A Fighter's Diet
By: Lubomyr (Light-Heavyweight Muay Thai Maryland State Champion)
(w/ Good Looking Loser) (Heavyweight Douchebag)
This is a long awaited article for the guys in our MMA section and others that have read Lubomyr's articles.
Just so you know-
This is a PERFORMANCE BASED DIET.
Not a weight loss diet or a diet strictly for aesthetics and body composition.
The goal of this is to make you get the most out of your MMA training in route to becoming the most effective MMA fighter you can be, not look like an "MMA model" in little trunks.
In comparison to our weight loss diet, you'll notice a big difference- it has carbohydrates. It even has sugar.
Once again- that is because this is a PERFORMANCE BASED DIET and not a diet that is solely dedicated to making you look better.
If your sport requires quick bouts of explosive energy for strength and speed (fast-twitch muscles) AND/OR sustained cardiovascular endurance (slow-twitch muscles), your body needs a certain amount of sugar and a certain amount of carbohydrates.
There is a diet for weight loss and to stay as lean as possible, this is NOT that diet.
This is not contrary to what we've previously said-
But not if you are burning it off during MMA training and during kicking someone's ass.
Don't get it twisted.
Different goals require different diets, this is not a weight loss diet.
Other than helping PhilTheBeard lose 100+ lbs, I haven't done much in the sports nutrition arena since I retired as a personal trainer in ~2011.
I'm always interested in what competitive athletes are eating, so this was interesting to me. Hopefully it is to you too.
My MMA Diet - A Fighter's Real Diet
Kicking wholesale-ass can be exhausting; taking beatings is even more tiring; and doing both on a daily basis can be downright draining on the mind and body. While at the end of the day, I crave a double-shot of Vodka, followed by a Beer, followed by something wrapped in Bacon, I know that these things won’t get me closer to my goal of being a world-class fighter.
So what do I eat on my quest to be one of the baddest men on the planet?
I put on my Hippie sandals and dig into the Veggies, Fruits, and other whole foods.
There is a lot that goes into being a fighter.
To put it broadly, being a fighter takes a lot of time and a lot of energy.
Training and rest schedules have to be well managed, especially if fighting isn’t your only job. Most fighters, who aren’t yet in the UFC or other mainstream MMA organizations, also work day or night jobs to help pay the bills and fund the fighting lifestyle.
We don't all get free clothing from Affliction or free supplements from XYience.
For some guys, it's kind of like bodybuilding for the 99% of guys that dream of the Olympiad but are living paycheck to paycheck wonder if they are doing the right thing with their lives.
Time is often scarce, as is money.
This means that we don’t always have time to cook our meals, and we can’t always buy the top-shelf Cheerios’ or sometimes not even Cheerios at all...
Like with anything, a good deal of knowledge and creativity will help you overcome the challenges of maintaining a proper diet at a reasonable price.
Before I go on, please keep in mind that a fighter’s diet varies from person to person, and from culture to culture.
Heavyweights don’t need to worry about calories, while Middleweights have to constantly think about what food they should eat at which point during their weight cut.
Some fighters are EVEN career long Vegans, while others rely on a hearty supply of red meat to fuel their training.
I could go down the list and explain the perceived pros and cons of each type of diet, but in the end it would still be my own subjective take on the subject. As luck would have it, I have a Mixed Martial Arts match coming up in a few weeks, and I’m right in the middle of a diet that has to help me lose weight while continuing to fuel my day long training schedule.
If it were up to me, fighters would weigh in on fight night and compete 2 hours afterwards. I feel that the concept of cutting weight has been stretched to the point where a fighter’s chances of success are a greatly influenced by the amount of tricks he or she has when it comes to cutting weight. Since we weigh in a day before the competition, we all drop an enormous amount of water weight that we replenish immediately after we step on the scale.
But that's just my opinion.
This opens the door for dietitians and sports doctors to work their magic and get their fighters to drop ungodly amounts of weight; the type of weight cutting that would have been thought impossible only a generation ago.
To put it into perspective, Welterweight contender Johnny Hendricks cut 40 pounds before his championship fight with Georges St. Pierre. He gained almost all of it back by fight night.
To make things worse, Mixed Martial Arts has adopted weight classes that would make a boxer do a double-take.
While Boxing has 6 to 8 pound gaps between weight classes, MMA has 15 to 20 pound gaps.
Until only a few years ago, MMA had only 5 weight classes to choose from-
- Lightweight (155 lbs)
- Welterweight (170 lbs)
- Middleweight (185 lbs)
- Light-Heavyweight (205 lbs)
- Heavyweight (206-265 lbs).
* In recent years, MMA has added 145 lbs, 135 lbs, and 125 lbs weight classes.
The reason in part for such slap dash weight classes was MMA’s urgency in setting rules and regulations in their sport before it was completely banned and run out of the country.
The original UFC tournaments had no weight classes, no gloves, and very few rules.
With so much initial negative press that the sport received, the MMA powers that be (namely Dana White and the Fertittas Brothers) rushed to institute rules and regulations. This included weight classes to give the appearance that the sport wasn’t just a free-for-all where the biggest caveman stood atop the pile.
However, with the setting of such wide gaps in weight, fighters must now choose how they approach the game.
While the lighter weight classes are now separating from each other by only 10 pounds, the heavier weight classes have yet to change to more reasonable standards.
This is where I sit.
I’ve competed for many years in MMA, Muay Thai kickboxing, as well as traditional Boxing, and have fought between 183 and 190 pounds.
