Categorized | Featured, Fitness, Nutrition

Small Steps to Better Nutrition for Athletes

TL Naples BJJ and Martial Arts- Nutrional Guide for ATheletes

It’s hard to be an athlete in the USA. Have to work 40+ hour jobs, sponsor yourself, and the training, and some time there is just not enough time in the day to eat right.

My main current challenges as an athlete that I am trying to overcome are:

  • Nutritional Discipline
  • Flexibility and Stretching Discipline
  • Periodization
  • and Sleep!

I will be writing about the ladder three topics in later issue, nevertheless nutrition is the little secret of my BJJ career. Here is some background.

Nutritional Background

In College I was to poor to afford healthy food. I literally ate butter and bread for months, and did not miss any free food event regardless of what it was for. I was broke. Free Pizza could not be turned down.

Out of college my economic situation changed when I got my first job, but I did not know how to cook, or better yet…I hate cooking. I am a very impatient person when it comes to food. I would eat the food while cooking it and that made the whole process of cooking illogical.

Also I have a sweet tooth. I love “tres leches” ( latin dessert…REALLY GOOD)…cheesecake…how can one turn down cheesecake I do not know.

Lately the last obstacle to make itself really obvious it’s not having time to eat right which is really crazy, but its true.

So let’s put it in the open these main factors.

Common Factors Affecting Good Nutrition

  • Money: Good food usually cost more.
  • Sweets & desserts: They are too tempting and to good.
  • Not knowing/liking to cook: Processed foods are usually terrible for you.
  • Time: To busy to eat right.

I will  take a wild guess that an average serious athlete is:

  • Not Rich: Most athletes do not make much money in their sport until they have reached high levels after many years of sacrifice.
  • Craves good food: Due to the abstinence of not having it during hard intensive workouts and weight cutting period.
  • Does not have a lot of time in his day: Due to the many trainings sessions plus side jobs.
  • Will not necessarily like cooking: Especially after a hard training session.

Looking at this factors and characteristics it become so clear to see why I struggle with balanced nuitrition and I don’t think am the only one out there on this boat. One thing we left out is the lacks of Nutritional Experts helping athletes be informed and make the right choices when picking their food or diets. I am only aware of nutritional experts that are accessible to athletes for not an arm and a leg at the Olympic Training Center. Other wise its up to the athlete to educate himself and that takes time, and we are back to where we started. Time that one can steal only from one’s sleep, but let’s fix one issue at a time. When designing a nutritional program. I have realized it has to be realistic given the conditions above. Lets put it in one sentence:

Goal: A nutritional program that is affordable, includes tasty food and occasional desserts ( treats) , does not required a lot of time, and does not required for you to be an expert chef.

I know it sounds to good to be true, but lets give it a first shot by writing a set of rules. This rules cannot be broken or otherwise its not the program that failed but ourselves. I promise they will not be harsh at all, like I said before: “I am with you on this one.”

Rules for Better Nutrition

Rule # 1. No Fast Food: Plain and simple there are enough supermarkets where one can drive to and one can drop in the deli and grab high quality meat for less of the time that you may have while waiting at the drive through and for less money too.

Let’s take a look at what the cross fit guys tell us ( In Summary

according to Crossfit who are very big on Dr. Barry Sears’ Zone Diet ( and seem to base their believes of his research which does a good job of jointly managing issues of blood glucose control, proper macronutrient proportion, and caloric restriction the three pillars of sound nutrition whether your concern is athletic performance, disease prevention and longevity, or body composition.

Of course as I write this I took a second to buy Dr. Sears’ book Enter the Zone at Amazon and I got a huge list of his books that are recommended by Amazon. Ok, ok, ok, so I know I have impulsive tendencies, so let me check with coach and long time friend Julius Park who has been down these waters way back when I didn’t know what BJJ was. Minutes later  Julius agreed that we are heading on the right direction with our research therefore I also ordered:

  • Zone Perfect Meals in Minutes: 150 Fast and Simple Healthy Recipes
  • A Week in the Zone
  • Zone Meals in Seconds : 150 Fast and Delicious Recipes for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner
  • The Top 100 Zone Foods : Supercharge Your Health
  • The Omega Rx Zone Low Price CD: The Power of the New High-Dose Fish Oil

Julius also added his valuable input to my research which will explain why we also decided to buy “The Omega Rx Zone Low Price CD: The Power of the New High-Dose Fish Oil”. More on this later though.

