Martial arts athletes, just like other athletes, need a plan to reach their goals. To do so, they need to eat well, which is the key for efficiency, they need to have a complementary workout plan (weight training and cardio exercises) and they need good supplements.
MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) is a very demanding sport, works your legs, arms, abs and stimulates physical conditioning, flexibility and agility.
What should an MMA athlete eat?
An MMA athlete should eat more than 3g of protein per kg of bodyweight. In the case he’s on a natural anabolic supplement, then he should take 2 to 4g of protein per kg of his bodyweight.
Egg protein and whey protein and the quickest to be absorbed by the body. Usually the ideal serving of protein that should be taken with each meal corresponds, approximately, to the size of the palm of your hand. A low protein intake may cause a few focus problems, like sleeping problems, fatigue, muscle tension, sprains, skin problems, constipation or diarrhea, among others.
An MMA athlete needs to eat every 2/3h. It is no good taking more protein than needed with your meals because that will cause your nutrients to be poorly absorbed. Most athletes will find it difficult to absorb more than 30g of protein per meal.
Athletes shouldn’t be afraid of eating carbs. Energy is essential for the proteins to be digested and also for fat burning, although many carbs are converted, usually, into fat and are stored in the body.
Cutting on carbs for a competition should be a slow and gradual process. An athlete that weighs 200 pounds should take, on a daily basis, about 200g of protein, 200g of carbs and 40g of fat. Fat is also important, because it stores a great part of the necessary vitamins and minerals.
Omega 3 is also very important for people with a slow metabolism, mainly for those in the 30s. Linseed oil, nuts, fish, eggs and avocado are excellent sources of good fats. Most athletes should complement their diet by taking 1000mg of fish oil on a daily basis, per 100 pounds of body weight.
Example of how to make your meals before, during and after an MMA workout.
One hour before working out, prepare a little meal high in low-carbs, aiming towards a gradual replenishment of energy during the workout, moderate in protein and low in fats and fiber. Example:
Before working out: 1h white bread with 2 serving spoons of cottage cheese + 2 slices of boiled turkey; 15 minutes 30g of maltodextrin or mix of carbs dissolved into 500ml of cold water or carbohydrates gel;
During the workout: Aproximately every 15 minutes 200ml of cold water; 1h after Working out Electrolyte Replenishers with Carbs
Post-Workout: Immediatly Isolate Whey Protein, BCAA, Glutamine, Creatine, Maltodextrin + Dextrose; 40 to 60 minutes Green Salad, grilled fish with white rice, vegetables, fruit juice.
Some simple carbs are high in acids, like grapefruits, that will help burn fat. They should be taken about 30 minutes before working out.
To replace post-workout carbs, you can also use medium-chained triglycerides, for example, coconut oil. This fat promotes the quick absorption of protein, recovery and reconstruction of tired muscle fiber and keeps growth hormone levels high.
An athlete who’s getting ready for a competition should decrease his fat intake. The process of fat decrease for an athlete that weighs 200 pounds and that eats 40g of fat daily is:
40g of fat X 9 kcal per gram = 360 calories
After 10 weeks, reduce fat intake by 50% -20g 180 calories
After 6 weeks, reduce fat intake by 50% -10g 90 calories
After 4 weeks, reduce fat intake by 50% -5g 45 calories
After 2 weeks, reduce fat intake by 20% -1g 9 calories
Protein contains 4 calories per gram;
Carbs contain 4 calories per gram;
Fat contains 9 calories per gram.
The decrease process goes from 20g to 4g a day. The diet adapts as the day of the competition comes and it’s important for you to understand what’s happening with your body weight and that you can keep your percentage of body weight and fat controlled.
What are the best supplements for this type of workout?
The best supplements for this sport are energetic replenishers, that will help you maintain the level of energy during the workout and control catabolism after the workout. The most used are: maltodextrin, dextrose, supplements with a carb mix (liquid, powder or gel).
Powder supplements should be dissolved in water, preferably cold, to assure a better absorption by the body. Ex: 30g of carbs to 450-500ml of water.
BCAAs will help you improve your performance during the workout, will give you more resistance, will fight muscle fatigue and the loss of lean muscle mass. They can be taken 30/40 minutes before starting your workout and immediately after working out to increase efficiency and stop the catabolism generated by the physical effort. They are also a good complement to Post-Workout Whey Protein. Glutamine is another great ally to Post-Workout, because it will help you replenish your energy levels and strengthen your immune system.
Creatine will also play an important role in post-workout recovery and stimulant lean muscle mass gains. Antioxidants like Vitamin C and E, selenium and beta-carotene will minimize metabolic stress and possible injuries. If you want, you can chose to include a beta-alanine supplement to increase carnosine levels in the muscles. This supplement encourages the increase of muscle mass and stimulates your resistance during the exercises. Recommended daily dosis is 3.2g to 6.4g a day.
Amount of fluids that an MMA athlete shoud drink?
1L per 100g of protein, which makes an average of 2L to 3L of water per day. The lack of water will cause flatulence and a poor digestion of the protein that you will be taking. Besides cleansing the system, the water will stimulate the body to produce the growth hormone.
During the workout, keep a balanced hydration (to make sure you are sticking to a right hydration plan, drink an average of 200ml of water every 20 minutes) that will depend on how long and intense the workout is, as well as on the weather conditions.
1h after working out, you should take an average of 30g to 60g of rapidly absorbed carbs in order to maintain efficiency and resistance.
Ana Paula Martins, Alimentação e Suplementação nos Treinos de MMA (Mixed Marcial Arts), 4th of October, 2011, adaptation of the original version
David Ryan, MMA Nutrition & The Weigh-In: A Complete Guideline For all Fighters, 7th of April,2009, adaptation of the original version
Fitness 360, Clay Guida’s Fitness 360: MMA Training & Diet – Where The Buffalo Roam, 10th of November, 2011, adaptation of the original version
Gerald Keister, Os Poderes da Suplementação com Beta-Alanina, 26th of March, 2012, adaptation of the original version
N/d, Artes Marciais, n/d, adaptation of the original version