Book Review: “The Grappler’s Guide to Sports Nutrition” by John Berardi and Michael Fry

Although it was written in 2005, this book has a great deal of useful information on nutrition, weight-cutting, and meal planning for grapplers, wrestlers, and MMA fighters.

Recently I picked up The Grappler’s Guide to Sports Nutrition for Body Composition and Performance Enhancement by John Berardi and Michael Fry. Even though it was written in 2005, I was curious about it for several reasons. First, I think often about a comment The Paleo Solution author Robb Wolf made at a seminar I attended a couple years ago, that food is the most important and ubiquitous medicine we ingest. (I had never thought about food as medicine before this, but it made perfect sense, and obviously, the message stuck with me.) Second, there is so much information out there about what constitutes proper nutrition, I was interested in the perspective of these authors. Finally, this book is targeted specifically to grapplers (wrestlers and mixed martial artists and the like), of which I am one.

Berardi holds a doctorate from the University of Western Ontario, focusing on exercise physiology and nutrient biochemistry, and Fry is the head coach of Grapplers Gym. Together, they convey the science behind nutrition and the energy needs of athletes who might read the book. In a manner consistent with Wolf’s comments, Berardi makes the compelling point:

Of the modifiable factors that can contribute to optimal training and competition performance, nutritional intake can be improved quickly, and the results of this improvement can be seen almost immediately. Training adaptations, technique modifications, and mental preparatory techniques take weeks, months, and years to master and yield results. However, nutritional intake can be changed today; and the results seen tomorrow.

He also comments that in grappling sports, approaches to nutrition frequently demonstrate simple ignorance and/or result in potential danger.

The book articulates both its own goals (to help grapplers avoid nutritional deficiencies and describe optimal tools for maximizing nutritional benefits for grapplers) and the goals of any good nutrition program (to improve health, body composition, and performance).  It provides “The Ten Habits” the authors have found to be most effective in achieving desired results, based on their own clients’ implementation of them. These include actions like eating every few hours, planning ahead, and eating real food as opposed to supplements whenever possible. Other chapters describe twenty superfoods and strategies for safe weight-cutting, as well as sample menus.

For me, the most notable message from the book comes in chapter nine, titled “Get Your Head Straight.” In short, the authors claim that “(e)stablishing your best nutrition plan is a process.” Arguably, there will always be differences of opinion about what to eat and how to eat it. The Grappler’s Guide provides a reasonable place to start to answer these questions, and it admonishes readers to use outcome-based decision-making to build on the process. In other words, athletes interested in optimal performance should spend as much time and energy on their nutritional needs as they do on other aspects of their training. In addition, the actions they take related to their nutrition should be based on their own results.

“The Grappler’s Guide to Sports Nutrition is available for $29.99 at

What is your diet like? How do you eat and why? Post observations to comments.

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