Nevertheless lets get back to our summary of Crossfit’s Journals 2, and 3. Nutrition plays a critical role in your fitness as it can amplify or diminish the effect of your training efforts.  Crossfit explains that there exist a theoretical hierarchy for the development of athletes. The pyramid starts with nutrition at the base.

Theoretical Hierarchy for the Development of Athletes

TL BJJ  Naples, FL Fitness Pyramid

The pyramid hierarchy reflects foundational dependence on one level on the others below. If you have a deficiency at any level of “the pyramid” the compo­nents above will suffer. As a result if your  nutrition is bad, then most  of  everything you do as an athlete will suffer because of it.

One the needs to ask what does effective nutrition look like? Crossfit explains that effective nutrition is moderate in protein, carbohydrate, and fat. Balanced macronutrient and healthy nutrition looks more like 40% carbohydrate, 30 % protein, and 30% fat. Which brings us to our next rule:

Rule # 2. Throw Low Fat Diets Out The Window!

Why? Once Again from Crossfit Journal’s 2 and 3, Gary Taubes, a well respected science writer pretty much wrote about how dietary fat is not the problem but excess consumption of carbohydrate is – particularly refined or processed carbohydrate. Not only that but now there is an increasing awareness that excess carbohydrates play a dominant role in chronic diseases like obesity, coronary heart disease, many cancers, and diabetes due to “hyperinsulinemia.”

Hyperinsulinemia: the chronic and acute elevation of insulin as a result of habitual consumption of excess carbohydrate.

The list of ills probably linked to hyperinsulinemia is a little scary :

  • Hypertension Obesity
  • Colorectal Cancer
  • Cardiovascular Diseases
  • Diabetes
  • Metabolic Syndrome X

That is  only after googling hyperinsulinemia for 15 minutes.

The diseases above can easily be avoided by minimizing carbohydrate consumption – specifically carbohydrate that gives substantial rise to blood sugar and consequently insulin levels.

Lets add another rule:

Rule #3. Eat good foods not bad foods.

That rule its so simple its stupid. Yeah but not really, if you think about how we will determine GOOD FOODS vs. BAD FOODS .

Good foods don’t cause use diseases that’s for sure. Lets follow Dr. Sears and Corssfit standards. Once again as  our main goal is to start some where so that later on we can build upon unto better nutritional systems. Pretty much or new eating habits mus include food that won’t cause significant rise to blood sugar and consequently insulin levels. Acoording to the above sources the Glycemic Index is a measure of a food’s propensity to raise blood sugar. Therefore we must avoid high glycemic foods.

Lets stick for now to the list  give to us by Crossfit but we can also find a lot of this info online,

Rick Mendosa’s list of glycemic indices , or by reading , The Top 100 Zone Foods : Supercharge Your Health by Dr. Sears.

Here are our always  updated and  always growing list of

Here is our list to start with and plan to build upon, For an experiment have Highlighted Green the foods that are good that I currently eat. The Green Highlights with bold are foods I really enjoy! In the same fashion I have Highlighted Red the foods I eat that are bad. An the Red Highlights with bold font are those which I will surely miss. I suggest you do the same as the results are quiet shocking.


(high-glycemic foods)

Acorn Squash

Baked Beans


Black Eyed Peas

Butternut Squash

Cooked Carrots


French Fries

Hubbard Squash

Lima Beans



Pinto Beans


Refried Beans

Sweet Potato











Fruit Juice

Vegetable Juice



Bread Crumbs


Steak Sauce


Sweet Relich






English Muffin



Melba Toast



Instant Oatmeal





Taco Shell


Udon Noodles


BBQ Sauce


Cocktail Sauce




Maple Syrup

Teriaki Sauce


Corn Chips

Ice Cream

Potato Chips


Saltine Crakers



(low-glycemic foods)




Protein Powder

Peanut Butter






Black Beans

Kidney Beans

Ground Turkey

Soy Sausage


Turkey Sausage



Canned Tuna

Canned Chicken

Soy Burgers

Cottage Cheese


Macadamia Nuts

















Plain Yogurt

Deli Meat


Soy Milk



Egg Substitute




Tuna Steak

Tomato Sauce






Brussel Sprouts



Hot Dogs

Chick Peas



Dill Pickles

Soy Beans





So far it sounds lie I will really miss giving up:

