You know how it is: You came in overenthusiastic, ate too much food way to close to the training time and then: upset stomach and sitting on the side, and occasionally the quick trip to the bin/toilet.

Feeling ill during training (usually it’s a beginner experience) is normally a result of the following:

1. The student went too fast too quickly (often against the instructions of the coach… who knows what happens when enthusiasm meets a history of inactivity).

2. Not hydrating adequately prior to training.

3. Eating the wrong sorts of food for athletic activity.

4. Eating too close to training.

5. Eating too far from training.

Most people, likely including you, are surprised to hear #5. The first time they feel ill they normally react the same way, they stop eating within a couple of hours of training (and worse; they don’t eat for hours after). All 5 are quite common, but the problem is that #2 and #5 also affect the quality of your training and your ability to learn.

People don’t often link nutritional changes to increased performance and enjoyment, but the truth is that the body needs the fuel or it simply shuts down and eats itself.

No one likes feeling ill, so it’s important to experiment with what suits YOUR body.

5 Tips to increase performance and keep the food down:

1. Start hydrating the night before: Most athletes underrate the importance of hydration, but ask any BJJ person about being choked while you are dehydrated — it’s much more effective for the choker. The same thing goes for sparring Muay Thai or boxing, hydration is very important for safety.

2. Have a meal 2 hours prior and a priming meal 30-45 minutes before training: For much of my career I would eat no closer than 3 hours before training. My gains were massive when I began to focus on my nutrition. I could train harder, enjoy it more and recover quicker. I found that a meal of light protein (chicken, fish or turkey) with salad and something like quinoa or sweet potato and accompanied by some leafy greens works well. Then 30-45 minutes before training a banana/apple/orange and some almonds is light but primes your body for training.

3. Consume carbohydrates during training: I have never been able to stomach protein during training, particularly if it is sparring based, but as most training sessions are 1-1.5 hours, the carbohydrates not only allow you to keep the pace up, but most importantly they help you focus on the coaching and the training. Be warned; sip don’t gulp…

4. Stay away from sweets/caffeine: Although sugar and caffeine can offer advantages, the length of the class/session means that it can’t be sustained and normally ends with a headache, weakness and shaking that is beneficial only to the lower grades that want to tap you out. If you insist on having sweets/chocolate/caffeine before training, make sure you increase your water accordingly; this helps reduce the negative effects.

5. Focus on your breathing: More often than not, people’s ill effects during training are related to over-breathing or holding their breath. Take notice of it next time you train and you will notice that during intense bouts, you can find yourself breathing in too much oxygen. This can leave you panicky, tingling or feeling faint. I don’t suggest you alter your breathing, but instead just watch it and notice if you are focusing too much on oxygen intake. See your coaches for advice on this if you feel like it can assist you.


Try these tips out and you will see some improvements in not just your performance, but also your enjoyment of each session!


See you on the mat,


VT1 Martial Arts Academy Chatswood

19B/390 Eastern Valley Way Chatswood
New South Wales 2067

Phone (02) 9417 1001

Chatswood | Gordon | St Ives | Willoughby