Best food for martial artists

The diet of a martial artist impacts how he or she performs. From eating to gain strength to maintaining optimal health, diet is an integral part of martial arts fitness.

The Shaolin monks are world renowned for their amazing athletic abilities.  They practice  Shaolin kung fu, which appears to synthesize every skill imaginable to thrive as a human~ mentally, spiritually, physically, and energetically.

Shaolin monks: this diet is based on Buddhist concepts, such as simplicity and pacifism. What is eaten is not only to fuel the body at its essential level, but for spiritual reasons as well.. Because one of the tenets of Buddhism promotes pacifism, these martial artists are vegetarians. The diet is made up of rice, vegetables, and fruits. Food is either raw or steamed. Protein sources usually come from soybeans and soy products, such as tofu and seitan. Nuts are also used as a replacement for meat. Rice can be boiled or steamed, rice flour is used in making noodles, and other rice-based dishes are common. Rice comes in many varieties, with varying textures and nutritional properties. Vegetables common to China include bok choy, sprouts, taro and several varieties of beans (generally boiled or steamed , or merely eaten raw). Fruits such as bananas, apples, and figs, are all common to China. These may be eaten raw or dried for long-term storage.

Spicy foods such as garlic, ginger and onions are  avoided because it is thought that spicy, hot or strong smelling foods excite emotion, which is outside of a Monks calm nature.. The pungent flavors of these spices are considered disruptive, stirring up emotions that can cloud the mind and spirit of the warrior.

The Shaolin Temple diet consists of:

  • Eight Treasures Congee for breakfast at 6 AM ~ recipe varies according to the season (8 different ingredients of beans, grains and nuts.)
  • Lunch from 11:30-12:30 ~ Tofu, rice & 5-6 types of vegetables (Asian Vegetable Medley shown includes baby bok choy, Chinese broccoli, Taiwanese cabbage, scallions and carrots)
  • Dinner at 5:30 ~ Noodles and bread made from black or yellow wheat


Dinner can be something like a simple meal of steamed sweet corn on the cob (great with ume plum and/or avocado rubbed on) and steamed organic russet potatoes (also good with avocado, or dipped in ketchup – plain, or with dijon mustard or nutritional yeast flakes); a noodle dish; or bread

It is Shaolin belief that the soup gives them health and longevity…and who’d argue with them when a 70+ year old Monk can stand on one leg for several hours on end!

Bruce Lee preferred Chinese or other Asian dishes due to the variety of asian cuisines. Bruce Lee’s favorite Chinese food dish was beef in oyster sauce. He also ate shrimp or chicken with vegetables and tofu. For Bruce Lee, the larger amounts of rice, noodles and vegetables often used in Chinese food are filled with more high-energy carbohydrates than western food portions that favor more fat and protein.

When Bruce Lee did drink protein shake smoothies, he usually used wheat germ (or wheat germ oil), peanut butter, banana, eggs (sometimes with shell), brewers yeast (for Vitamin B and releasing energy from carbs), Inositol and Lecithin supplements. Because Bruce hated dairy, he used non-instant powdered milk (which supposedly has a higher concentration of calcium than other forms of powdered milk) in his protein shakes instead of whole milk.

Bruce Lee also used ginseng and royal jelly. They contain Vitamins A, C, D, E, minerals, acetylcholine, numerous amino acids and B-complex vitamins, including a high concentration of Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) and Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), all great nutrients for Bruce Lee’s juice. Ginseng is often used in traditional Chinese medicine to improve blood circulation, increase blood supply and allow for faster recovery times after physical exhaustion.

Jean-Claude Van Damme: “I eat more when I’m training, obviously. I’m not too much of a meat-eater or fish-eater. I like a lot of vegetables and pasta and salads and hummus. But also it’s good to add some Omega-3. You need to have some Omega. You don’t need fish; you can have Omega via vegetable or fish oil. But it’s important, Omega. It’s best to eat berries in the morning. Blueberries, strawberries, all types of berries—antioxidants and anti-inflammatory. I eat six, seven, eight times a day. Small portions. If you eat three times a day, the body will retain like 70% of fat to protect you against starvation. You should eat like five, six, seven times a day, and slowly your metabolism will change, and the body will retain only 30% of fat. If you’re eating every hour, and eat well, then you can have a piece of chocolate.”

Chuck Norris: believes in eating for disease prevention as well as weight maintenance. Norris prefers to eat whole, organic foods to keep his body properly fueled for his martial arts workouts. He also uses healthier substitutions daily- instead of sugar, he uses stevia, which is a natural plant derived sweetener. While Chuck Norris enjoys popcorn when he watches a movie, he makes sure that it’s the non-buttered kind. According to Dr. Gullo, Chuck Norris prefers to eat his evening meal around (5:30) to let his food digest before bedtime. His final meal of the day is often a combination of a lean protein such as fish or chicken, green vegetables, and a complex carbohydrate, such as brown rice.

“Lunch is usually tuna, in moderation because of mercury levels, or avocado sandwiches.”

“We try not to eat too many complex carbohydrates at night. A small red baked potato or about a half-cup of brown rice would be about max. We try to eat a lot of rich green vegetables, e.g., steamed or fresh romaine salads with lots of color, along with 6-ounce pieces of baked skinless chicken breast or salmon (free-range).”

Michelle Yeoh: “I’ve always been one that never deprives myself of anything, especially when it comes to food. There’s one thing I do stay away from because my dad and my grandmother have diabetes. I have a sweet tooth, but I am able to cut out sugar in my coffee, for example. I won’t drink any sodas, you know, those kinds of things. But if I want to have a cheesecake or a double chocolate whammy, I will. I just don’t overindulge. I’ve always loved vegetables. My friends know whenever they invite me for a meal as long as they have tons of vegetables I’m happy.”

She also talked about her ideal breakfast: ” Cereals, bran flakes, milk, coffee. I mean, if I don’t have my cereal, if I see a muffin down the road, I will have that. And I find I eat a lot of meals a day. I can’t sit down and have a big meal. People think, “Oh, God, you eat like a bird,” but if they look at me, they’ll see I eat slowly because I really love savoring my foods.”

Skipping traditional breakfast seems to be normal in the world of muay Thai. “In the morning, we don’t eat because training starts at seven. We don’t really have time—we prefer sleep,” another expat, Claudio Amoruso from Italy.

“In Isan, a typical breakfast would include, rice (of course), fish soup, som tam salad (Isan style), eggs, and maybe some boiled vegetables,” she says Frances Watthanayathe , a gym owner.

When UK expat fighter and Eminent Air Gym legend Melissa Ray was in training, her go-to was a mash-up of porridge, müesli, yogurt, and soy milk. South African fighter Wasim Mather reaches for a tropical fruit smoothie he makes in his apartment before heading outside for chicken and rice.

Taekwondo trainees need more carbohydrates in their diet than people normally do. As carbohydrates are a quick source of energy, trainees need plenty of them for all their cardiovascular activities. They should be consuming good sources of carbohydrates such as oatmeal, brown rice, beans, or any unprocessed carbs.

Taekwondo instructors commonly recommend having chicken, fish, beef, or pork in the diet. Fish, eggs, and legumes should be an important part of one’s diet if they regularly train. Many Taekwondo instructors give their students a useful tip to get a quick fix of fruits and vegetables before their practice. They advise their students to blend selected fruits and vegetables into a smoothie. A mixed berry smoothie with spinach and nuts is not just healthy but tastes great too.


I am eager and excited to help and assist you in designing your own customized nutrition plan that will support you in attaining your athletic goals.









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