  • French Fries
  • Banana
  • Fruit Juice
  • Bagel
  • Biscut
  • Bread
  • Croissant
  • English Muffin
  • Pancake
  • Rice
  • Taco Shell
  • Tortillas
  • Waffle
  • Ketchup

But will really enjoy

  • Eggs
  • Olives
  • Beef
  • Cheese
  • Ground Turkey
  • Chicken
  • Turkey Sausage
  • Salmon
  • Turkey
  • Canned Tuna
  • Avocado
  • Lettuce
  • Onion
  • Shrimp
  • Mayonnaise
  • Deli Meat
  • Ham
  • Oil
  • Peanuts
  • Swordfish
  • Tuna Steak
  • Hot Dogs
  • Lamb
  • Pork

Seems like the best compromise ever to me… I know the list might be limited but I plan to add more to it in future posts.

Time for another rule:

Rule #4. Keep a printed rule of good foods vs bad foods in your wallet/ purse and one in your fridge where you can see every day: It will take you a while to remember all the good and the bad foods and also some discipline so ltes have a constant reminder and not allow any room for accidents.

Let’s look back our initial goal:

Goal: A nutritional program that is affordable, includes tasty food and occasional desserts ( treats) , does not required a lot of time, and does not required for you to be an expert chef.

So far I think we have run across some tasty foods and a lot of them can be combined fro greater taste results.

I don’t know much about cooking but from the green list above I can see some easy combinations that will take me a couple of seconds to make and required almost no cooking expertise. Pretty much  the time factor  and cooking expertise factor are taken care of, for now. If not buy yourself a Foreman Grill that thing saves my life.

The occasional dessert or treat we will take care with our last rule, so do not worry about it for now. All that is left for us to examine is the money aspect:

From my list I know that:

  • Eggs
  • Olives
  • Cheese
  • Ground Turkey
  • Chicken
  • Turkey Sausage
  • Salmon
  • Turkey
  • Canned Tuna
  • Avocado
  • Lettuce
  • Onion
  • Mayonnaise
  • Deli Meat
  • Ham
  • Oil
  • Peanuts
  • Hot Dogs
  • Pork

Are not bad for the money. I will compare my grocery bill for the next months using these foods to previous months and let you know in a future post, but I have a feeling it will be cheaper.

By the way for those fo you who want to take it to the next level . Julius Park recommended to make sure we don’t have any deficiencies.

  • greens +
  • standard multivitamin
  • carlson’s fish oil
  • glutamine
  • bcaa
  • protein powder

I will research all of this and write about them also in a future post.

So how about dessert? Here is where all of you jump in joy.

Rule # 5. Follow all the above rules except one day of the week. I will let you eat anything you want  one day of the week. Try to mix it up. Notice that the title of this post is “Small Steps…” and while this may not be desirable for ever it’s definitely  a good place to start!

I think so far we have achieved a good starting point , but I want to add one more final rule.

Rule # 6. Start today; No need or reason to delay a better life today. Don’t waste any time.

So there you have it a not so bad redefined grocery list and 6 rules to maintain. Looking forward to your comments.

4 Responses to “Small Steps to Better Nutrition for Athletes”

  1. Mickey says:

    Hey roberto. It might make you happy to know you dont have to give up all the bad foods on your list ” high glycemic” especially the ones that sound After an intese workout, when muscle building is the goal, it is good to have a fast acting protein and a simple carb wich is a high glycemic one to spike your insulin. This sends the amino acids and glucose in the bloodstream into over drive to refill the cells and aid in repair and rebuild of muscle tissue. Insulin is bad wnen no activity has occured where is then aids in the storage of body fat.

  2. Mickey says:

    I also loved the research you did. It was very thorough. There was a lot I didnt know and I look foward to putting it to use. thanks.

  3. Hi Mickey,

    Thanks for the suggestions. What I recommend the guys is that before their workout they take Whey Protein and after as well because of the same reason you stated. You may like this articles

    Protein Supplements, a Necessary Evil – Part 2.

    Protein Supplements a Necessary Evil – Part 1.

    Lehigh Wrestling Balance Diet for Fueling Wrestlers

    Let me know what you think of them.


  1. […] If you can get the same amount of protein from natural foods like steak, fish, etc., this is obviously the best choice. But, before you assume you are getting the right amount of protein from non-supplement sources, lets examine how much protein a BJJ athlete should consume. This is according to my previous research (Small Steps to Better Nutrition for Athletes) […]