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Performance Supplements for the Combat Athlete

Right from the outset of writing this report I have to stress this one, catch-all, very important caveat:   Performance supplementation should only be used as a support system; to be applied in concert with your regular diet and physical fitness routine synergistically to achieve optimum results.  Like three legs of a stool- your diet (what you eat), your fitness program (the way you work out) along with a solid performance supplementation program, will provide you with the building blocks to enhance your energy levels, turbo charge your performance and fine tune your overall health.  This has never been as true as it is in today’s modern world where it is impossible to know whether or not your normal food sources are lacking in the essential vitamins and minerals that you need in order to maintain optimum health, recovery and peak performance.   

Just so we are all on the same page - before we get started - just ask yourself these few questions:  With all of the international trade imports, do you know exactly where the vegetables and fruit you bought today were originally grown?  Do you know how long they were kept in green houses for storage to prolong their life before being distributed into grocery stores?  Do you know what pesticides or preservatives have been pumped into your food?  Are you aware of how all of these issues affect the nutritional value of the food you eat on a daily basis?  And that is based on just the fresh food, never mind the junk most people are eating!  The chances of combat athletes getting optimal amounts of vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids from nutrient-deficient processed foods is absolutely right next to zero.  This simply will not happen.  Thus, there is a need for understanding how to design a performance supplement program that is not merely based on a new fad product or that simply lacks specificity towards the goals you desire to achieve, not to mention providing your body with the essential nutrients that you need in order to survive!    

This article has been designed to give you some answers about performance supplements and how to integrate them successfully within the framework of your diet and exercise program in a simple, straightforward structure that will enhance your performance, boost your recovery and optimise your overall health as a combat athlete.  So let’s not waste any more time and get straight to the heart of the matter…        

So, what exactly is a performance supplement? 

Most people use the word “supplement” to describe a nutrient formula that is natural and drug free.  You will also hear terms like performance supplements, sport supplements, bodybuilding supplements, nutritional supplements or more commonly, dietary supplements. 

According to the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, a dietary supplement (also known as a food supplement, nutritional supplement and/or performance supplement) is a preparation intended to provide nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, fibre, herbs and/or amino acids that are not part of the overall dietary intake of food, but instead used to supplement that overall dietary intake, in order to combat nutrient deficiencies in the foods that humans eat.  Some countries define these dietary supplements as foods while other countries consider them to be categorised as drugs. 

It is important to understand exactly how performance supplements work in order for you to achieve your goals and be able to enhance your performance, recovery and overall health.  There are three simple categories I will use to describe the effects of performance supplements in general: 

1.    To build muscle, burn fat and improve health by making up for nutritional deficiencies in diet.

2.    To provide nutrients that are under supplied in the body’s cells or not normally available in optimum levels in the diet.

3.    Providing nutrients that your body doesn’t necessarily require, but enhances performance and recovery by producing a pharmaceutical or “drug like” effect in the body. 

It is widely accepted in sports medicine that active individuals, like mixed martial artists and other combat athletes who exercise intensely, have a greater demand for a larger number of nutrients in their bodies.  This common sense concept alone makes it even more likely – as combat athletes – that we will suffer from dietary deficiencies without proper performance supplementation.  It also makes perfect sense, that if you are deficient in one or more of these nutrients, it is quite possible your body will not be able to perform and/or recover at its optimum levels.  And guess the news?  When that happens it affects your overall health.  And when your body becomes too nutrient deficient, you become ill and your training has to be put on hold. 

So, despite what some sceptics are espousing - that all performance supplementation is nothing more than “snake oil science” - there is indeed some very sound, empirical scientific evidence for performance supplementation support throughout sports history, especially for the combat athlete.   

The Combative Supplement Pyramid 

The Combative Supplement Pyramid is a model for prioritising supplements in order of importance directly related to your role as a combat athlete.  During the years that I worked in the sport supplement industry, I saw a definite need for implementing this approach with my customers.  Too many people intend to start their supplement intake with a new fad performance product or something a little too advanced.  Without a foundation established first, many performance supplements will not give you the positive effects you are looking for.  This model is based on a “health first, performance second and specific third” approach.            


