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Nutrition For Martial Arts Excellence

Nutrition for Martial Arts Excellence

Updated on November 29th, 2023 at 02:50 pm

True Practitioners of the martial arts are physically and mentally strong. Staying fit with endurance building strategies and maintaining muscle strength are requirements for performing the countless sequences that lend vibrancy and purpose to our discipline.

Nourishing the body with the right nutrients keeps a martial artists’ body and mind fluid and focused. We will preface this by saying we are NOT nutritionists, but through years of practice, martial arts choreography, and the continuous skill-building that happens around here at Master S.H. Yu Martial Arts, we have followed some basic, and simple guidelines that have stood the test of time.  Here’s hoping this will give you some “food for thought”!

Fresh Fruit Salad in a Jar

Foods Martial Artists Should Eat

Martial artists excel with a sensible diet including:

  • Lean proteins, like fish, eggs, nuts & seeds
  • lean meats
  • Carbohydrates, like whole grains, lots of veggies of multiple colors
  • Fruits
  • Healthy fats, such as healthy oils and avocados.

Nutrient-rich foods like these build our 3-square meals each day; you may find a better schedule (such as healthy snacks & smaller, more frequent meals), but 3-squares with a good 6 hours between meals works well for us.  If you are eating nutrient-dense, your body will absorb and use the energy efficiently throughout the day.

While remaining consistent with a healthy meal plan offers numerous physical health benefits for martial artists of all levels, unhealthy, processed foods can zap the energy right out of a practicing martial artist. Performance also suffers when we make poor food choices.

Breakfast Foods to Avoid

Breakfast Cereal

Eating breakfast is a must for those who are physically active. Sr. GrandMaster Yu follows an Asian diet of steamed fish, miso soup, rice, seaweed, and kimchee.  We certainly don’t expect you to follow this macrobiotic path (!),  however devouring a sugar-laden bowl of breakfast cereal puts martial artists on the wrong path. Weight gain is a result of high-sugar foods, and no martial artist should slow down their pace with unnecessary body fat.

Instant Oats

Flavored instant oats are also unwholesome. Instant oats are dehydrated, pre-cooked and laden with sugars and salt, the oats dwindle in comparison to the nutritional value of rolled oats. Avoid the consequences of eating instant oats, and be energized enough to throw a powerful kick.

Cereal Bowl

Lunch and Dinner Foods to Avoid


Moving on to lunch, pasta is a well-received food in our culture. Though hearty, most pasta is refined, meaning the popular staple is high in calories but lacks substantial fiber and nutrients. Consuming too much pasta is linked to a higher risk of heart disease, insulin resistance and high blood sugar.

Canned Soup

Even as a tasty side dish, avoid processed, canned soup!  The preservatives and high-sodium content give canned soups a bad grade in our book! Those who suffer from high blood pressure or cholesterol are advised to prevent further aggravation of these conditions by passing on canned soups, and really all processed foods.

White Bread

Aim for wholegrain breads rather than white bread when building your sandwich. White bread is refined and highly processed. White bread’s lack of nutrients and fiber means you are consuming empty calories with no health benefits.

Processed Meats and Fast Food

Martial artists need protein—but not from processed meats.  Lunch meats contain exorbitant amounts of salt and nitrates.   Choose your proteins wisely:  lean meats, like chicken or turkey, eggs, nuts, seeds, salmon: all good choices.  Fast food is the Last food to choose for a martial artist’s success.  Again, processed foods, high in sugar and unhealthy fats and sodium make fast food one to run from! Gain excess weight from fast food and empty calories and you will quickly be depleted and defeated.


We say keep it simple and limit sugar and additives. Water is best; Morning Coffee is great for energy, but keep it to no more than 3 cups in the morning; Oolong Tea, Green Tea, Herbal Teas can sooth and give you a natural energy boost.

Martial artists retain muscle strength and flexibility by limiting alcohol. Alcohol use deprives the martial artist’s body of its ability to quickly heal after injury, plus frequent consumption also decreases muscle strength. Prevent injury, illness, and weight gain by saying no to alcoholic drinks.


We like cheese sticks, apples, oranges, or other seasonal fruit, along with some almonds or other tree nuts.

Low-fat and low-carb foods are just as unhealthy as any other artificial foods. Read your food labels: Low-fat and low-carb meals and snacks are loaded with artificial ingredients that replace real nutrition.


Improve Your Performance by Eating Healthy

Given the numerous foods martial artists cannot eat, there are plenty of foods that make up balanced meals and healthy snacks. Give your physical health a boost by consuming nutrient-dense dishes and by staying away from foods in the above list. A healthy martial arts diet is an integral part of helping perfect your martial arts technique.

The best self-defense is making wise, healthy choices in every area of our life, and this includes our nutrition. Support your self-defense of body, mind & spirit at Master S.H. Yu Marital Arts in Oak Park, IL. Challenge your body and mind with martial arts and karate classes. Improve your cardiovascular health, increase bone and muscle strength and experience greater flexibility when you dedicate a few hours a week to martial arts training.

Internationally certified instructors teach all levels of the martial arts to kids, teens, and adults. Start your journey toward peak health and fitness by joining the classes at Master S.H. Yu Martial Arts. We are celebrating our 25th Anniversary in Oak Park and River Forest, serving all of the surrounding Oak Park, IL communities. We love our community and invite you to be a part of our Martial Arts Family!

Contact Us

For more information regarding our martial arts and karate classes or to sign up, contact Master Wilson at (708) 383-3456 or send an email to

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