Food is the primary fuel our body needs in order to function at its best. Unfortunately, not all the foods available to us are equal in this. To maximize training performance, it’s vital that we watch what we eat. Even the world’s greatest mixed martial arts (MMA) athletes understand the importance of eating right. They know what they eat will have a direct result on their performance, whether they are training in Muay Thai, taking kickboxing classes or competing in a match.
To become the best martial artist you can be, remember you have to keep your diet in check. Keep in mind, it doesn’t really matter how good your genetics are or how you train, ultimately what you choose to fuel your body with is important. In this blog post, we will break down an MMA fighter’s diet into three parts:
- Why is it important to have good eating habits?
- How your performance can benefit from a good diet?
- Which type of a diet is suitable for you?
A Proper MMA Diet: Its Importance Over the Workout
1. Why should you focus on good eating habits?
Along with looking good, it’s also important that you feel great. Having proper nutrition can offer many benefits to your body, which include:
- Energy production
- Optimal brain function
- Healthy skin
- Strong immune system
- Cardiovascular health
- Reduced inflammation
Bad eating habits are one of the leading causes of obesity, which is linked to very high levels of visceral fat. The health risks related to this type of fat are:
- High blood pressure
- Type-2 diabetes
- Sexual Dysfunction
- Heart Attack
Having a healthy diet which is rich in minerals, fibre and nutrients is the first step towards preventing the above-mentioned issues.
2. How a good diet can affect your performance
An MMA session is gruelling and demands a much higher level of intensity than any other form of workout. This makes it vital for you to consume quality nutrients to ensure your body:
- Recovers faster
- Decreases any inflammation
- Replenishes its energy
- Repairs itself and rebuilds the muscle tissue
- Has a strong immune system
Your primary aim should be to focus on consuming the right foods rather than just eating to re-gain your energy. You should know all foods give out energy, which can be measured in calories but remember not all calories are created equally.
3. The best diet for an MMA fighter
There are numerous styles of eating that can help with your wellness and health goals. Certain diets are based on health information, others on performance and ones that are guided by different body types. There are mainly two kinds you should know about as an MMA fighter:
- Vegan and vegetarian
- Ketogenic, paleo, caveman, and primal
Both kinds are known to provide some form of benefits to the consumer and the idea is to select a diet that works for you and suits your situation. Let’s take a look at what these diets consist of.
Vegan or Vegetarian
MMA fighters and experts are giving positive feedback on the vegan diet, encouraging health-conscious individuals to choose a plant-based diet for themselves. However, a popular concern among most fighters is if this diet can help them build muscles or not? You should know that a plant-based diet can help you build muscle and offer fantastic results too. There are plenty of vegetables that are great sources of protein. Tofu, almonds, chickpeas, hempseeds, chia seeds and quinoa are some of the foods that can help you build muscles.
Ketogenic, Paleo, Caveman, and Primal
These diets are rapidly growing in popularity and for good reason. High-level MMA fighters are using them to fuel their workouts. Though the methods may differ, the diets work with the same basic concepts. Any athlete following the above-mentioned diets will only eat animal and earth-grown products, replace grains with healthy fats and not consume refined sugars or processed foods. By consuming natural foods and limiting their intake of processed items, they experience reduced inflammation and an improved sensitivity to insulin. These are both important functions for human beings, especially ones who lead an active lifestyle.
Here is a list of foods an MMA fighter can benefit from:
Nuts are great at providing a quick energy boost since they are packed with both fibre and protein. They can be the best snack for someone about to start a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu session as it can help you be stable from start to finish. Salted and roasted pistachios can restore and boost energy post-workout. Due to the sodium, magnesium, and potassium present in these snacks, your body will also replenish the electrolytes you lose during the training.
- Sweet Potatoes
These are a type of complex carbs which slowly release glucose into the body, providing a steady supply of energy. It contains fibre that boosts energy and helps fighters feel full for a longer time and aids in losing weight quicker too. Sweet potatoes are the best kind of complex carb as they are filled with beta-carotene, vitamin-C, iron, and magnesium. These are all nutrients that can help fighters perform well while training.
Eggs are a great source of energy, whether you boil, fry or scramble them, as they’re extremely rich in zinc and iron and loaded with protein. A single egg contains approximately 6 grams of protein which aids in supplying sustained energy and building muscle. If you train often, they can be the ideal food for you because of the amino acid leucine that can be found in them. It helps in the growth and recovery of muscles.
Instead of feeling lethargic before a Muay Thai training session or feeling drained after your kickboxing class, why not use the above-mentioned diets and foods to boost your performance. Remember, everything your body receives has a direct effect on your routine while you train. Not eating the right foods can hinder your performance in ways you can’t imagine and in turn, affect your growth as a martial artist.