If you train two hours a day, six days a week that’s 12 hours, or 7% of your week. That means over 90% of the time you’re not in the gym. So what are you doing 90% of the time? Our habits and choices outside the gym massively impacts our overall physical and mental condition, and therefore our fight game.
Simple and unnecessary habits can slow our progress down, even what seems like a harmless habit of drinking water with food (dilutes stomach juices and causes bloating) or skimping on sleep adds up and domino effects over time. Imagine if a ships navigation at sea is off even 1 degree, over the course of thousands of miles it could end up on another continent! Same applies to our habits outside the gym.
Sometimes I see a student training hard daily but struggling to get fit. I know it has to be some factor outside the gym i.e. stress, food, sleep etc. After a few questions surely enough I find out it’s a habit they either overlooked, didn’t pay attention to or didn’t realize it’s affecting them that bad. It could be really simple, but simple things don’t mean unimportant things. Simple is dropping you guard when you throw a punch. It’s Simple, yes, but unimportant? No way. You’ll get knocked out!
You need to get the little things right. Get into the habit of analyzing your lifestyle and look for ways to tweak and improve it, just as you do with your fight game. They both go hand in hand.
I’ll go through some important areas you need to keep up to date with. If you know most of it, great, but skim through and pick out things you’re not doing, then research it and sort it out so you can progress even faster.
FIGHTERS NUTRITION: Sifting through the bullshit
Fighters need quality food, that’s obvious. Daily grinding takes it’s toll and food is your fuel, your building blocks and repair material. It’s not about quantity (fighters aren’t bodybuilders)- its quality.
I used to cringe when my PT clients or anyone for that matter wanted to open the subject about nutrition with me. If I could, I would run away. After hundreds of conversations it would typically go round in circles and end up in confusion. Why is there so many opinions on nutrition? Why so much confusion? Why is it always changing, new fads coming and going? What’s so complex about it? Nothing. It’s just the bombardment of misinformation from media and marketing that’s confused the shit out of most people. I’ll speak from my experience, and explain what I’ve discovered to work in over a decade training people and much longer training myself.
Fresh out of a Personal Training course in 2004 I followed exact protocol training my clients at my first job as a PT. I had learned the most “cutting edge” in sports performance and nutrition.
What a load of crap it was!
The first year as a trainer I hardly got decent results for my clients or myself, and looking around, the rest of the trainers weren’t doing much better either. I’d see the same people training for 1 year and still look the same. The majority of us personal trainers at the gym got mediocre results at best with our clients, and no eyebrows were raised.
Eventually I was introduced Paul Chek’s work, a holistic lifestyle and exercise coach (worth YouTubing him and watching his talks, especially his old ones- he’s a gun).
At the time his info was “radical” to me. It wasn’t from the official education system (remember the food pyramid we were taught at school? Tell me that isn’t terrible?!)
His “holistic” approach made total sense and sifted through the bullshit for me, real quick.
I started applying a new approach, going into more detail and areas of clients lives including nutrition, eating habits, stress, sleep, and other issues (Trainers are after all, unofficial counselors too). Clients responded to the training amazingly, and I was hitting pretty much 100% success rates with their goals. All this applies to fighters, even more so as fighters are on a mission.
What I’m talking about isn’t anything profound, unless you haven’t heard it this way but I still see so much misinformation and confusion around its worth my while to spell it out.
Instead of approaching nutrition as “what’s good to eat” , start with “whats NOT good to eat”. There are some quotes I remember from Paul Chek and others I collected elsewhere that stuck with me for years, and they are GOLD- so simple yet perfect tools to sift through the bullshit.
To determine what is healthy and what is not, ask yourself these questions;
1# If it wasn’t here 10,000 years ago- don’t eat it!
Let’s take a packet of Chips for example; “Oh but they’re ORGANIC!” I hear you say. Yeah, but are they processed? Are they fried and with what oil? What else is in the ingredients? How much chips are you eating in one sitting? These answers might reveal they aren’t as healthy as the packaging makes out, but instead of asking a bunch of questions and thinking the whole process through, the 10,000 year rule will eliminate the majority of the crap for you.
2# If there’s anything in the ingredients you can’t pronounce- don’t eat it!
The long scientific words are usually chemicals. Be careful with anything ending in “ose” (dextrose, fructose etc) They’re all hidden sugars. And don’t think organic is necessarily healthy. The body is affected by all sugars organic or not. Eating organic feces wouldn’t be healthy would it? If you are eating or using anything packaged, get into a habit of checking ingredients and if you don’t know what they are, look them up.
3# The longer it lasts, the worse it is for you.
