MMA Fighter Diet on a BudgetFiled Under: nutrition, Resources
Dieting is tough – and you know what makes it harder? Being next to broke. A buddy of mine called me and asked me if knew how to eating well on a budget, and it turns out, I only know a little bit about nutrition but I know loads about being broke.
Get Your Mind Right
The first thing you need to do about eating like a fighter (on a budget) is leave the fear-based scavenger mindsets behind. You have abandon some of the comforts of emotional eating and eating for pleasure. Logic must prevail.
You know the urge right after you get satisfied at dinner, but there is a little bit left on the plate? Why not finish it off? You don’t want it to go to waste, right? Aren’t you poor? That’s the scarcity mindset. Free samples at Costco or the boss is bringing in some fatty lunch for the crew? Should you pass up a food source, you’re light in the cash department, right? That’s the scavenger mindset. Someone offers you a cupcake and you can’t say no? You’re afraid someone won’t like you if you don’t eat a cookie? That’s probably just lack of will power or you can’t stand up to social pressures – either way, grow a pair.
Anyway you slice it, you have to design a plan of attack for eating and stick to it. You can’t let these weird emotions in to wreck the course of your diet-ship. Again, you must steel your mind and kick out emotional eating.
Remember Classical Dieting
What I mean by “classical dieting” is the nuts and bolts of a disciplined, thought out eating plan. Just because you’re on a budget doesn’t mean you can forget the basics. You should keep a food journal, shop with lists that come directly from your meal plans. If you’re trying to lose weight, you should be making sure you’re in a calorie deficit when you take into account your activity level; likewise, putting on weight requires that you are giving your self some surplus.
These kind of things are the basics of a sound nutrition plan. I don’t want to spend much time developing them; rather, I want to discuss how to make it work as a pauper.
Not only is the Boy Scout’s motto, it should be yours too.
- Prepare many meals ahead of time. Divvy out the goods and package them up for a no-brainer eating experience later.
- Prepare to buy, and cook, in bulk. However, don’t buy more than you can eat and store before it goes bad. Having a meal-plan centered shopping list helps this out – you know when you’ll next be having X or Y food.
- Prepare to spend money on food storage devices. You need to be able to save and store the grub you produce. If you don’t have the space to store it, it’s going to get thrown out or go bad. You don’t have a deep chest freezer? Enough Tupperware? If your place of employment doesn’t have a fridge – you’ll need a lunchbox cooler. Plan for that stuff in your budget.
- Prepare your fridge for the food you’ll be buying. You probably don’t think about it, but your fridge is club where all your foods have their pre-party (before they party in your mouth). Bouncers are employed at regular clubs for a variety of reasons; one of which is to control overcrowding. Overcrowding can cause foods to spoil – creating uneven cooling, sometimes freezing stuff. Remove stuff that doesn’t need to be in there (vinegars, onions, potatoes). I really can’t extend the metaphor to all I need to say – but you get the idea.
- Prep snacks/emergency meal replacements. Maybe you’ll forget to bring lunch or the school bully steals it – you want a back up option that doesn’t force you to eat out.
- Prepare a list of things you can eat at the restaurants you’re most likely to visit. When you do eventually go out to eat, you’ll be able to keep in line with your diet and budget.
- Be prepared to buy things you’re not crazy about; foods that are in season are generally cheaper, and wait to buy stuff you really like until its on sale or in season and then save it in your deep freezer.
- Be prepared to get your hands dirty – buying foods in their raw, least unprocessed states is much cheaper. I’ll take the skin off my own chicken breasts for $1/lb less, or stir in fruit to my yogurt and partition it off in a small container for single servings.
Time = Money
A lot of “dieting on a budget” resources don’t account for the money value of time. Cooking at home and buying foods like a shrewd business man makes sense on the balance sheet, but if you’ve ever gone to Costco you know that something that saves you cash can become an spirit-crushing ordeal.
Consider vegetable chopping; it can be pretty time intensive for you to make all the carrot sticks you’ll need for snacks for the next decade (or whatever). My solution? Cut corners! or don’t, I mean. Save chopping up a green bell pepper – just wash it and eat it when you have lunch at work. Its not hard to eat it like an apple. Same goes with celery, apples, etc. If you must chop, ask yourself, “Can I reasonable do this at work without undue burden?” I do partial prep on several meals and then construct them at lunch.
