every goal you make you should reward yourself. Keep in mind portion controls when rewarding yourself. Eating a healthy diet is no different . Celebrate your success! 

Adopting a heart healthy diet will move you to a healthier diet allowing you to dig in and flourish within martial arts.


Things to avoid

High sugar content foods

Foods with high sodium




What can cravings mean?

Reading your body’s craving can greatly improve your diet. Here are 12 common cravings and what your body may be telling you:

          Craving                                             Reason                                                                               Restore with

Cheese Essential Fatty Acids Deficiency Omega 3’s Flax oil, ground seeds chia seeds walnuts
Calcium deficiency  Sesame seeds/tahini, broccoli, kale, legumes, mustard and turnip greens
Pasta, white bread, pastries Chromium deficiency Onion, romaine, tomato, cinnamon, grates, apples, sweet potato
Bread and toast Nitrogen deficiency Foods contain proteins, i.e. green leafy veg, nuts, seeds legumes, grain
Red Meat Iron deficiency Beans, legumes, unsulphured prunes, figs other dried fruit, seaweed, spinach, cherries, Vitamin C for absorption
Popcorn Stress hormone fluctuations Meditation, breathing exercises, leafy greens, vitamin B and C
Chips Chloride deficiency Celery, olives, tomato, kelp, Himalayan sea salt
Essential Fatty Acids deficiency Omega 3’s flax oil, ground flax seed. Chia seeds, walnuts
Burned Foods Carbon deficiency Fresh fruits
Acidic Foods Magnesium deficiency Raw cacao, whole grains beans,nuts, seeds, greens, fruit
Salty foods Chloride deficiency Celery, Olives, tomato, kelp Himalayan sea salt
Stress hormones fluctuations Meditation, breathing exercises, leafy greens, vitamin B and C
Chocolate Magnesium Raw cacao, whole grains beans,nuts, seeds, greens, fruit
Soda, fizzy water Calcium deficiency Sesame seeds, tahini, broccoli, kale, legumes, mustard and turnip greens
General sweets Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) Onion, romaine, tomato, cinnamon, grapes, apples, sweet potato 


Understanding what your body is asking for can help you adjust your diet. Learn to listen. There are more in depth lists available at your finger tips. 


Supplements and Vitamins/Minerals Pills

This is a complete article in itself. Suffice to say I will be brief and direct. Health care providers say regarding supplements and vitamins; First and foremost, Getting your vitamins and minerals should be coming from unprocessed direct sources. Eat the rainbow, no not Skittles! But, a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, reasonable grains, low fat dairy and protein is always the best answer. Secondly, because supplements are not regulated or controlled by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) there are no controls for what the manufacturer uses as fillers or activators. Speak to your Family Physician to learn more. The bottom line is our bodies are designed to absorb nutrition through the digestive process and through a variety of foods. Putting in concentrated doses of supplements and vitamins with unknown fillers does not allow your body to do what it is designed to do. 

Published: January 6, 2023

Categories: Discipline, Health, Martial Arts, Training