Martial art (literally “art of war”) originated in China as a form of self defence but is now used for physical fitness and a means of staying active by young and old worldwide. Training for martial arts is suggested to not only offer many physical benefits through whole body conditioning but also spiritual and mental benefits through stress release, anger suppression and improved confidence. There are many different types of martial arts and each type has its own set of rules and styles. Nonetheless, although there are many styles the philosophy remains the same in all which is, defend yourself and when fighting an opponent try and win the battle by scoring more points than them.

Sport-specific physiological demands

Martial arts mainly consist of a range of anaerobic, power movements combined with some moderate intensity aerobic exercise. Strength, speed and power are important physical characteristics in martial arts, and hence, there are a range of training and conditioning methods that aim to maximize the competitiveness of the athlete. A large proportion of the skills training include kicking and striking actions with partners and pads, but there is also a significant amount of resistance training exercise to maximise strength. It is also essential that the athlete is flexible, powerful and has the ability to move quickly, so mobility and stretching also take up a considerable amount of time in training. In physiological terms, heart rates during training for karate are between 113 and 184 beats/min and caloric expenditure has been shown to be between 5 and 15 kcal/min. Perhaps a unique feature of martial arts compared to other sports is that along with the importance of training for physical performance, practicing mental focus and concentration is encouraged, and athletes spend considerable time preparing mentally for competition.

Nutritional considerations

Nutrition considerations for martial arts are not unlike other combat sports, which, aside from providing energy and hydration for training and performance, require specific focus on optimising body composition and weight. Due to the high level of physical contact and the demands of intense physical training, carbohydrate (CHO) and protein intakes are highly important for martial arts. Carbohydrate is the main fuel required during high intensity exercise, so consuming CHO-rich foods is particularly important for recovery from training and in the lead up to competition. Protein intake is also critical as it supplies the amino acids required to help the body to adapt to training and facilitate muscle repair. Specially-formulated nutritional supplements that cater to a particular goal can be very useful to the martial art athlete in their quest for peak performance and physical conditioning.

Energy intake from CHO, protein and fat

A martial artist’s diet should provide the necessary fuel to allow him/her to perform their best, but not contain surplus energy or macronutrient imbalances that may result in increased fat storage and weight gain. The requirement for energy from various food categories depends entirely on the athlete’s goal. For example, if an athlete is not in an intense training phase, or indeed needs to reduce body fat, overall energy intake must be reduced. Strategically reducing CHO intake (particularly from high glycemic index foods) and increasing lean protein intake, while continuing to train intensely is one of the most successful strategies for achieving optimum body composition. Protein intake should be consumed from quality sources like lean, unprocessed meats, fish, low-fat dairy, nuts, seeds, pulses and high quality protein supplements. Protein intake should be ~2 g per kg body mass or ~30% of energy intake. Protein supplements like Recover Ace Strength, PRO GSH Whey or WHEY TRU are ideal for achieving the daily requirement for protein and, facilitating recovery from intense training.

Making weight

As athletes in martial arts are matched by body weight in different categories, optimum body weight and composition is critically important. If the athlete exceeds the official weight for a category, they are disqualified. Additionally, reducing fat mass while maintaining lean body mass and strength improves an athlete’s power-to-weight ratio, which is an important facet of combat sports.

There are many approaches used for rapidly reducing body weight for weigh-in, including dehydration, severe food restriction and self-induced vomiting. All of these methods can be detrimental to health and performance. The martial arts athlete should be aware that achieving optimum weight and body fat levels before competition is entirely achievable using safe, healthy nutrition and exercise strategies. An athlete who adopts optimal nutrition practices will feel better, train harder and recover more rapidly compared to an athlete who implements extreme measures to achieve a target weight. Recent research suggests that an energy intake equivalent to resting metabolic rate, and consisting of approximately 40% CHO, 38% protein and 22% fat is suitable for optimum performance in training, reducing body fat and achieving competition weight. These percentages may vary of course and are not a rigid guideline. Before adopting any weight loss strategy the athlete should contact a qualified professional to ensure safe, effective and practical methods of weight loss are being followed.