picture of supplement pyramid

The Foundation Supplements 

If you take a look at the pyramid above, you’ll see at the bottom it starts with what I call the foundation.  In my opinion, there are certain supplements that you should take all year round which are classified as essential nutrients, such as multi-vitamins, multi-minerals, probiotics, essential fatty acids and anti-oxidants.  Essential nutrients are essential to life itself.  The definition of an essential nutrient is, “any nutrient which is essential to the maintenance of proper bodily function in which the body cannot manufacture itself and therefore must be obtained from the diet alone.”  Without essential nutrients supplied to the body, people get ill and even die in some cases.  As a combat athlete, who regularly trains intensively, you must be sure that you are not robbing your body of this vital “essential nutrient” supply. As I said earlier in this report, many people want to start taking advanced or fancy new supplements without meeting the essential nutrient needs of their own bodies first.  Before you do anything else, be sure that you are taking a good quality multi-vitamin with minerals, an essential fatty acid blend and some strong anti-oxidants.  These are the basics- get this right first before moving on to more advanced applications! 

Performance Enhancing Supplements 

After you have the foundation established it is time to take a look at enhancing your performance as a combat athlete.   These performance enhancing supplements can be obtained from foods, but to get the optimal levels for performance purposes, you would have to eat truck loads.   Firstly, this isn’t a very convenient proposition and secondly, this would quickly result in diminishing returns related to your performance goals.  Protein powder should be at the top of this category’s list as it has been proven time and time again as an essential ingredient to building muscle and to promote recovery.  Although protein supplementation is not essential for couch potatoes (most people consume enough protein in their diets for a normal day-to-day existence), it is imperative for the combat athlete who trains intensively. Supplements that fall into this category are whey protein, creatine, glutamine, branch chain amino acids, HMB, beta-alanine, citrulline malate and other nitric- oxide compounds.  All of these supplements help to build muscle, improve energy, jumpstart your endurance and promote recovery.  Although you can experiment with stacking various combinations of these supplements together, I would first advise to stack a good whey protein powder with one of the other supplements listed here on top of your foundation stack.  This way you will understand the effects from each of these performance enhancing supplements and ultimately which ones work best for your own personal requirements. Aside from protein – which can be taken throughout the year – the supplements in this category should be cycled, so that your body does not build up a resistance to them.  All of these supplements are safe with no negative side-effects, so they can be cycled throughout the year, but they are not essential nutrients, so they remain in the middle of the pyramid. 

Specificity to Advanced Program Design  

The supplements in this category are categorised as advanced because they are used for specific purposes and often at specific times.  Many of these products are cycled on and off to prevent your body from becoming immune to their positive effects and to prevent any unwanted negative side effects.  Energy enhancers and fat burners come to mind as perfect examples of supplements in this group.  Most of the supplements that you would add to this category are not suitable for year round usage.  Other examples would include testosterone boosters, cortisol blockers, digestive support supplements, mood enhancers, estrogen blockers, sleep enhancers and joint health support products.   This category definitely contains some supplements that would be worth trying.  ZMA, tribulus, cissus, ginko, 11 Test, guarana and GABA are supplements that I would add to this broad section of advanced supplements.  I’m not going to break down all the different effects these supplements produce here, but I need to stress what the point of this section actually is- although all of these supplements are definitely worth adding to your arsenal and experimenting with at some stage, I would never recommend giving up any of the supplements mentioned in the first two levels of the pyramid in exchange for these products. 


Okay, so there you have it, a complete blueprint for combat athlete looking to design a personal supplementation program.  I have given you a detailed explanation about the 3-levels of the Combative Supplement Pyramid.  A supplement stack consisting of the products listed in the Foundation Level, along with the supplements mentioned in the second and third levels of the pyramid, simply cannot fail!  Follow this program and you will come as close to a “sure bet” as you are ever going to get.  Give these combative supplements a try and remember to combine them with a healthy balanced diet, an intensive work out routine.  Get ready to super charge your performance capabilities, energy levels, recovery and overall health into a new and exciting dimension!



Joe Hubbard’s professional background is represented by a collective body of experience that spans over more than two decades of operational security know-how, close protection operations and close quarter combatives training. He is a highly sought out personal protection specialist who has authored five instructional DVDs and has written articles in international martial arts magazines such as Martial Arts Illustrated, Combat, Black Belt UK and Budo International. As a respected self-defence instructor, Joe has proven experience teaching many elite operatives that include former Special Forces operators, U.S. Marines, UK law enforcement, private corporations and responsible private citizens. As a licensed close protection operative, he has been trained in force protection tactics, counter-terrorism, tactical first aid, counter-surveillance, IED awareness and personal protection. Joe also holds many accredited instructor certifications and multiple black belts in martial arts systems comprised of unarmed combatives, ground fighting, knife/counter knife, stick fighting and fire arms.





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