These aren’t absolute rules and there’s exceptions (fermented foods for example) but this will apply for the vast majority of food. If anything has a long shelf life- investigate. Why does it have a long shelf life? What ingredient facilitates that? It usually ain’t good.
4# Eat whatever you want as long as it’s at home.
When you eat at home you know exactly what goes into your food. If we knew all the extras that go into our food at restaurants we’d be horrified. Hidden sugars, additives, GMO’s, MSG… all that stuff wreaks havoc in the body, but sure tastes good! Remember businesses have got to make a profit too. So if you want to be healthy, eat at home.
BEWARE OF GENETICALLY MODIFIED (MUTATED) FOODS
If you live in the US or Australia, make sure you’re not eating GMO as they are becoming more prevalent and hidden in our everyday food. This Frankenstein food messes with our DNA and distorts our body systems. I’ve often wondered if Malaysia and India is full of GM because I noticed a disproportionate amount of people with nasty growths and demented bodies there, something has to be up and my guess is it’s the food. The majority looked like zombies. And that’s how I think our countries are headed. We don’t know the long-term effects of GMO’s either, (well we know they aren’t good) and we haven’t even seen the potential effects yet. Give it a few more years- the worst is yet to come. Diseases and Cancers are on the rise, so opt out of what causes them i.e GM (non) foods!
If the subject interests you, watch the documentary Genetic Roulette, which was deleted on YouTube but can find it online or pay for it. Well worth it.
BUY ORGANIC WHEN POSSIBLE
If you live in San Diego (lucky you) there is no excuse. We got People’s food co-op market in OB, Sprouts, Costco, and probably tons of others.
If you’re in Melbourne, you got Terra Madre- the best organic shop in town at very affordable prices, especially for Melbourne. The owner is doing a great service to the Melburnians, shake his hand if you meet him.
If you say you can’t afford organic then I ask you this- can you afford take out food? If your answer is yes then you can afford organic many times over. Do the math- I have. It’s a lot cheaper eating organic at home than eating out.
I’ve even heard people say “I’m not the organic type” which really means “I consume pesticides, fungicides and rat poisons. I’m used to glossy veges and poisons in my food and I’m too ignorant and arrogant to research and prefer to stay in my comfort zone.” What does organic really mean? On Organic.org the simple definition says this;
organic produce and other ingredients are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms, or ionizing radiation. Animals that produce meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products do not take antibiotics or growth hormones.
Basically it just means natural and if that’s natural, then what is all the other foods? Everything else is tampered with. We should call it “normal” food and “poison” foods, because that’s exactly what it is. It won’t kill you in a day, but neither does cigarettes. How about that. Change in perception? Good.
If you think organic doesn’t make a difference, or you can’t tell the difference, do an experiment. For two weeks eliminate all non organic and see how you feel. Then make up your own mind.
Those 4 rules mentioned will simplify and sift through the bullshit. Nutrition doesn’t have to be complicated. Complicated is good for business. Keep people in the dark and we can keep selling them junk and and profit.
Use common sense and see through the marketing and media that have vested interest in selling junk products. Natural whole foods is what we should be eating, and that’s it.
My 7-week Superman experiment and lessons learned
In 2008 I was researching so much about health and nutrition and was absolutely convinced of the merits of the stuff I was reading. My girlfriend at the time and I devised an experiment for an eating plan that lasted 7 weeks (I’ll explain why I broke it and the consequences later).
For 7 weeks we ate ONLY organic meat (up to 3 lb a day as I discovered I functioned best on high protein), organic raw nuts, raw oils and low GI vegetables. No sugar, No fruit, No bread, rice or pasta. No caffeine either. We drank only Evian water. I divided my portions with a certain protein-carb ratio according to my metabolic type. (I tested it using the questionnaire in Metabolic Typing by William L. Walcott) and tweaking it by quizzing how I felt afterwards.
Results; well, it went beyond my expectations. I started JUMPING out of bed, in the shower I’d be clenching my fists with surges of energy running through my body, and feeling like punching holes through the wall. All day my mind was sharp, memory sharp, mood constantly peaking. I’d always had a little stomach fat around my belly, and for the first time it melted off. I had veins running through my abs and I was training twice a day and in 7 whole weeks, not a single minute I remember of ever dipping in energy.
I was superman.
The reason(s) we broke it. Firstly, it cost us a small fortune per a week, up to 800 bucks, including 100 on water. Brisbane was bloody expensive. I’m sure we could’ve done it way cheaper but it was our first time getting into all this.
