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Nutrition for Kung Fu

Kung Fu is an art of self-defense originating from China. There are many forms of Kung Fu practiced around the world including Wing Chun and other Shaolin styles. Although being ‘fighting styles’, Kung Fu is an art that promotes virtue, peace and patience rather than violence and aggression. The art involves the use of more circular techniques, striking, kicking, grappling and throwing, which allows a martial artist to deal with every type of attack and defend themself effectively. However, the art is not just physical exercise. There is a strong emphasis on moral development and character building that can be transferred to daily life.

Importance of Nutrition

As Kung Fu requires focus and precision, adequately fuelling and hydrating the body is essential for optimal performance. Poor nutrition may result in:

  • Feeling tired sooner
  • Poor focus, concentration and decision making
  • Errors in skills and movements
  • Reduced speed, especially with repeated movements
  • Reduced endurance for training session
  • Tummy upset

Pre-Training Nutrition

Kung Fu classes usually run for 60-90 minutes. Classes generally include either short repetitions of drills, or are cardio classes for endurance building. Having a balanced meal 2-4 hours before class should provide adequate energy. Our body stores energy in our muscle and liver. This should be adequate for a Kung Fu class. A balanced meal contains low-GI carbohydrates, lean protein, healthy fats and non-starchy vegetables.

Sources of low-GI carbohydrate foods include: wholegrain bread, brown rice, sweet potato, wholemeal pasta, quinoa, corn, peas and most fruits. These foods provide the main source of energy for your muscles and brain. They are low-GI which means that they are generally minimally processed and the energy in the food is released slowly. In comparison, lollies and juices are examples of high-GI carbohydrates which give the body quick energy, but don’t last for long.

Sources of lean protein foods include: lean chicken and meats, fish, eggs, tofu, greek yoghurt, cheese, milk and legumes. These foods provide nourishment for your muscles to heal and grow. Ideally, they should be consumed spread out throughout the day for improved absorption.

Sources of healthy fats include: olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocado and oily fish. Healthy fats help you to feel fuller for longer, improve the absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K, and can protect your heart from disease.

Lastly, non-starchy vegetables are all other vegetables that are low in carbohydrates. They are your vegetables that exclude potato, corn, and peas. Examples are: spinach, lettuce, broccoli, tomato, carrot, pumpkin, green beans, cauliflower and capsicum. They provide your body with fibre to nourish your gut and help you to feel fuller for longer. They are also rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to nourish and protect your body.

However, if you need a snack before your training session because the time between your last meal and your session is over 2-4 hours, you can have a high-GI carbohydrate rich snack for a top up 1-2 hours before. Make sure that the snack is also low in fibre to prevent tummy upset. Examples of energy boosting snacks include bread with jam or fruit with yoghurt.

Lastly, make sure that you stay hydrated throughout the day with regular sips of water. Drinking a lot of water right before your session can increase the urge to use the toilet during class. Extra, large volumes of water during your session is generally not necessary unless you are sweating excessively, your training session goes for over 90 minutes, or you are training in humid and hot conditions. Keeping a bottle to sip on hand should be adequate to keep you hydrated.

Post-training Nutrition

After your Kung Fu session, a balanced meal as mentioned earlier should be adequate for muscle recovery. Lean protein and low-GI carbohydrate paired together aids your muscle to recover and rebuild. Again, on a hot day or if you have a very sweaty session, consuming extra water to hydrate your body is important. To know if you are well hydrated, your urine should be pale yellow in colour.

Are Nutrition Supplements Necessary?

There are many popular sports nutrition products that are marketed and sold today such as protein shakes and pre-work out powders. In general, these are not necessary for Kung Fu training if you consume balanced meals. The training sessions are not intense enough on muscles to warrant extra supplementation, and drills are usually short at about 2 minutes per drill.

However, some Kung Fu sparring competitions group participants into weight classes. Nutrition supplements may be a convenient option to meet weight class goals under the direction and supervision of a Dietitian.

Oral rehydration solutions like Hydralyte can also be an option to improve rehydration on very hot and humid days or for those who sweat excessively. A sports Dietitian can provide guidance for individual needs with sweat testing.




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