Nutrition for swordplay: training and competition

You wanna fight, you gotta eat.

Swordplay is a power sport. You need to generate a ton of speed in very little time, and you need to do it again and again. One to three pounds of steel need to be accelerated to maximum speed…and then rapidly have the brakes put on so you can make a nimble change in direction mid-lunge or mid-cut. This takes some serious muscle, and some serious fuel.

Your overall diet should be rich in nutrients. Strongly coloured veggies should be a staple of your diet. Every single meal should include something from kale to blueberries. Dark coloured, leafy. A variety is essential.

Next on the list would be multiple sources of fats. Olive oil, fish, avacados, nuts, seeds, whole cream. Again, a variety is important. You want to aim for an equal balance of the three kinds of fats, and that can be tricky to do. If you eat like most people, you probably need to supplement with omega3 or fish oil.

Lastly you need some protein. Not a lot, despite what you might think. And don’t fret about lean meat, either. Quality of fat in your meat is more important than quantity of fat. Free range and grass fed is mandatory. Avoid corn-fed meat. Again, variety is key. Beans are also a great source of protein…but they are low in fat so you will have to compensate for that.

When training, you should probably eat a small snack every 45 minutes of hard training. I find the right balance can be found in a small handful or two of nuts with some chocolate and raisins added in is about right. Or some thin sliced steak with carrots or peppers if you can store it correctly.

No energy drinks. Ever. Don’t guzzle water, either. Learn your water needs by weighing yourself before and after training on an accurate scale. The weight difference is how much water you lost during training. Divide that number by the amount of time you trained and you should be able to figure out your average rate of water loss during training. Sip water to replace what you lost throughout your training sessions.

During competition, drink coffee or tea about twenty minutes before your bout begins. Keep a supply of sugar handy in a form you like. Beware over consumption as a sugar spike will result in a crash and a decrease in performance. It’s best to balance out the sugar with some protein to slow absorption. Again, the nut, chocolate and raisin mix works pretty good. One handful between bouts when needed, no more. Sip water to replenish. Reload on caffeine if it’s a long day of bouting, but again beware an energy spike.

Train and practice your eating before the tournament to avoid surprises or stomach upset.

When wrapping up training, eat a meal of carbs and protein within 60 minutes after the end of training. If you aren’t trying to lose weight, this is a great time to indulge in a small treat. If you are trying to lose weight, aim for mostly protein with only a tiny bit of carbs. If you are trying to gain weight, eat carbs before and during training. You should generally aim to replace the calories burned in training and competing. No more, no less. If you are trying to adjust weight rely on the suggestions above but stick to the calorie guideline.

For recovery after a tough session, aim to increase your consumption of omega3 fats to help reduce inflammation. Turmeric as a spice might also help. Some studies point to the consumption of beer as being helpful in reducing post-workout soreness. I haven’t read the study, but I find it hard to argue with…

Want more information? Ask away! You can also read a number of good article like this one at the Precision Nutrition website. And yes, I am a certified nutrition coach. My services are available!

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