Another reason was we would increasingly feel isolated from people. We didn’t go out and eat with friends and it got boring to just stay at home. No going out to cafes for coffees, no dinners. We went out once to an organic restaurant in Brisbane (there wasn’t many back then, maybe it’s changed now) just to get out the house and I remember being served this teeny meal that wouldn’t fill a pup for 36 bucks. Never again.
The third and main reason we stopped this diet is that gradually we weaned off it, just fell out of discipline. It started as my girlfriend’s birthday was approaching (the 7th week mark) and we planned to eat at our favorite organic vegan place and have a dessert (vegan, somewhat healthy they said).
What happened after that dessert was freaky.
Remember, we hadn’t had any sugar for 7 weeks. Not even fruit. So we had this vegan desert with sugar of course, and then my face and cheeks became numb, my eyes widened and I felt rushing energy going through my body like I was on drugs. We were peaking! Even my jaw was grinding. That’s when I realized how immune we are and the tolerance we must have towards sugar, and just how much it affects the body.
I also learned and am convinced that we all live at a subhuman level of our potential. Lets face it, its damn challenging to eat 100% healthy and maintain a normal social life with the attack of junk food from all directions out there. You have to work extra hard just to maintain a relatively healthy diet.
My standard answer is to know the ingredients and research them if you don’t. If there’s beef-cake posing bodybuilder’s or sexy girls on the packaging of your supplement- investigate! Look up the ingredients. If it has a TV commercial or is in magazines- investigate. If the company spends more on marketing than the product itself- investigate. If you don’t know what the hell is going into your body except that it’s Fluoro colored liquid- investigate.
I’m all for natural supplements, and there are many awesome ones. A few immune boosting ones I’ve always recommended are; Apple cider vinegar, Oregano oil and Chlorella.
With some exceptions, in general its cheaper and at least no different to get the vitamins and minerals out of whole organic foods. Unless you are a super athlete, a natural chemist or very well versed in your field, don’t even waste your time. You’re looking in the wrong direction. If you want improvements, look at your current diet now, and improve that. Most likely you’re not eating to your full potential, and there’s room for improvement. So improve that.
No bottle will substitute that.
How to measure progress
A simple method I picked up from the book Metabolic Typing by Willian L. Walcott that worked great for me was; an hour or two following a meal, ask yourself how you feel mentally and physically. If you’re peaking, then the meal you had works well with your body; if you feel lousy, then look back at what you ate and figure out why.
Sometimes we could eat a perfectly healthy whole food meal but still feel tired. That’s usually from an imbalanced protein-carb ration for your body type.
If you felt tired or crash after eating a good wholesome meal, the next time you have that exact meal, add more protein vs the carbs on your plate, as in a bigger portion of protein and see if that helps.
If you feel dull and heavy after a meal, try adding more carbs the next time, and by carbs I mean the vegetable and salad kind, and again see if that normalizes you.
You can tweak your protein-carb ratios like a radio station and find the perfect balance that gives you ongoing energy. Don’t over complicate it, just be aware and play around and you’ll know what feels good.
Vegan, Vegetarian or Meat?
I think it’s an individual preference and depends what you’re reasons are, but the age-old “am I getting enough protein” case I think is just exaggerated marketing.
You can get enough protein on a vegetarian or vegan diet. I’ve been both vegetarian for long periods and also a big meat eater, and I’ve been strong on both. Also the cruelty to animals in the food industry is becoming harder to ignore making more and more people move towards vegan, and I see increasing evidence that it’s only doing us all good.
If you eat meat, try at least to eat free range or organic. I know Australia is expensive and harder to find but still very doable, and in San Diego its easy enough. Also beware of farmed fish, wild caught is best.
SLEEP: Underrated and FREE
The body gets stronger while you rest, not while you’re training. So it’s vital to schedule in rest and make good quality sleep a top priority, on par to your training.
If you don’t get good sleep it’ll affect your whole life; mood swings, muscle breakdown, foggy brain, slow-healing injuries, poor performance, negative outlook, anxiety, fatigue and loss of motivation. Plus people will hate you. That’s enough to kill your whole training effort.
The opposite goes for getting good sleep; motivation peaks, outlook is more positive and injuries heal faster- all of which means you’ll train more often and positively snowball.
Most people need around 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night, but everyone is different. If you wake up groggy then either you need more sleep or you need more quality sleep. We are designed to follow our natural circadian rhythms and to sleep soon after dusk and wake at the crack of dawn. But of course modern life kicks us up the bum. If possible try going to sleep before midnight at least, in total darkness with all electronics turned off. If you’re a shift worker, aim for quality sleep over quantity.
If you’re an insomniac try these 3 tips.
1# Switch off all electronics 2 hours before bedtime. WiFi and cell phones emit radiation and can disrupt sleep, unless you like being cooked as you sleep.
