Eat Like an Arm-Wrestler

October 19th 2015

For a lot of people, the answer to the question, ‘What does a pro arm-wrestler eat?’ is something like: “Spinach.” “Iron spikes.” “Weaker arm wrestlers,” or “whatever builds big biceps.”
 
But the top pros in the notoriously hard-hitting sport know that it isn’t just arms that win a match – it’s a whole body tuned to pummel an opponent at the table.
 
Competing in the World Armwrestling League requires all kinds of strength, and the sport exerts a tremendous and unique strain on muscles, tendons and ligaments in the hands, arms and back.
 
As such, the nutritional needs of the world’s top pullers differ in nuanced but significant ways from other athletes. In short, what you do at the dinner table affects what you do at the arm wrestling table.
 
Pro puller Jamie Sheldon is the manager of Nutrishop Riverside at Tyler in California. He arm-wrestles because he loves it, but his day job has taught him what you need to fuel your regimen and recover from the punishment a competitor takes as they climb the WAL ranks.
 
“There is no one correct way or one ultimate product that will solve all your problems,” Jamie notes. “We all have different goals in the same path to raising that WAL Hammer of Champions over our head in victory!”
 
Aside from a desire to be the best and the discipline to get there, training for arm-wrestling is different than training for bodybuilding, he says.
 
Jamie, currently a lightweight competitor, says his diet is inevitably different than when he threw down as an arm-wrestling middleweight.
 
“My goal is no longer to get as big and strong as possible,” he says. “It is to stay as light and strong as possible. Adjusting calories, macros and supplement intake has allowed me to do that.”
 
Here’s Jamie’s top tips on how to eat like a pro arm wrestler:
 
1. Carbs are your friend

Like other training regimens, Jamie advocates lots of protein every few hours to rev the metabolism and help recovery. But he also recommends that pullers load up on “healthy, non-bloating carbs” like sweet potatoes. “This will provide the fuel your body needs to perform the task at hand and last longer in matches,” he says. Eat the spuds after weigh-in and before matches to ensure you’ll have the necessary gas in your tank.
 
2.  Prep your meals
A full, balanced meal after grueling table time or other workout does the trick, Jamie says. Still, many people fail at implementing this, simply because they are busy and don’t think they can find the time. That’s why Jamie recommends setting aside a few hours a week to prep your post-workout meals. Grab ‘em out the fridge after training, nuke em and you’re good to go. Jamie advises you pick one of each of these three categories to have with each meal:
 
PROTEIN:
Chicken breast
Turkey Breast
Ground Turkey
Salmon
Lean Ground Beef
Tri-Tip Steak
Egg Whites
 
CARB:
Sweet Potato
Brown Rice
Whole wheat pasta
Yams
Oatmeal
Red Potato
 
VEG:
 Broccoli
Squash
Bell Peppers
Green Beans
Spinach
Kale
Asparagus
 
3. Supplements
Jamie also swears by “branch chain amino acid” supplements, essentially Gatorade without the sugar for the post weigh-in, pre-match phase. “Most branch chain amino acid supplements provide the electrolytes and potassium you will need for endurance in your matches,” Jamie says. “This will keep the blood flowing, the body cool, and the muscles hydrated.”
 
While Jamie notes that recovery supplementation is a debatable topic, he has personally found that upping his Glutamine intake level has solved a host of his injury and pain issues over time. The lightweight WAL puller says he was plagued by elbow tendon issues for about a year, but those symptoms eased when he started taking the amino acid three times a day. “Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in the body,” he says. “It increases lean muscle and speeds up recovery. It gets the lactic acid out of your muscles and helps with soreness.”
 
Still, any serious tendon, joint or muscle issues should be seen by a physician or specialist, he cautions.
 
4. Tailor your nutrition to your needs.
Many people, even athletes, are unaware of their body’s specific nutritional needs, what they may be deficient in that effects performance at the table. That’s why Jamie recommends everyone pursuing arm-wrestling greatness get their blood work done, to identify the unique shortfalls that may be hindering your training and win-loss record.
 
“Knowing your own body’s strengths, limits and needs within the scope of nutrition and supplementation will benefit your outcome,” Jamie says. “There is a science behind all this complication and it varies with each individual, but one thing is constant: get off your ass and do it!”