My Fighter’s Diet 1.0

For the past several years, I’ve been on an Atkins-style diet program. I did successfully lose a lot of weight (and kept most of it off) on this program, so I have nothing but love for Dr. Atkins.  That being said, as I started to get much more serious about my martial arts training I didn’t feel like my diet was really meeting my needs.  Thus, a few months ago I embarked on a plan to design myself a new Fighter’s Diet.

Along the way, I looked at several diet programs to see what ideas I could steal.  I looked at the Gracie diet.  While the Gracie clan is known as some of the world’s finest fighters, I found the diet confounding and really couldn’t take much from it.  I looked into the Dolce Diet with the Three Weeks to Shredded program.  This was really a program for weight cutting before a fight, but I actually found much of the advice sound.  I also, stumbled into the Paleo diet program thanks to Robb Wolf’s excellent book The Paleo Solution.  And of course, I couldn’t completely neglect what I learned from Dr. Atkins.  Thus, by taking bits of advice from Mike Dolce, Rob Wolf and Dr. Atkins, I designed my program.

My Fighter’s Diet had to be simple.  I can’t count calories, and I found that over the long haul I couldn’t really count carbs either.  I needed something with a very simple rule set about what kind of foods were OK and which were not.  Here’s where I arrived.

Bad Things (to be avoided)

  • Sugar – seems simple, but it’s a core concept.  Avoid foods with cane sugar and corn sugar
  • Bread – Except for the occasional cheat, I’ve gone gluten free.  I have never been diagnosed with celiac, but I’ve become convinced that gluten is bad for most people.  Also, most flour-based products are full of empty carbohydrates, so why even go there?
  • Rice – Empty carbs.  What else do you need to know?
  • Artificial sweeteners – goodbye diet soda.  I think this has made a world of difference and it really surprised me.  Research continues to show this stuff may be nearly as bad as the real thing
  • Sugar alcohol – Dr. Atkins said this stuff is OK.  I now think he’s wrong.  All my Atkin’s-branded, low-carb junk food went in the trash and I’m happier for it.
  • Caffeine – I don’t think it makes you fat, but it makes me irritable and it messes with my sleep patterns.  There’s nothing good here.  It’s gone.
  • Cheese and Milk – I’ve minimized dairy in my diet.  I didn’t find many good things in dairy that I couldn’t get elsewhere, and I found that cheese and milk may have been causing me digestive discomfort in larger quantities.  I’ve cut them out.

Good Things (eat ‘em up)

  • Meat – Turkey, chicken and lean beef (grass fed when I can get it).  Also, I eat bacon.  This one is a little controversial in the Paleo community, but I eat bacon several times per week.
  • Eggs – A core food for me on this program.  Great way to start the day and helps keep appetite under control.  It means I don’t get hungry for hours after breakfast.
  • Fruit – Strawberries, blueberries, apples.  All good stuff.  This I would have avoided on Atkins, but the insulin impact is actually low, and there is too much good stuff in here to pass up.  It also helps to get some carbs from these sources to keep up your energy when training.  Oh, and don’t forget tomatoes
  • Vegetables – Lots of good fiber in here.  Broccoli and asparagus are favorites
  • Leafy greens – Lettuce and spinach.  Salad is good, but it’s best with meat on top!
  • Water – drink lots of water!  This is something Mike Dolce hammers on continuously.  I took this to heart, and water is now pretty much the only thing I drink.

Things in moderation (OK, but watch the quantities)

  • Nuts – I like almonds and cashews.  They’re a good snack or garnish, but I’ve had to avoid turning them into meals.  They’re energy dense, high-fat, and I’ve found cause digestive distress for me when consumed in large quantities
  • Greek yogurt – I don’t have much dairy in my diet (see cheese and milk item above), but I make this exception.  For me, it’s a great ingredient for breakfast or snacks and seems to have a good effect on my stomach.  Also, the sugar content is low and it has good fat and protein to ensure it helps control appetite.
  • Dark chocolate – the darker the better.  It doesn’t have all the sugar of milk chocolate and feels like a treat.

So, what are my results so far?  It’s been a bit shocking to me.  Over the past four months, I’ve lost over 20 pounds.  For my 5 foot 9 frame, this has dropped my Body Mass Index (BMI) from 24.1 (the high-side of normal) to 21.0 (smack in the middle of normal).  I’m at my lowest weight since I was 19 years old, but in a less quantifiable measure I can now see my abs!  I’ve never seen them before, not even as a kid — I was kind of pudgy even back then.  I’m also starting to see some good definition in my chest and arms.  On simple Atkins, I didn’t feel like I had the fuel for serious athletic training, and I had a hard time breaking through to get under a body fat percentage that really took me from looking “healthy” to looking “athletic.”  I’m now getting there!

Beyond weight management, I feel great.  My endurance in taekwondo and MMA training has gone way up.  I feel strong in multi-hour training sessions where before I just couldn’t keep up.  My energy level during the day, even at work, is higher and I’m sleeping better at night.

So far, I’m declaring my Fighter’s Diet program a success and marking this as version 1.0.  I’m going to continue to tune this over the coming months and will be writing more about it here.  Thanks to Robb Wolf and Mike Dolce for the excellent advice and helping to get me on the right track.

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7 Comments (+add yours?)

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