It’s time to pay respects to an unsung hero in mixed martial arts: MMA fighter’s diet and nutrition. We see the shredded bodies, the sweat and the full 3rd round gas tanks. Let’s take a step back to the gas pump.
What to eat
There is a difference between a professional athlete’s nutritional needs and goals vs a causal MMA’ers. There is a level of exactness and discipline that makes a difference when you train 3-4 hours a day 4-7 days a week.
Second case in point: Joe Riggs calls his nutrition guru, Billy Rush, if he can have blue cheese crumbles on his salad. “Of course I said no,” Rush quips. BTW, Billy is a Salt Lake City native and has worked with Rich Franklin, Jorge Jurgel, and Jeremy Horn. If you want the big time, NO, you cannot haz cheeze burger. Nor croutons on your salad.
Consider sushi for protein – Anderson Silva does.
Know and eat the superfoods: the foods that are top of their division. Namely:
Don’t screw up good ideas. The superfoods quickly become kryptonite when you bathe them in sugar, butter, ice-cream, or deep-fry them.
Get 80%-90% of your vitamins, minerals, and micro-nutrients from food. Many nutrients are better absorbed and utilized in your body when they come in specific, balanced cocktails – and often those balances are naturally found in vegetables/fruits or common dishes that contain them. Cool, huh?
All protein is not good protein. For men, whey is better than soy. A medium rare, lean flank steak is superior to that “100% Black Angus Burger” from wherever. Eggs are usually ranked as one of the best bio-protein sources. Make sure the protein your getting is “complete”.
When to eat
The most important meal of your day is the meal after your workout. Think about this.
Wisely eat/Drink something before your workouts. If you don’t have available energy to burn in a workout, your workouts will be limp and less effective. (See Critical Bench’s Pre Workout meals)
Before you go to bed, think protein. Specifically, think of the protein Casein (found in milk products). Essentially, casein is a slow digesting protein – eating it at night suppresses protein breakdown while you fast for 8 hours (sleeping).
I learned a tip from Bill Philips “Body For Life” challenge regarding night time muscle loss – one of the winners would wake up at about midnight and pound a protein shake and then go back to bed. He claimed to make and keeps serious gains via this trick.
Eat five-six times a day. Or every 3 hours. This is the basic mantra of athletes, and works very well.
You can try the Warrior Diet one meal a day thing, but your mileage may vary.
Have healthy snacks between meals. Carrot sticks and peanut butter, not coffee and KitKats.
Food journal. Keep track of everything you eat and drink. This will help you reach your goals and make sure you’re getting the protein/carb ration you’ve always wanted. Also, you’d be surprised what goes in your mouth. One last thing – don’t just keep the journal, share it with your trainer or friends. They can help you keep on track. “Where performance is measured is measured, performance improves. Where performance is measured and reported, the rate of improvement accelerates.” – Thomas S. Monson
Portion goes hand in hand with Proportion. Billy Rush gives a basic breakdown - “There’s no one important thing. We try to eat from all food groups. We basically eat 60 percent carbohydrates, 30 percent protein and 10 percent fat. Plus, of those carbohydrates, approximately 50 percent are starches, 25 percent are fibers and 25 percent are fruit. We decrease and increase all those adjustments depending on how the fighter reacts to them.”
Keep a healthy immune system at all times. Eat fruits and veggies, sure, but also NEVER eat food from a communal office bowl or finger touched tray of stuff. Anyway you can do it, keep the immune system burning right. Heck, if this means drinking your own urine, like Lyoto Machida, then do that.
Understand the nature of the game. Just like there are three pillars of MMA (Striking, Grappling, and Conditioning), conditioning has three components as well: exercise, recovery, and nutrition. If these things are not integrated and well aligned, beware.
Use your brain. Avoid fad diets and the new hyped sports supplement. The food pyramid is not a government conspiracy. Look at the back of the label.
