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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Review: The Fighter's Body

The Fighter's Body: An Owner's Manual: Your Guide to Diet, Nutrition, Exercise and Excellence in the Martial Arts 

by Loren W. Christensen and Wim Demeere

Discussions about nutrition border on those about religion when it comes to the potential for animosity, fanaticism, and disregard for even the most basic rules of civil discourse. Combine that with the predilection martial artists have for confrontational mannerisms, "one true way-ism", and a general need to have all of the answers, 100% of the time, and you have the potential for some serious disaster.

Fortunately, co-authors Christensen and Demeere have managed to produce a book that not only provides some good fundamentals for any martial artist looking to clean up their diet, tweak their training regimen, or just look at some new ways to improve their performance, but they did so while avoiding fanatical adherence to a particular diet, exercise program, or prescribed routine.

While the book's title might suggest otherwise, this is a book primarily about nutrition. Of the fourteen chapters, only two of them contain any descriptions of physical exercises, drills, or workout routines. Here's the breakdown.

1. Myths and Lies
2. It’s All About You
3. It’s All About Calories
4. Bad Diets
5. Vitamins
6. Liquids
7. Your Daily Eating Plan
8. Losing Weight
9. Making Weight
10. Dropping Weight Fast
11. More Muscle, More Power
12. Fueling the Machine
13. Your long-term Plan
14. The Mental Game

Training Logs

Of all of those chapters, "It's All About You" might be the most...descriptive, I guess...of the authors' views on nutrition. In each chapter (and sometimes, several times in a chapter), the authors' advise the reader that their suggestions should not be taken as gospel, and that the reader should experiment to find the best regimen that works for them. For someone looking for the word of truth (or who is fanatically devoted to a particular diet), this might seem frustrating or "wishy-washy" (as one Amazon review has it), but the older I get, the more I've come to appreciate the complexities that surround anything having to do with fitness or nutrition. Things that work great for me don't work for other people, and vis-versa. Even what works for me has changed, as I've aged and my body has changed. If I don't want to follow the same workout program that I followed five years ago, why would I expect that the same program would work for someone with a completely different body type?

Besides, describing the book as "wishy-washy" is unfair. The authors' do provide clear guidelines. Specifically, they favor a balance of 40% carbs, 30% protein, and 30% fat, taken in through good, healthy food. They prefer six small meals a day. They are not big believers in supplementation. You get a cheat meal (they call it a "dirt day", but it's the same idea). All of this stuff is clearly laid out, as are some plans for both losing and gaining weight, including methods for cutting weight fast if the need is there. Someone looking for a clear plan of action can certainly build one with the materials in this book. Someone looking to be told "on day 4, you eat THIS for breakfast" won't.

I confess to not having played deeply with any of these ideas (I just finished the book a couple of days ago), but a lot of the advice seems solid. Some of it mirrors my own experiences. Some of it I haven't tried yet, but I may experiment with it. The only quibbles I have are minor ones (Demeere suggests using a Smith machine for squats is okay, while my experience and conversations with folks suggests that those things should be outlawed by the Geneva Accords).

As the title suggests, this is an owner's manual; like an owner's manual, it is simple, straightforward, but not necessarily hugely in depth. If you want to learn more about a specific nutritional plan, or a particular exercise regimen, there are better, more in-depth places to look. If you're just trying to get a handle on these things, and don't know where to start, this is a pretty good jumping off point.

Interested in this book? Buy a copy from my Amazon Store, and check out the other cool stuff I've got on sale there.

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