After the weigh-in

The main focus during training periods leading up to a tournament should be on foods that are highly nutritious and supply a sustained release of energy. In the days before weigh-in, an athlete may chose to deplete muscle glycogen (carbohydrate) stores, as this is an effective way to reduce body mass owing to the association of water with glycogen molecules. However, given the importance of CHO to high intensity bouts, these stores must subsequently be reloaded as soon as possible after weigh-in. The recommended intake for CHO during loading phases is 10-12 g per kg body mass. A CHO loading product (i.e. liquid supplement) is usually necessary in this situation as it can be extremely difficult to consume adequate CHO with food sources alone. FUEL LOAD has been specifically developed for athletes who want to CHO load and maximise energy levels for competition. It provides an easy-to-consume slow-digesting source of CHO (Palatinose) that loads the muscle and liver with glycogen without causing major fluctuations in blood sugar or insulin.

Hydration and fuelling

Hydration is critical for performance in most sports, and it has been repeatedly shown that dehydration of even a small percentage of body weight impedes physiological function and performance. As some degree of dehydration is likely in order to make weight, targeted rehydration strategies are recommended after weigh-in. A fluid source that contains a source of electrolytes like CHO CHARGE is better than water alone for rehydration. CHO CHARGE has the added advantage of containing a proprietary blend of CHO that can aid CHO loading and providing energy during competition. This product can be a valuable asset during competition because it is specifically designed to provide a fast energy source while avoiding any stomach distress. Combat sports are usually held indoors with large crowds so the environment is often warm and humid which can result in increased sweat rates. This makes adequate consumption of a CHO/electrolyte drink highly recommended.


After training and competition, it is essential to replenish glycogen stores with suitable CHO intake, and adequately rehydrate with an electrolyte drink. A protein source that provides amino acids to fatigued muscles should also be consumed. This will help the body recover and help the athlete to be ready as soon as possible for the next training session or bout. Co-ingestion of protein and CHO in supplement form such as RecoverAce Endurance or RecoverAce Strength is an ideal solution to kick-start recovery. These formulations contain a high quality source of protein for muscle repair combined with an optimal ratio of CHO to maximise recovery processes. There is emerging evidence that protein supplementation, particularly essential (EAAs) and branched-chain (BCAAs) amino acids, during and after intense training can promote muscle protein synthesis and muscle adaptation. The type, timing and amount of protein can be manipulated to enhance the adaptive response to training. A fast-digesting high-quality source of protein such as WHEY TRU or RecoverAce Strength, or isolated amino acids such as ACTI BCAA and ACTI EAA are appropriate sources. In addition, micronutrient intake is another important consideration for recovery. AccoVit Performance and OmniFlex are two products designed to aid recovery. AccoVit contains micronutrients that aid energy metabolism and support the immune system, whereas OmniFlex contains a unique formulation of ingredients which reduces the inflammatory response to intense exercise.

ROS Recommends

Goal Why? ROS product
Pre-workout nutrition To maximise exercise intensity levels RecoverAce Endurance
Gun Powder
Recovery product Restore fuel stores and support optimum muscle recovery RecoverAce Endurance
RecoverAce Strength
Quality protein intake Essential for maintenance of optimum body composition Blue Label Whey
Target Whey Protein
Calcium Caseinate
Amino acid supplementation Facilitate training adaptations Aid growth and repair ISO BCAA Max 1500 mg
ISO EAA 1000 mg Tablets
CHO loading Maximise muscle glycogen stores that are critical for performance RecoverAce Endurance
Multivitamins and minerals Ensure adequate intake of essential micro nutrients Accovit Performance
Essential oils Meet the daily requirement for EPA & DHA Acti Omega
Acti Krill 500 mg