When selecting recipes that fill out your daily nutrition needs, choose the ones with the least time-intensive preparation.
Behold, the crock-pot
The crock-pot deserves it own section, nay, its own post! They are glorious; you get to save time and money. Once you figure out how to make crock-pot meals, it becomes super-easy to do.
You can probably find everything you need, knowledge-wise, either on the net for free or at your (gasp) public library. Here are a few suggestions:
The great thing about crock-pot dishes is they tend to be a good match for nutrition and budget. Veggies, dried legumes, cheap cuts of protein, little mess, no or little cooking fats needed, easy to use and clean, non-time intensive.
- Ground turkey replaces ground beef. Generally cheaper and better for you.
- Plain low-fat yogurt replaces sour cream and mayo. Combined with stuff like balsamic vinegar, it replaces fattier salad dressings. The plain variety is much more versatile than it’s pre-flavored brethern (or sisteren? who knows).
- Buy the plainer, larger version of pretty much anything. Individual servings of yogurt, oatmeal packets, etc.
- Corn tortillas replace flour; less fat and calories, more fiber.
- Gonna have a candy bar? At least pick the lesser of the evils. York peppermint patties, 3 Musketeer mint, dark chocolate.
- Water replaces (name virtually any beverage here).
- Parsley, cilantro, and cumber salad replaces the more expensive, less nutritious bag mixes. At least where I shop, the parsley/cilantro bunches and cumbers are 50 cents a unit. Plus, these greens last longer in the fridge before going bad. And even one MORE plus; salads made from the parsley type green matter can be stored with the dressing on them without wilting. So its a boon all the way around.
- Unsweetened soymilk can replace regular milk; one of the main benefits of it is that you can store it without refrigeration. Don’t get me wrong, I think the cows milk (casein) superior, but soymilk has its place. IMO, I don’t think it should be a main source of your protein intake – liquid or the protein powder – but again, its got is place.
The Old Standbys
- Two excellent, cheap sources of protein are eggs and low fat cottage cheese. Boiled eggs are super portable, making them an easy snack or part.
- Oatmeal – the less instant, the better. And don’t goober it up with sugars, syrups, cream, etc. For many on nutrition plans, oatmeal is their go-to carb. Its slow burning nature, protein content, and fiber (soluble and insoluble) make it one a hard carbohydrate to beat. True, they have made some leaps in the whole wheat pasta world, but price-wise it may not fit into the budget.
- Legumes of all kinds. Pinto, Black, Navy, Mung, Garbanzo, Lima, Kidney, etc. Using the slow cooker, buying the dried ones
- Brown rice. Goes with the beans to complete the proteins.
- Whey protein; ahh… a staple of those who pump iron. My advice is to use it when it’s portability really matters, like after the gym session you hit on your lunch break.
- Fish: Tuna, shrimp, talapia. Of course, breaded is a no-no.
- Broccoli. Plentiful, fairly cheap, and good for you. I’ve known some bodybuilders who have this green stuff 15 out of every 30 days.
- Bananas; cheap, chock full of potassium, and a solid carb to boot. Mixes well with protein powders and dairy products.
- Invest in spices that make boring, nutritionally sound foods, more exciting. You’re a lot more likely to carry out a diet plan if tastes and flavors are good, and periodically change.
Budgetbytes Blog ( http://budgetbytes.blogspot.com/)
I get a number of good recipe ideas from here; Beth (the blogger) breaks out how much a meal costs and what the per serving cost is too.
The Grocery Guru ( http://www.utahcityguide.com/new/guru/index.asp ) This guys focus is buying groceries on the cheap and doesn’t really concern himself with athleticism. Still, I’ve learned a few tricks and methods to shop from him.
Smiths Coupons (http://www.smithsfoodanddrug.com/in_store/Pages/coupon_landing.aspx) I understand how un-manly coupons are, I really do. However, this makes it pretty easy. Just log in, select your coupons, and go to the store and buy stuff. The coupons will enter in when you use your Smiths card.
Nutrition Tips for MMA Fighters (http://slcmma.com/nutrition-tips-for-mma-fighters/) A long list of all things MMA nutrition.
What are your tips?
Do you have any really great tips? Dirt-cheap meals? Let us know!