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Let’s talk about diet and nutrition, because they can actually end up being two separate things. Diet simply means the food a person eats every day, with no connection to nutrition, which a person consumes every day. Nutrition is a scientific concept that measures the intake and utilization of food. At the same time, we have very little idea of what a healthy, nutritious diet is, how the effects of diet can vary from person to person, and even what an appropriate caloric intake is based on age, sex, and level of activity, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Furthermore, there are as many martial arts diets as there are martial artists. Before beginning any diet, consult with your doctor and have a full physical with a CBC, chemistry panel, and a urinalysis. For instance, high protein diets are not recommended for those with impaired kidney function or kidney disease, a history of pancreatitis, and other conditions. Here are the tops three food rules for martial artists:
- Your body needs macronutrients – Carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Yes, you do need all three. Carbohydrates are classified as “simple” which are broken down and converted to sugar faster than complex carbohydrates – both give us energy and are important to the kidneys, brain, central nervous system, muscles and heart. Protein helps support growth – especially for children, teens, and adolescents – as well as immune system function and lean muscle mass. Fats are an even more concentrated energy package than carbohydrates, and thus pack more calories. But fat is also vital for metabolizing certain micronutrients, and building cell membranes.
- Your body needs micronutrients – Micronutrients are vitamins, minerals, fiber, choline, essential fatty acids, and other dietary factors. These support functions such as bone health, immunity, skin health, and cognitive function. Most Americans do not get adequate micronutrients in their diets, so many supplement either with specific nutrient supplements or a multivitamin or multimineral supplement. Different life stages and different conditions such as anemia and vitamin deficiencies require different intake of micronutrients, and dosing instructions should be paid strict attention.
- Your body needs hydration. Dehydration is a common term, but did you know that you can overhydrate, too? The Mayo Clinic advises eight eight-ounce glasses of fluids per day. Of course, if you are very active or if it’s very hot out, you may need to drink more.
There. The top three rules. How you arrange them – whether you go with less of this and more of that – is up to you. You can find a lot of resources online to help you build a healthy, nutritious eating plan for yourself and your family.
We also ignore the effects of stress on your physical, emotional, and spiritual lives with an estimated 10 million men and 20 million women of all ages suffering from eating disorders, and children experiencing the onset of eating disorders as young as eleven years old. Some even express concern about their weight and dieting at the age of five or six. Even in male teens and adults, the pressure to “juice” or use anabolic steroids is seen as a type of eating disorder akin to the pressure to be “model thin” for girls.
Let’s work together to support and nourish each other, and work together to be healthy with Taekwondo.