After spending time planning your training sessions and choosing the right personalised MMA gear for your needs, it`s time to think about your diet and how can you make the most of it.
Finding the perfect fighter’s diet can take months of testing, and it takes time to adapt after you find one that suits your needs.
The foundation of most MMA fighters' nutrition is based on unprocessed foods, fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, nuts, seeds and supplements.
It's important to get the balance of nutrients right, and an unbalanced diet can make your body slow, lethargic and more prone to injury. Here are some facts that you need to know about nutrition before and after training.
One trap that fighters frequently fall into when they want to improve their diet is cutting too many calories. The frequency of eating and the number of calories you consume are important for your training capacity and recovery.
Your meals before training are the fuel that you will use during your sessions. It's important to make sure that you have a balanced meal between 4h and 1h30 before the training session. For example, root vegetables, eggs, and juice with nitrate-rich fruits are good options. Fruits like pomegranate or orange are very beneficial because they improve cognitive function, enhance athletic performance and lower blood pressure.
Following the training session, the focus of your diet should be recovery. Specialists recommend meals based on protein and fat. It sounds odd, but fat is important for joint health and provides a satiated feeling. It will help you sleep better too. Emphasize good fats, like the ones you find in salmon, avocado, grass-fed butter or extra-virgin olive oil.
#2 Carbohydrate consumption
There`s a lot of controversy about the consumption of carbohydrate among athletes, especially in combat sports. It`s important to make clear that a zero carbohydrate diet, like the one followed by as the Irish athlete Conor McGregor, doesn’t suit everyone.
What nutritionists normally recommend for combats sports athletes is to have a controlled carbohydrate consumption.
This macronutrient is beneficial because it provides a slow release of energy, which helps improve the fighter's cognitive ability. The ideal form for carbohydrate is wholemeal bread or cereal and root vegetables, instead of highly processed carbohydrates, and avoid eating carbohydrate in the 1h30min period before exercise.
#3 Amount of protein
Martial arts practitioners need a medium to high protein diet to build or maintain muscle mass, especially after training.
Sources of protein that you can include in your diet are both animals and plant protein: meat, dairy, eggs, fish, grains, vegetables and nuts.
Concentrated sources of protein, like protein powders, can be a way to increase protein intake when necessary. Normally, you can easily find in supermarkets and nutrition shops a variety of conventional whey or soy protein powders.
Also, there are other options, such as hemp seed protein powder, for example. To include protein supplements in your diet, you can add protein powder in smoothies, bliss balls or even replace the flour in bread or baked foods.
In an article published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, experts studied the effects of caffeine supplementation in combat sports.
They selected 109 participants, from Brazilian jiu-jitsu, taekwondo, and other martial arts disciplines. They concluded that the consumption of 3–6 mg/kg caffeine - there`s around 95 mg of caffeine from an average cup of coffee - increased blood lactate concentrations and improved performance, because of influences the alertness and reaction time.
Also, the study showed caffeine supplementation could improve muscular endurance.
The use of herbs as part of athletes diets has increased during the last decades.
Scientific article published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition analysed the efficacy and side effects of the most popular herbal supplements in the sport.
In this study, the authors discuss how herbs can improve physical performance and overall health in athletes. Research shows that ginseng helps to improve aerobic capacity, cardio-respiratory function and muscle strength.
Also, it has an anti-inflammatory and oxidant function and helps to stabilizes blood pressure. This study shows that ginger is a great ingredient to prevent fatigue resistance. Arnica, normally found as an ingredient of screen cream helps to reduce muscle soreness and cell damage after intense physical exertion.
#Extra tip: stay hydrated
The amount of water that you consume per day will affect the building and recovery of body tissue as well as your cognitive function.
During exercise, it's common to lose water and become dehydrated because you sweat more. Specialists recommend minimum 2 litres of water per day for the average person and at least 3 litres for those who practice intense physical activity.
Gabriela Damaceno is a journalist and producer of online content for Double Jab, located on the sunny Gold Coast in Australia.