Whether you are a white belt entering a local tournament with dreams of the Mundials, or a third degree black belt competing on the sport’s grandest stage, a protein enriched diet is absolutely essential for competing at your physical peak. A properly balanced diet full of the necessary proteins has a countless positive effects on the body and can give a grappler that extra edge to succeed in competition.
Proteins are a crucial part of not only muscle growth, but also the healing and maintenance of muscles after a long workout or training session. Without protein, the body can easily become exhausted and workouts can seem more strenuous and less productive than they should be.
P.R. Cole, a registered dietician with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, who holds a masters degree in nutrition and applied physiology from Columbia University, says that protein and nutrition are essential parts of reaching peak athletic potential.
(below) P.R. Cole
“Protein, alongside fat and carbohydrates, is a key micronutrient for recovery from intense training.” Without protein the body will work at a less than efficient rate and tire easily. As Cole mentions, protein itself will not deliver desired results, but is instead just one part of muscle growth and restoration.
The amount and type of protein athletes should consume are debated subjects in the nutrition world. A report released by Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee suggests that the body needs more than 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight each day to increase muscle mass, and that exceeding 2.0 grams per kilogram has no benefit to gaining muscle. Cole’s agrees with these figures and goes a step further, stating “An athlete needs a range of 1.0-1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight each day. Going above 2.0 grams per kilogram will serve no purpose and more than that can be harmful long term. Too much protein works the kidneys harder and can cause calcium imbalances in the body.”
(left) As great as protein supplements are, they can never replace the absorption of actual food.
Now that we’ve identified the purpose of protein and its importance to the body, we need to identify the proper ways for it to be consumed. Cole suggests there should be no debate between natural foods versus supplements.
“I would not necessarily suggest supplements. Real food is far more nutritious and potent for recovery since you take in the protein with a variety of other nutrients.”
So what are the essential foods for a protein enriched diet?
“Top animal based sources include wild salmon, skinless poultry, lean game meats like venison and bison and non-fat or low-fat dairy” says Cole. “For top plant based sources try quinoa, beans, nuts, whole grains and tofu. It’s ideal to have an even mix of both animal and plant based protein in your diet.”
(below) Peanut butter is not only a good source of protein, it is also a delicious source of energy, pre-training.
As mentioned, the amount of protein your diet should contain is entirely based on your size. At 1.0-1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight each day, the amount that should be consumed is vastly different for someone weighing 70kg as compared to someone weighing 90kg.
For a 70kg fighter (roughly 155lbs), a proper protein enriched diet should contain between 70 and 119 grams of protein per day. In comparison, someone weighting in at 90kg (roughly 200lbs) should be consuming between 90 and 153 grams of protein.
Obviously, each of the mentioned protein enriched foods contains different amounts of protein, and it is important to create a balance between meat and plant products. To better understand what should be included in your diet, we’ll look at the specific amount of protein available in some of the suggested foods.
This is just an introduction to the world of protein. There are many other sources of protein you can test out and introduce into your diet. Every grappler will need to find a system that works for him or her depending on schedule, amount of muscle gain required, and workout routine.
Words by Shawn Smith