2# Avoid cell phones and laptops two hours before bed. The artificial lights on devices trigger cortisol, a stress hormone that keeps you awake and prevents melatonin release, the sleep hormone. You end up staying up and feeling “wired”.
3# Sleep in Total darkness or as dark as possible. Even a tiny light breaking through the curtains or a little red dot on a device is enough to interrupt sleep. Cover it with a towel. The pineal gland picks up light as frequencies and is very sensitive, so even small light disrupts melatonin release.
Light bulbs: the wrong ones could be irradiating you!
For a good nights sleep, get rid of Fluorescent (CFL) bulbs and replace with incandescent. Fluorescent contains dangerous levels of mercury and emits UV radiation, which is another form of electromagnetic pollution that’s damaging to our health.
Why does Home Depot and Ikea have bins to dispose of these lights? Because it’s unsafe to dispose of them at home in case mercury leaks if broken, and to avoid them being buried underground at landfills and contaminate our water. That tells you how “safe” they really are.
Also notice the next time you’re around bright “hospital lights” and how you feel after an hour. You’ll likely feel drained. And wonder why we feel so good getting outside? It’s because we are bathed in radiation from artificial light, WiFi and smart meters indoors so going out is a break from all that pollution! Be kind to yourself and buy incandescent and when possible, use candles. I do and it makes a world of difference.
STRESS: Think of it as a Barometer
Stress is not only about when you get mad or frustrated, but the total of all stimulus that tax your mind and body, including training. Yes, training is generally “good” for you (in the right circumstances) but it taxes your body nonetheless. Think of stress as a barometer, with 1 being in a relaxed peaceful state like when you first arrive on vacation with a full bank account, and 10 being in a state of panic, and nervous breakdown.
Every stimulus that taxes energy from the body and mind adds pressure to that barometer over the day, such as poor quality food, traffic, training, sleep deprivation, work pressure, parking fines and so on. You can view stress as total accumulation of different stimulus that add up. Looking at it this way helps us appreciate stress and how to manage it.
To reduce stress we need to maintain the barometer at a manageable level. Add small things to your life to keep you balanced and prevent stress from accumulating to breaking points.
Sleep more, read a book, meditate (YouTube a guided meditation or Yoga Nidra- it’ll do wonders). You could do Yoga, play with the dog, go for a walk in nature, just do something you enjoy. Pick something and deliberately schedule it into your day.
Watching TV isn’t included. TV “programming” dumbs you down and drains your energy; it puts you in a trance state that allows unrestrained mind junk to enter.
If you have addictions be it coffee, cigarettes, alcohol, porn, food, shouting at your mother or whatever, that will be an endless source of guilt and adds to your stress barometer. Addictions are another topic, but the first thing to do about them “IF” you want to do something, is own up to it. Denial is a silent killer for addictions.
Once you admit you are addicted and want to do something about it, the answers will come. That’s the biggest hurdle to overcome with any addictions.
BE A NICE PERSON
A strange thing happens when you are nice. You like yourself and enjoy your own company. I’ve learned this the hard way. Having anything but good intentions does nothing but hurt ourselves. Deep down we despise that behavior and it becomes an endless source of guilt and stress. In the past, a lot of my behavior and intentions were “not-so-nice”, and while I didn’t know it at the time I subconsciously tormented myself for years and years.
Once I started purifying my (private) thoughts, put effort in doing things with purer intentions, thinking good towards people then a) life transforms around you and b) I let myself off the hook, as in I feel good about myself no matter what happens. This gives us peace of mind. So simple but it’s not automatic if left unchecked. It’s always a work in progress; sometimes we’ll go through a good phase and have mostly sweet and rosy thoughts towards people and other days we have images of tearing peoples throats open.
If you feel like killing people, be aware and redirect those thoughts as best as you can. Don’t indulge is bad thoughts and spiral into a sea of negativity. Practice it like anything.
Also practice being kind even when no one is looking and you’ll feel good about yourself, live with more endorphin’s and create better experiences and relationships around you which ultimately lowers the stress levels on the barometer.
Less stress equals stronger immune system equals better physical and mental condition equals better performance. Not to mention you will receive more support from your coaches, training buddies, family and friends. No one wants to help an asshole.
WHAT THIS HAS TO DO WITH FIGHTING
Everything. It’s about functioning physically and mentally to your fullest potential so you can take on the grind that is Muay Thai. Fighting is monumentally taxing on your whole life and to give yourself the best chance of experiencing the most out of it, you need to look at your game from top bottom, the big picture!
So get out there and tweak your lifestyle!