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Nutrition & Supplementation for Kettlebell Sport

By | In Articles, Kettlebell | on

For anyone who is exercising, nutrition plays a very important role. Nutrition can make or break the whole deal ! Proper sports nutrition which involves having the right food at the right time will help an exercising individual to attain his goals in the quickest time, whereas a poor nutrition plan will not only slow down the results, but can even work negatively on the overall health of the exercising athlete. Hence, for anyone who is exercising, proper nutrition becomes all the more important than a non-exercising individual.


When we are talking about nutrition we are basically talking about the macro nutrients (carbohydrates, proteins & fats) and micro nutrients (vitamins & minerals) & of course water.


If we talk about the macro-nutrients, the amount of carbohydrate & fat intake would vary in every individual’s diet depending upon his goal (fat loss, muscle gain or superior sports performance), body composition and metabolism. Carbohydrates & fats are the primary source of energy for the body. A body can very well live healthy even on a low or zero carbohydrate diet. In such cases, the body’s energy requirements are fulfilled by the lipolysis of stored fats resulting in fat loss. However, certain essential fats (like omega-3 fatty acids) should always be coming in any diet.

The most crucial macro-nutrient out of the three is protein which is made up different amino-acids. Proteins (amino acids) are responsible for the repair and growth of cells in the body and are the secondary source of energy for the body which is used under certain conditions. The human body requires constant supply of amino acids all the time to maintain bodily functions, hence constant of supply protein becomes essential. Failure to meet the minimum requirement of protein intake would result in the usage of amino acids from the stored sources of protein in the body which are muscle & organ tissues. The loss of muscle & organ tissues in the body would , among other things, lead to lowered metabolism and decreased strength which are contraindicative to an individual’s fitness goals, whatever it be !!!


The minimum requirement of protein intake even in a sedentary individual is 0.8g/kg for bodyweight. However, for an exercising individual, the requirement increases due to the repair of muscle tissue broken down during workouts and to prevent the use of amino acid from the muscle tissue for energy during workouts. For an exercising individual, the requirement ranges from minimum 1 to 2 grams per pound of bodyweight depending upon the volume & intensity of the workouts.

Along with the quantity, quality of protein consumed is also important.

We should always strive to consume the first-class sources of proteins and also the most bio-available forms of proteins. First class sources of proteins are the ones which have the all the amino-acids found in nature in right proportions needed for the human body , for example chicken, eggs, mutton, beef, cottage cheese and whey !

Bio-availability of proteins is the index made to determine what percentage of protein from the food source is actually absorbed by the body in its usable form. Whole egg has bio-availability of 100 which means 100% of the protein consumed from egg is absorbed by the body. Protein sources like animal proteins & cottage cheese also have a high bio-availability but less than eggs. However, the most bio-available form of protein found in nature is whey which is given the bio-availability of 104 (even more than whole eggs). Whey is also the most readily absorbable protein source found in nature. This makes supplementation of whey protein very crucial for an individual exercising intensely specially post-workout and also first thing in the morning. These are the times when our body needs quick amino-acids to come out of the catabolic state.


Along with the quantity and quality or protein intake, the timing also plays a key role which we will discuss in the next topic of supplementation.



There is a wide variety of supplements available in the market which maybe categorized into the following :

(i)                Dietary supplements :  Eg: Whey protein concentrate, isolates & hydro-isolates,  casein powder, Omega 3 fatty acids (fish oil & flax seed oil), BCAA (Branched chain amino acids) powder, multi-vitamin stacks etc

(ii)              Performance Enhancers (strength & endurance) : Eg: Creatine (monohydrate & ethyl ester) products, beta-alanine products, citrulline malaete products, arginine products, caffeine products etc

(iii)            Recovery : Eg: Glutamine, HMB, ZMA etc

(iv)            Fat loss supplements : Eg: ECA stack, Grenade, Yohimbe etc

(v)              Weight gainers


There are hundreds of other products available for specific requirements but these products are the most basic ones.

A good diet is the foundation and supplementation comes next. The need for supplementation becomes essential under several conditions like :

– When basic macro-nutrient requirements are not being met only by food due to any reasons.

