Put down the fitness magazine and pay attention to what I am about to tell you about the MMA Diet because it could save you a notch in the loss column.
A low carb (LC) diet is not for you. You’re not an overweight professional gamer. You’re not a caveman. You post a lot of selfies, but you’re not a supermodel either.
You are a fighter.
Your training days far exceed your rest days and you approach every practice and workout with a business like fervor. You need a diet that mirrors the demands of your training. Before we get into the championship rounds of this discussion, lets first make sure we understand metabolic pathways and what they mean for us, the modern day gladiator.
It all starts with a recyclable molecule called adenosine triphosphate- henceforth referred to as ATP. So we don’t get too nerdy with this, simply understand that ATP stores and releases energy and is responsible for all muscle contractions. As previously stated ATP is a recyclable molecule, which comes in handy since our bodies don’t store large amounts of it. To recycle ATP our body relies on three energy systems:
- Phosphagen (produces ATP rapidly, ~12 seconds max effort)
- Anaerobic (does not require oxygen, requires glucose)
- Aerobic (requires oxygen, uses glucose or fat)
Now, let’s break these systems down into combat sport language:
- Phosphagen (double leg, transition)
- Anaerobic (cage control, grappling, defending a submission)
- Aerobic (allows for a 3-5 round fight)
What does a 5-minute round of professional mixed martial arts look like?
Let’s take a look at 5 minutes from UFC 139 featuring Shogun Rua and Dan Henderson.
“Leg kick by Shogun lands. Right hand from Shogun just misses. Big right hand by Henderson and Shogun is forced to try or a takedown. Henderson tries for a choke but when he can’t finish it he opens up with big punches. Shogun is bleeding heavily. Shogun with a leaping knee and a 1-2 from Henderson. Slashing elbow by Shogun. Henderson just misses with a right hand. Right hand by Shogun lands slightly behind the head but it hurts Henderson. Shogun tries to pounce and Henderson manages to survive although did get hit. Right hand by Henderson as he gets up. Right hand by Henderson again. Shogun pushes forward and Henderson knees to the body a few times.”
You didn’t have to be at UFC 139 to know this fight was give and take. You will also notice constant, short bursts of activity followed by periods of brief rest. During this fight and any, the majority of your time spent in the scrap will exist within the glycogen dependent anaerobic energy system.
The degree of ATP production mirrors the exercise intensity which
determines the underlying demands of muscles to generate ATP
Sure, we would all love to stay within the phosphagen system and finish all fights in 13 seconds with Conor McGregor like precision, but let’s be real.
As previously mentioned, this system requires glucose and cannot function on fat or ketones. So, what should the fighters diet look like? If you haven’t gotten the hint by now, the fighters diet should have a major reliance on quality carbohydrates.
Beyond filling our glycogen stores to support our anaerobic activity, carbohydrates offer a host of other benefits to improve your performance. Due to an increase in recovery, fighters who fuel with carbs are also more likely to enjoy better sleep than their low carb counterparts. Also, since the body cannot quickly create energy from body fat, low glycogen levels will result in a forced drop in intensity in order to meet the body’s ability to utilize body fat stores.
In other words, training hard without sufficient glycogen storage will result in a decrease in the body’s ability to work hard. Lastly, carbohydrates aid in the secretion of serotonin, also known as the “feel good” hormone. A fight camp is an emotional, stressful time period filled with bad intentions and blood lust. Take the good feeling’s where you can!
While I am trying to pull you from the paleo zealots and low carb jihadists, I adamantly endorse a gluten free diet. Gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and triticale is known to cause gut inflammation and irritation. Much like grappling, the body reacts to an attack with an attempt to defend and reverse. With hours of daily practice, we need your body focused on muscle recovery. Avoiding gluten will not only lead to better recovery but will leave you with more nutrient dense carbohydrate options.
You are a fighter. Your body is a finely tuned, well trained weapon, expected to perform under injury and stress. Your activity doesn’t resemble your friends, and neither should your diet. You must eat to perform.
“So, Tyler. How do I ‘fuel the fire’ and make sure I perform my best on the day of battle?”
I am glad you asked, because I have the solution.
If you are reading this I am hoping that you are aware of the champion line of workout programming we offer. Are you looking to improve your movement quality, power, strength and speed? Field Strong has the drug for you. Trying to spend some time working towards a higher weight class? Catch a ride to Jacked Street. For those who are balancing a full schedule but want to improve their strength, we offer Grindstone. For the beginner level athlete looking for a quality introduction to the world of strong we have The Basics. Every program we offer is expertly designed to empower your performance.
Good is the enemy of great. We weren’t happy with only one title around our waist so we set out to claim another. Power Athlete now applies the same quality and expertise that you have come to find in our workout programming to the world of performance nutrition. No matter your goal, we have the plan to get your hand raised.
In the sport known as the “hurt game”, you’ll want to check out our Performance Protocol to see the industry’s most scientific nutritional approach to increased performance. We also offer plans for those with aesthetic goals. Whether your looking to lean out for your next bout or trying to bulk up and give the big boys a run for their money, our Leaning and Bulking Protocols will provide the best game plan to get you there. The correlation between ketogenic diets and improved brain activity is gaining interest in the contact sport community. Our Keto Protocol is the only system of its kind, and could forever change your life. Since your sport isn’t like the others, we understand that you may need a more detailed and customized approach for your busy fight camp schedule. For those who need the best we got, schedule a private consultation or customized meal plan and let us handle the details so you can spend that extra time in the gym.
This isn’t the sport your momma loves. This is the sport of violence and aggression where victory rewards the prepared. Don’t be the athlete who adds a chalk line to the right of their win-loss column. Let Power Athlete prepare you for victory!
Professional mixed martial artist, gym owner and Power Athlete Nutrition Coach. An avid follower of CrossFit Football since its inception, Tyler has implemented Power Athlete methodology with thousands of athletes in his own gym and abroad. A student of Robb Wolf's for 7 years, Tyler uses the principles of ancestral health to help athletes empower their performance. One of the worlds leading weight cut experts, Tyler works with some of the UFC's top athletes, preparing them for peak performance when they step into the cage. Tyler utilizes his own personal and coaching experience, combined with the very best in nutritional education to help athletes fuel the fire!
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