Mental Requirements Musings

Mental Requirement: Understanding the Importance of a Proper Diet

“Understands the importance of a proper diet” is a mental requirement for our Tae Kwon Do students.

Each TKD belt level has 4 mentals, and students must memorize and recite them at tests. We also usually ask each student to talk about what they mean, and occasionally ask for a short essay if a student has not been displaying the values contained in the mental requirement.

But back to the importance of a proper diet. If you train like an athlete, you should eat like one.

You know what they say about an apple a day…

Now, we’re NOT suggesting that you need to make drastic changes, like doing a hardcore cleanse, following a rigid diet, or becoming a vegetarian. Big changes like that have the potential do more harm than good, so be sure to take the advice of your doctor, personal trainer, or nutritionist on diet changes.

We’d simply like our students to understand how to eat for their activity level. The goal is to achieve a healthy diet-exercise-rest balance in their lives.

Martial arts training can be pretty intense. It’s important to know how many calories you need per day, and a rough idea of what percentage comes from each of the 3 macronutrients: carbs, proteins, and fats. Carbs and proteins are both important aspects of sports nutrition. Carbs give energy while proteins help build new muscle. Sleep is vital for both muscle development and brain health.

The basic idea is to figure out what works for you. Recognizing that your caloric needs may change from day-to-day, depending on whether or not you have class, is a good start. Limiting processed foods is another great starting point. There are plenty of tools on the web you can use to evaluate your needs.

Personally, I also do a few extra things before a big test. Starting at least a month before, I cut out all caffeine, alcohol, and as much processed food as I can. I double my fruit intake, and watch my protein and carbs carefully for balance.

Why is a proper diet so important? I find that my energy level is really dependent on my diet. When I eat right, class is much easier. Not only that, but exercising and eating right are an investment in your long-term health.

Here are 3 easy tips to help you start making a change in the way you approach your diet:

  • Drink plenty of water, and choose water over pop, especially in the hours before class. Carbonation affects cardio performance. Water is essential, and helps your body flush out bad stuff.
  • Eat things that are high in nutrients. Vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants heal your body and help prevent disease.
  • Try not to skip meals, especially on workout days. Make sure you eat after working out. You need the energy, and skipping meals will decrease your ability to focus and lower metabolism. People who skip meals also tend to eat more calories than they need later on.

Hopefully that provides a good starting point. Remember: lasting changes are lifestyle changes. Be happy, be healthy!

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