– Better performance in sports/training.

– Need for quick recovery to meet the high frequency of high intensity training.

– Assistance in meeting body composition like fat loss or muscle gain quickly.

– To get the greatest advantage of training by timing the intake of some supplements correctly. For example : Post workout, pre workout, early morning & bed time.

Specifically talking about the nutrition and supplementation guidelines for kettlebell training athletes, the minimum requirement of protein, as discussed earlier, should be between 1 to 2 grams per pound of bodyweight ranging from beginner to advanced level athlete. Carbohydrate intake can be varied depending upon person’s somatotype, current bodyfat %, and goal. And essential fatty acids  (Omega 3) should be supplemented with the three major meals of the day in most cases.

If any of these requirements are not being met through food, then the need for external supplementation arises. However, even if the minimum macro-nutrient requirements are met through food, then also external supplementation can help an athlete to perform & recover better and also get the greatest advantage of training by timing the supplements right ! Let us first talk about certain times of the day when a supplement intake plays a superior role than the regular food and how it helps !

Pre Workout
 Fuelling the body with the right nutrients before the start of kettlebell training session is extremely important. During resistance training exercise the muscle tissue break down and the energy is provided by the primary energy substrates like glucose and muscle glycogen. However, if the muscle glycogen levels are low then secondary energy substrate (muscle protein) is also oxidized for energy. Our aim should be to minimize this protein oxidation. Hence, unless on a ketogenic diet, ingesting low GI carbohydrate food before the workout with a combination of whey protein isolate works best to provide appropriate energy during workout while minimizing muscle protein oxidation. Carbohydrate meal will ensure that we are starting the workout with enough muscle glycogen and whey protein isolate will ensure adequate supply of amino-acids during the workout. Hence, whatever protein oxidation has to take place, will be supported by the supply of amino acids and not the valuable muscle protein ! To support this cause more, whey protein can be accompanied with extra dosage of BCAA powder (say 5 to 10 grams) to ensure that we lose minimum muscle protein through oxidation. However, the ingestion of  whey protein hydro-isolate 10 mins before the workout will not require the added dose of BCAA as it contains the amino acids in the most readily absorbable form.

Apart from this, a serving of a good pre-workout formula containing stimulants and other performance enhancers can be taken for better performance during training. We will discuss this is the topic of performance enhancers for kettlebell training.

To sum it up, pre-workout nutrition for kettlebell athletes can be :

Low GI-Carbohydrate + Whey protein isolate + BCAA    or

Low GI-Carbohydrate + Whey protein hydro-isolate.

Recommended supplements :

Protein : ON 100% Whey Gold Standard, Any protein blend

Pre-workout formula : ON PRE, Neurocore



Intra Workout

An intense training session can make an individual lose a lot of water & important electrolytes from the body. Hence, an athlete should keep sipping in the right intra-workout fluids. Along with the loss of water & electrolytes, an athlete should also try to minimize the muscle protein oxidation during high intensity – high volume workout like kettlebell training.

An excellent intra-workout formula containing the right quantities of electrolytes, BCAA and other amino acids is XTEND by Scivation or Amino-X by BSN.


Post- Workout

The goal of post-workout supplementation is to get the body out of the catabolic state as fast as possible and kick-start muscle protein synthesis. An ideal post-workout nutrition should be a high-GI carbohydrate source (like dextrose) and whey protein isolate+BCAA or whey protein hydro-isolate.

Research has shown that there is a definite synergism between whey protein & high GI-carbohydrates when consumed immediately post workout. The combination works better than consuming either one by itself to :

– Initiate muscle repair and growth

– Facilitate muscle glycogen synthesis

– Counteract post workout rise in cortisol levels

– Enhance immune system function and reduce muscle soreness

– Increase insulin levels for the best absorption of nutrients into the muscle cells.


