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Martial arts diet – eat like Bruce Lee and Shaolin monks

We all have heard of the popular phrase “You are what you eat” which implies that what we choose to consume, our diet and nutrition, plays a great influence in shaping who we are – physically and mentally. This is especially so when it comes to the diets of martial artists.

No matter what martial arts style(s) one has chosen to practice, to effectively (and safely) enhance and maximize his or her performance, one would need to focus on the quality and quantity as well as balanced consumption of carbohydrates, fats, minerals, proteins, supplements, and vitamins.


According to an article shared by, nutrition can help martial artists to improve their body chemistry for balance as well as to gain explosive power, better mobility, greater speed and strength, increased energy for intense workouts and higher endurance for sport and self-defense situations. Additionally, it can also help to achieve speedier recovery times, strengthened immune systems, and maintenance of healthy body weight.

Curious to find out as to what type of diets have powered some of the most renowned martial artists around the world? Read on!

Shaolin Monks

The diets of Shaolin Monks are mainly based on the concept of Buddhism, which is simplicity and pacifism. These monks eat not only to fuel the physical body at its essential level but also for spiritual reasons.

  • Their daily diet mostly consists of rice, vegetables, and fruits.
    Because one of the tenets of Buddhism promotes pacifism, most monks are vegetarian.
  • Foods they eat are either raw or steamed.
    When it comes to preparation, the simpler the better. Buddhist monks stay clear of sugar and fat as much as they can.
  • They avoid dairy and meat.
    As they are vegetarian, they do not consume any types of meat – and other animal related products such as milk. Protein sources are obtained from soybeans and soy products, such as tofu and seitan. Whilst nuts are often used as a replacement for meat.

The Gracie Diet

Royce Gracie after a victory at UFC 1

The Gracie Family is renowned for being a dynasty of fierce Brazilian Jujutsu fighters, the following are how they fuel their intense martial arts training:

  • Their meals are spaced out.
    Rorion Gracie suggests keeping four and a half hours between meals. The only thing that they consume between meals is water.
  • No dessert or soda consumption is allowed.
    The Gracie clan believes that people generally consume too much sugar. Sugar is unnecessary and is unhealthy.
  • One starch per meal.
    They believe that too much carb makes the body feels slow and groggy. They limit their consumption of carbs just enough to provide energy to practice.

Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee infused a carb-heavy low protein diet to maintain his slender figure

One of the most iconic Martial Artists of all time, Bruce Lee, was very careful about his diet. He never consumed foods that he thought might interfere with his training or performance.

  • Consumed Protein shakes.
    Lee mixed in supplements, such as ginseng, royal jelly, and vitamins in his shake.
  • Coffee is strictly prohibited
    Alternatively, Grand Master Lee preferred green tea as his source of caffeine. Green tea has been shown to improve and speed up metabolism.
  • Ate mostly (healthy) Chinese food: a carb-heavy, low protein diet.
    Most of Bruce Lee’s carb came from vegetables and rice, much like Shaolin monks. He focused more on carbs for energy rather than proteins and fats.
  • Had many meals throughout the day.
    Bruce consumed 4-5 meals a day to fuel his workouts and performances.

Ronda Rousey

Ronda Rousey goes through a series of strict diet to keep up with her workout routines

The famed Judoka and MMA champ Ronda Rousey takes care of her body well and is conscientious about what she eats on a daily basis. She believes that her diet has noticeable effects on her workouts and training. Her diet varies – depending on whether or not she is training for a fight.

  • Prefers high carb breakfast
    Rousey usually kickstarts her day with oatmeal or another high carb source to fuel her up.
  • Opts for a high carb/half protein lunch.
  • Usually has a high protein dinner
    Rousey also supplements her protein intake with protein shakes and probiotic drinks.
  • Snacks in between meals.
    These include foods such as frozen grapes, almonds, and trail mix.
  • No eating before bed.
    Rousey refuses to eat within three hours of going to bed as our bodies would not have enough time to fully digest the food we eat and likely to lead to bulk up as fat.

Fabricio Werdum

 Fabricio Werdum, won the interim UFC title after defeating Mark Hunt 

The well renowned MMA fighter and BJJ intensive, Fabricio Werdum, focuses his daily intake on protein and carbohydrates. Since he is classified as a heavyweight in the ring, the calories he consumed are far from not wasted!

  • Consumes lots of protein
    All of his meals contain some form of protein, from grilled chicken to protein shakes.
  • Institute’s low carb daily diet
    A little bit of rice, toast, and fruit are the only carbohydrates that Werdum keeps in his diet. His main source of energy comes from fat and protein Paleo-Esque diet.
  • Prefers to have many meals.
    Werdum supplements his 8-meal a day diet with protein shakes and light meals.


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