The diet and sports nutrition industry are not your friends. They do not have your best interest in mind. They exist to separate you from your money. Think about this before you buy the next version of Bio-Carb Hydroxy Stack Protein isolate.
One of the more common things for athletes is to consume more lean protein because they need it to rebuild their constantly damaged muscles.
If you’re a casual player, then abide by the “moderation in all things” wisdom. You can have pizza, but in moderation. Avoid extremes, eat a decent, moderate amount of veggies. Eat according to you real life, not your fantasy lifestyle. If you’re a pretty regular dude, don’t think you need to eat like the MMA stars.
Find a solid way of eating and stick to it. Don’t bounce around between differing ideologies and strategies, constantly overhauling everything about what you eat. It’s like switching from diesel to gas to coal and back to diesel. Find something that works, in general, and then tweak it and expand your recipe library.
Wanna look ripped? Make sure to manage your subcutaneous hydration: “But just how does an athlete rid themselves of the unwanted water beneath the skin to maximize their appearance? We like lots of potassium, which hydrates the muscles, and we don’t want any sodium at all.” – Billy Rush
If you can’t get your bearing in the mess of information about sports supplements, don’t worry. Many fighters abide by a holistic wisdom and a less is more strategy when it comes to the drugs. Billy Rush puts his guys on a multivitamin and little else.
If you only going to use one supplement, let it be creatine. It is one of the safest, most research, no brainer sports supplement out there.
Take a daily multivitamin. Aside from just eating healthy, Fedor says the only other thing he does is take a Centrum multivitamin.
Tito Ortiz doesn’t use supplements, despite his active promotional activities (Xyeince, etc).
Also make sure your getting the following: vitamin D (my physician says the new standard is 1000 iu’s), vitamin E (fish oil), vitamin C, selenium. Dudes, studies show that these are good. I’ll save the nerding, just believe.
Know the role of supplements. They are exactly that – supplements. There aren’t to replace or supplant regular nutrition, they should be take to fill in your nutritional gaps.
Also, know the place your supplements are made. During my last physical, my doc told me that 60-70% of nutraceuticals coming from overseas (he mentioned India, China, etc) are being found to contain lead and other heavy metals.
Cutting weight in not a healthy thing to do – it’s terrible on your liver. If you’re a professional mixed martial artist, they pay you the big bucks to hurt yourself. If you’re not pro, consider the slim slow version of cutting weight. Healthy living, and burn more calories than you consume.
Okay, if you have to cut weight – try the “slim slower” version anyway. The whole dropping 10-20 pounds in 48 hours is dangerous and difficult to reverse. Within a week of the fight, you should be 10 pounds of the fight weight. “Each day, we’ll sweat off about six pounds of water [and] we’re very careful to only put four pounds back in. That way there is a two-pound deficit daily. That way, weight is never an issue the day of the weigh-ins.” – Billy Rush, with credit to Diego Sanchez at 155.
Cutting weight with the Wham Bam, thank Mam approach. “The simplest and most effective way to begin the weight cutting process is to decrease or stop fluid intake. Your body is constantly losing fluid by breathing, sweating and urination. Every minute and hour that this goes by without replacing the fluid, you will lose weight. This process takes no extra energy from a fighter to complete, and you can lose up to 5-6 pounds in 24 hours without drinking … we usually start the fluid restriction exactly 24 hours before the weigh in.” – Martin Rooney via GrappleArts
Empty those bowls – in addition to pooping, you can use an all natural, easy on the system laxative. Some people can loose 5 lbs. “By taking the … laxative before you go to bed the night before the weigh in, you should wake and clear your bowels completely.” – Martin Rooney
On the rebound after cutting weight, “Potassium and starches. It’s about what your body is going to absorb and what your body’s going to use. You need starches and potassium and, of course, electrolyte vitamins to keep everything in check. If you ever cut weight and you’re a little wobbly and stuff, electrolyte vitamins, starches and potassium will fix all that.” – Billy Rush
“After the weigh in, you should eat small meals at regular 30 minute intervals … Firing a ton of food down immediately after the weigh in is going to leave you feeling bloated and sick. Your body won’t be able to use all the food at once anyway, and it will just sit there. Smaller meals will clear the stomach and you will be able to eat again shortly. We actually have our athletes continue to eat all the way up to a few hours before the fight the next day. Eat meals that you are comfortable with. Don’t start to do anything different.” – Martin Rooney
Ditto for the fluid replenishment. “You should immediately take in fluids following the weigh in and continue to drink at regular intervals. The ultimate goal for my fighters is to see a clear urine stream before we know we are back. This can take 3-5 gallons of fluid over the next day to replace the 10 or more pounds that has been lost. Don’t rely on the thirst response because it will not be accurate.” – Martin Rooney.