Post workout meal of high GI carbohydrate + protein can be accompanied with the intake of other performance enhancers like creatine, beta-alanine, citrulline malaete etc as the increases insulin levels will make sure that these substances are best absorbed into the muscle cells unlike pre-workout. It should be noted that these performance enhancers act best like a therapy taken over a duration of time rather than a pre-workout formula. Pre-workout formulas are mainly stimulants like caffeine (which itself acts as a performance enhancer due to stimulation of Central Nervous System resulting in better firing of motor units) stacked with these performance enhancers like creatine, beta-alanine & citrulline.





Performance Enhancers


Caffeine : As discussed above caffeine is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant which increases the performance by stimulating the CNS for better firing of motor units. The result is a greater strength experienced during workout as more no. of motor units are activated at a faster rate to produce strength.

However, prolonged usage of caffeine makes the CNS tolerant to it and it is best that caffeine supplements are cycled with a 4-6 week on and 2-4 week off period. Overdose of caffeine also can lead to sleeplessness and hence affect recovery. Also, overdose of caffeine can lead irregular heartbeat and also death in extreme cases. Caffeine also is a diuretic which leads to loss of water from the body. Hence, a conscious effort to have plenty of water should be there while on caffeine supplements.

Caffeine also is a strong lipolytic agent ie. helps in mobilizing fatty acids from the fat cells into the blood stream. As a result, can also improve aerobic performance which rely the most on fatty acid oxidation.



Kettlebell training is predominantly done for the purpose of improving strength endurance which means the sets are high rep and high volume and often highly intense. This form of training makes use of the “anaerobic glycolysis” system of energy production which leads to high levels of lactate accumulation. This lactate accumulation leads to lowering of the ph which leads to muscle failure (inability of the muscles to contract) resulting in the set to end. The lowered ph is a result of ATP breakdown resulting in accumulation of high amount of H+ ions.

Not being able to perform and maintain forceful muscular contractions and push your body to the limit during your workout session, seriously hampers your ability to maximally overload your muscles and force new muscle gains.

Supplementation of beta-alanine aids in delaying the muscle failure and hence improving performance. The reason being is, beta-alanine’s performance benefits are not direct but realized through its ability to boost the synthesis of carnosine.

Carnosine helps stabilize muscular pH by soaking up hydrogen ions (H+) that are released at an accelerated rate during exercise.

A lot of Pre-workout formulas contain beta-alanine and it is also available as a stand alone supplement in USA but not in India.

Recommended dosage : Intake of 6.4 grams of beta-alanine per day significantly boosts the performance of kettlebell lifters.


Directly improves strength by improving the ATP-CP cycle and enhances performances by addition of a few extra reps, specially at heavier loads.


L-citrulline is a naturally occurring amino acid found in food, such as watermelons, and also made in the body. Our bodies change L-citrulline into another amino acid called L-arginine. And Arginine is a pre-cursor to Nitric Oxide leading to vasodilation. Vasodilation means your blood vessels expand, helping you with oxygen and nutrient flow during your workouts. Not only does it help during your workouts, but increased blood flow means that waste products get taken care of faster too.That means enhanced recovery. Citrulline supports muscle pumps and enhanced recovery.


Arginine is a nitric oxide booster: as a precursor to nitric oxide, it dilates blood vessels leading to great pumps, vascularity, and it may increase oxygen levels to the heart and other muscles. Athletes benefit from the improvement of physical exercise capacity and increased blood flow. More nutrients will reach the trained muscle and the fatigue by-products will be flushed out faster and more efficiently resulting in better recovery and more gains.

Anti- Catabolic/Recovery


Glutamine is the most abundant free amino acid in the body.The overwhelming research shows the value of glutamine raising growth hormone levels significantly by taking 5 grams before bed. It contributes to protein synthesis (muscle growth), anti-catabolic breakdown functions (prevents muscle tissue breaking down) and growth hormone elevating effects. Due to these effects, glutamine plays an important part in your body by aiding recovery of muscle cells.


This list is endless for ergogenic aids, but the above mentioned supplements are some of the most basic ones.
Will cover a few more supplements in detail in my next post on supplements, most likely, one at a time.


Train Hard
Abhinav Malhotra
Master Coach
Ballistic Kettlebell Fitness Academy



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