Balancing extreme athletic training and a healthy lifestyle can be tough. With many of the world’s top MMA fighters cutting and gaining weight between fights, keeping to a healthy diet that produces long-term results is no easy task.
Despite the gruelling weight and fitness requirements of an MMA training schedule, however, it’s still possible to eat healthily as a fighter. From pre-training meals that amplify your energy levels to post-training shakes and easy dinners, read on to get an in-depth look at the best ways to keep yourself healthy as a fighter.
Timing Your Meals and Supplements
Neglecting your diet will leave you feeling sluggish, weak, and short of energy. As a fighter, you need to time your meals appropriately to ensure that you get the proper nutrients at the right time. From breakfast to your midnight snack, sticking to a meal schedule will help you achieve the optimum results from your training.
Many athletes eat up to six times per day, opting for smaller meals instead of larger, more nutrient-dense servings. While six meals may be overkill, it’s important to eat at least four meals per day during periods of intense training.
One of the most important reasons to eat frequently is to restore glycogen after your training sessions. Intense training sessions will leave your body’s muscles depleted of glycogen, resulting in weakness and limited energy. Consistent meal timing is one of the most effective ways to ensure that your glycogen levels remain steady.
Start with a large breakfast that’s rich in complex carbohydrates. Many fighters like to eat oatmeal in the morning due to its slow-burning energy effects. From here, add protein to your breakfast to assist your muscles after eight hours of rest.
Other meals should follow a similar pattern and must be consumed on time. If you eat four meals per day, try to allow a maximum of four hours between meals. If you eat five or six meals per day, try to eat once every three hours. This will keep your body in an anabolic state, where your muscles are constantly being strengthened.
Timing your supplements is equally as important as timing your meals. If you train during the daytime, try to consume a pre-training supplement one hour before you hit the gym or the mats. Most pre-training drinks contain a light dose of caffeine, as well as short-term energy sources such as sucrose, fructose, and maltodextrin.
Building a Well-Rounded Athletic Meal
The more rigorous your training is, the more perfect your diet needs to be. If you’re training several times every week with weights and bodyweight movements, try to consume at least 150 grams of protein per day. For heavyweight fighters, use your weight in pounds as a guide for how many grams of protein you should eat daily.
The most effective fighters’ diets spread their protein consumption throughout the day to improve muscle recovery. Try to consume at least 25 percent of your daily protein intake at breakfast, as your body has been starving overnight. The rest can be spread out throughout your daytime meals for optimum muscular recovery.
As well as a solid protein base, each meal should contain a serving of carbohydrates – preferably complex carbs, or simple carbs following training – and vegetables. Try not to neglect vegetables in your training diet. Consuming large servings of green vegetables improves the immune system, which is vital for competitive fighters.
Special Diets and Pre-Fight Preparation
Many fighters like to adjust their diets before a fight to achieve specific goals. One of the most common pre-fight goals is cutting weight. While cutting diets are no longer as extreme as they once were, they can still verge on being unhealthy. If you need to cut weight before a fight, make sure you consult with a nutritionist and doctor.
Another common pre-fight preparation is carb loading. While weight cutting occurs days before a fight, carb loading can happen just hours before. Carb-heavy diets are designed to flood the body’s muscles with glycogen to improve endurance during a fight. Like cutting diets, carb loading diets should be worked out with a nutritionist.
Whether you’re a newbie fighter or a seasoned professional, the dietary guidelines in this guide will help you piece together a well-rounded fighter’s diet. Meal timing, protein consumption, and post-training recovery are important concepts that have just as much value to expert MMA fighters as they do to those new to the sport.
This article was written by FightShop.com, one of the world’s top MMA superstores. Visit their website to learn more about MMA training techniques and innovative fighting gear.