It’s tournament season. Are you training and eating as well as you could be to achieve the results you want in competition? If you’re looking for some guidance on how to improve what you put into your body and how you work with that body to achieve the best possible results, we’ve got some tips to help you get on the right path.
There are no quick fixes here. Developing the optimal — and responsible — diet and training routines for your goals and needs as a martial artist takes time to get right. But these suggestions will help you make long term changes to your training as you reach for your dreams as safely and effectively as possible.
1. Cross-training for competition.
In general terms, cross-training can be a powerful tool in your competition arsenal. Cardio training, for example, can improve your ability to fight harder and longer without gassing out during a match. Weight training can make you stronger and more powerful.
This will only work if you properly address two important factors, though: timing and specificity. Starting running or cycling a few weeks before a tournament is likely to make you more tired than energetic. It takes a good six weeks to see genuine gains from a solid and responsible strength and conditioning program. And none of the above will help you if you’re following an exercise program that isn’t in tune with what you need and want from your competitive martial arts goals.
So if you’re thinking about adding cross-training to your competition training, start as early as possible and do your research. Ask your coaches for their advice on the topic, and consider hiring a sports-specific trainer to develop a program for you. Train hard, but train smart. And then starts seeing the results as your next tournament approaches.
2. Tapering before competitions.
Speaking of training hard but training smart, the weeks leading up to a tournament are not the right time to go all out. You’ll probably be feeling pretty pumped and you might want to keep pushing right up until it’s tournament time. But pushing yourself too hard usually leaves you with an empty tank for your actual competition. This is why it’s wise to consider building your training cycles around your competition schedule and slowing down in the days — and maybe even weeks — leading up to your big events.
If you compete regularly, you don’t have to significantly taper before all of your competitions. A few days of rest and/or reduced activity should be enough to have you in good fighting shape. Proper tapering before your most important competitions should begin as early as six weeks before, though. As always, it’s best to check in with your coaches to see what training and what tapering will work best for you and your competitive goals as a martial artist.
3. Dieting for performance.
Like cross-training, sports nutrition is a long-term solution. Any new diet that you try a few weeks before a competition is likely to undermine you more than it helps you as your body will still be adjusting to its new fuel just as you’re trying to physically peak. Eating a well balanced diet does have the potential to improve your training and performance, but it needs to be introduced into your life slowly and responsibly. If you’re interested in adding sports nutrition to your training routine, speak to a licensed professional with a background in competition — and, ideally, experience in your martial art — to come up with a nutrition plan that will work to make you a better martial artist and a healthier human.
4. Dieting to make weight.
Weight cutting is also something that should be done responsibly, and under the guidance of a professional with a background in sports nutrition for competitive sports with weight limits. Binge dieting and yo-yo dieting can help you make it into your desired weight division, but it can undermine your performance during competition. It can also have a long lasting negative impact on your health. So if you want a long career in martial arts tournaments, you’ll want to be careful and incredibly responsible when making weight.
Decreasing your water intake might be a great — if not exactly the healthiest — way to lose weight and look as cut as possible for bodybuilding, but it’s a dangerous game to play if you’re looking to make weight for martial arts competitions. Not only will dehydration limit your ability to do your best in competition, it can also put you at risk for a number of serious injuries. So stay safe, be responsible, and make sure your training routine includes enough water and sports drinks to keep you feeling and doing your best.