Words: Gavin Allinson
If you want to get the best out of your body and mind it’s important to use the best possible fuel available. I was speaking with Braulio Estima after a seminar he gave to us at Oxford Shootfighters gym. Braulio says, ‘He bases his diet around as many super foods as he can.’
I’ve worked with hundreds of elite athletes over the years and there have only been a handful with as good a grasp of the basic concepts of nutrition as Braulio. He definitely knows his stuff and remains in great shape all the year round.
Can Super Foods turn you into a Super Athlete?
Eating one or two of these super foods is not going to make a massive difference if you are still eating beer and pizza. However, when you layer these foods onto the basics of a good diet then you will not only start to get incremental performance advantages, you will get fewer illnesses and recover faster between sessions.
Quinoa instead of wheat.
The typical western diet is over reliant on wheat based products – we are talking breads, wraps, pasta, cous cous, cereals and pastry. Ok, so what is the problem with wheat based foods? Often the wheat is heavily processed and has the fibre removed. This causes the carbohydrates in the wheat to be converted quickly to sugars. This is ok if you are eating it straight after a training session but when you are eating at all other times it is not optimal, as you increase the chance of converting any excess carbs to fat.
Many people have varying degrees of intolerance to wheat, which can cause bloating and discomfort. Sometimes you may not be aware of this until you stop eating wheat based products for a few days and then reintroduce them. Give it a try and see if you notice your stomach gurgling and churning more often when you’ve eaten some wheat.
Many athletes are utilising a wheat free or gluten free diet to help boost their performance.
What is quinoa and why does it count as a super food?
Quinoa is technically a seed but is often referred to as a grain. It is native to South America and has been marketed as an Aztec super food. It has a similar consistency and texture to cous cous with small grains and a light, very slightly nutty flavour. It is higher in protein than wheat and importantly it contains the complete range of amino acids – some plant based proteins lack some of the amino acids, which can be a challenge for vegetarians. As it is a whole grain (seed) it also contains high levels of fibre which are beneficial for gut health and lowering cholesterol.
Another staple food that Braulio consumes on a daily basis is oats. Braulio is a fan of pin head oats. The typical oats that you normally see are rolled oats and as their name suggests they are steamed and then rolled flat so they can cook quicker. Pin head oats are prepared by chopping the whole oat grain into a few smaller pieces; they end up being crunchier and take a bit longer to cook than rolled oats. There is no extra nutritional benefit in having pin head over rolled oats.
Oats are high in fibre and release their energy slowly thus making you feel fuller for longer and are ideal for breakfast in the form of porridge, as the major component of muesli or added to a protein smoothie.
Grind up oats in your blender and substitute in many recipes, e.g. oat flour is great for making pancakes.
We are not talking crème de menthe. Green drinks are an excellent addition for anyone serious about their health. They are made from a blend of different grasses, algae and seaweeds and often contain healthy bacteria. Our traditional western diet is very acid forming, which can cause inflammation and means you may heal slower and be more at risk to osteoporosis later in life. If your body is more acidic you will produce lactic acid faster when you are sparring or competing.
Generally the green drinks don’t taste that great, but you just have to look at it to know that it is going to be doing you some good.
All berries and in particular, blue berries, are power packed full of antioxidants and other compounds that are beneficial to your health and performance. Expect to see more research and scientific discoveries come out regarding berries in the years to come. Simply add them to your oats or eat them as a snack.
Is definitely a performance super food. Bunched beetroot is available in supermarkets and easy to cook and eat, just boil it or roast it in the oven. Cooked beetroot goes really well with a chocolate flavored protein shake.
Concentrated beetroot juice in shots (Beet It) is also available and been proven to help boost endurance performance so it is going to come into its own towards the end of a fight or during a day of competition. Beet It is definitely on my list to be consuming three days prior to competition.
Flax Seeds and Chia Seeds
These seeds provide a valuable vegetarian source of omega 3 oils and are also high in fibre. For best results you need to grind the seeds up otherwise your digestive tract is not strong enough to break down the outer wall. These provide valuable extra fibre and healthy oils to your diet. Add them to your porridge or cereal; mix them in your smoothies and protein shakes.
Everyone is looking for an edge, whether it is on the mats or life in general. Upgrading your diet and adding some super foods into it can make a big difference. Give it a go!