The Liquid Portion
Drink a gallon of water a day. “First, you need to drink at least a gallon of water every day. The only way to keep track is to measure it, otherwise you will just assume you have had enough- and possibly not reach your goal.” – Rich Franklin
Drink two glasses of water first thing after you wake up. When you get up in the morning, your body will be slightly dehydrated from the 8 hour fast.
Lay off the juice. At least the stuff you buy in the store: OJ in a can or bottle, apple juice, clear grape juice. This is really candy, and should be treated like such.
Lay off the alcohol.
Drink the good juice! Fresh carrot, lime, apple, beet, etc.
There are two camps for the juicing: skin on and skin off. Skin on – keeps a nice percentage of the fruit/veggie fiber and the skin possibly has some extra nutrients. Skin off – the juice is cleaner and better absorbed for post workout goodness. The Gracie family are in the skin off juice camp.
Lay off the alcohol. Seriously.
If you drink coffee, keep it black. Sugar and milk are for ice-cream and losers.
Smoothies are not an excuse to cheat. They should not be fun. This is MMA, after all.
Good things to put in smoothies: oats, carrots, berries, spinach, bananas, yogurt, protein powder, milk, ice, honey (occasionally).
Things that should not be put in smoothies: white sugar, ice-cream … you know, crap.
You have to make a choice on how serious you are going to be about athletics and health. If you choose to be hardcore, then eat hardcore. Balance that out.
Eating superbly is all about comparison and choosing. Sweet Potato beats a regular white potato. Brown rice beats white rice. Baked beats fried. Olive oil beats canola oil. Canadian bacon beats regular bacon.
“The good is the enemy of the great.”
Choose the lesser of two evils. If you’re going to eat a candy bar, eat a snickers in stead of a bag of skittles. It doesn’t produce as bad a spike in blood sugar, due to it’s nuts.
Choose spices instead of fat. You can have flavor a variety of ways.
Go ahead, limit your choices. If you are setting hardcore goals, eat a limited number of preplanned meals. Tim Ferris, author of the wildly popular 4 Hour Workweek, did a blog post about losing weight via simplicity and science. ” Rule #2 Eat the same few meals over and over again. The most successful dieters, regardless of whether their goal is muscle gain or fat loss, eat the same few meals over and over again.”
Okay, I’d like to come clean from the get go. I don’t play Z Guard, I’m not good at Z Guard, heck, I don’t know how to break down the Z Guard. (I’ve recently been getting submitted by some z guard moves ) .
Another to keep in mind is that there are a bunch of “versions” of the z guard. Steven Kesting defines the z guard as the knee-in half guard, with the knee either drawn across the belly (like a half guard scissor sweep) or the knee tilted up on the chest and shoulder ( the variation I use – akin to a half spider guard, shin on bicep sort of thing). I’ve also seen Gene Simco show the “zig zag” guard with the gi – it’s like s-mount but from the guard, if that makes any sense.
Anyway… the point is that the legs make a Z formation of some kind, and the knees and the hooks help create distance and control your opponent.
The above videos come from a longer shoot Eddie and I did together – I’ll release more of them in a future post with an interview with Sensei Edmunds. Also, the full quality version of the videos will be available for direct download at that point as well.