In all cases, I was the smaller opponent.
I’ve always felt that the main goal was to develop your skill, mind, and athletic ability, and that the victory would go to the fighter whose better prepared. However, these days the techniques of cutting weight are evolving at a rate where I am finding myself standing across from giants who apparently weighed in at the same number as me the day before.
I’d be looking at the guy thinking, “There’s no way he’s 185. One of his legs is as big as both of mine put together.”
I finally took the plunge and am now fighting my first fight at 170 lbs.
The fight is in two and a half weeks.
But what's my current weight?
196 lbs, and I really don’t have 26 pounds of fat to lose.
So what’s the plan?
Believe it or not, these days 26 pounds isn't an unreasonable amount of weight to cut. In fact, chances are that my opponent is going to be coming down to 170 from a similar weight as me.
The idea is to lose as much weight as possible through a “low-carb, high-plant, lean-meat” diet, and then cut the rest of the weight through targeted dehydration.
While the science of dropping water weight is an interesting one, it isn’t the subject of this article, and I will save that story for another day. Let’s first delve into how I am able to stay lean and energized leading up to the fight.
While I am not an advocate of the Vegan lifestyle (no meat, dairy, eggs), I’ve found that my body responds best to fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains. While I still eat meat on occasion, I don’t feel that I need it in order to be a better athlete.
In fact, meats such as beef and pork tend to make me feel lethargic the following day, as my body needs more energy to digest them as opposed to the foods I previously mentioned.
Seafood always sits well with me, but I don’t always have time to fry or bake fish.
Being that I’m a personal trainer/group fitness instructor/martial arts instructor, my day involves me driving around from appointment to appointment while also fitting in my own training sessions.
It’s taken me a while to “perfect” what I feel is the ideal diet for me.
As I list out my daily eating routine, please keep in mind that small changes are made here and there, and that my decision making process involved time, money, nutritional value, and whether the food would be conducive to me dropping weight easily.
Right after I wake up I feed my body:
- 1 tsp freeze-dried Acai berry
- 1 tsp Maca Root powder
- 2 tsp Goji Berry powder
- 1 scoop Plant Based Protein (Pea, Artichoke, Quinoua)
I believe in eating breakfast, show me an athlete that forgoes breakfast and I'll show you one that won't reach his potential.
Early Morning Snack
After that I hit the road for my first appointment (530am). With me I take a bag of treats which includes:
- 1 cup of Oatmeal with Raisins and shaved Coconut
(I microwave this the night before and put it into a container)
- 2 Hard-Boiled Eggs
- 2 Apples
- 2 Pears
- 2 Bananas
- An Orange
- A small container filled with Cashews, Almonds, Pumpkin Seeds, and Dates
Before you freak out at all of the sugar that I’m eating from the fruits and dates, understand that fructose is metabolized differently than refined sugar. The calories get burned off very quickly and don’t really turn into fat on your body.
It can still make you fat, but so can anything else if you don't burn.it.off.
I do. I'm on my feet nearly all day. When I'm not, I'm on the mat wrestling someone.
Given my work load, I'd rather consume a little too much sugar rather than not enough. It all going to get burned off anyway.
Lunch Time & Nap time
I get home at around 2 or 3pm. At this point, I've had 3 to 4 appointments and have done my first fight training session of the day.
My woman and I usually cook a few times a week, so we always have a big helping of salad in the fridge that we eat with sunflower seeds and a ginger/sesame/soy dressing.
Along with this we fry up some veggie patties, made from carrots, celery, eggs, and chick peas (with some spices) thrown in a food processor. I will also help myself to lots of brown rice or quinoua. Both are a good source of complex-carbs and protein. I will on occasion eat fish for lunch as well, and I always have Green, Yerba Matte, or Oolong tea.
While my work schedule is pretty packed, with appointments and training both in the mornings and evenings, it’s also become quite European. I’m blessed with having a 3-4 hour Siesta in the middle of the day where I can stuff my face and then sleep it off before having to head back out. Sometimes I will watch a movie, but usually I end up passing out before the first half is over.
After Nap Time Snack
After I take a nap, I need to get things going again, I have a juicer and I make 100% Fruit Juice out of-I
- 1 Apple
- 1 Pear
- 1 Kiwi (you can keep the skin on it, just wash it!)
- ½ of a Beet
- 4 Carrots
- 3 sticks of Celery
- A handful of Spinach
- 1 tsp. Ginger root
This both wakes my body and my mind up for the second leg of my day, and it is so nutritionally dense that it curbs most hunger cravings that I have.
I also take a banana and a container of dates back to work with me.
Throughout the Day
It's impossible to show you my entire diet and lifestyle just by listing the meals, so lets continue.
Appetite Control and Suppression
I usually get home hungry, but I want to take advantage of that hunger, burn some body fat and not immediately stuff my face.
To help curb my appetite, I have one or two flavored teas that I mentioned earlier.
The different flavors play tricks on the brain and make me feel fuller than I really am.
I should mention that I’ve made Kratom a regular part of my routine as well, and I burn it once or twice a day. (Specifically Happy Hippo 1).
Water and More Water
I should also mention that, each day, I drink roughly 2 gallons of water.
However, I make a point to refrain from drinking water 20-30 minutes before and after eating, as water dilutes stomach acid, causing prolonged digestion and bloating.
Water keeps you hydrated, something that you NEED TO DRINK if you are burning Kratom or drinking caffeinated tea.
I keep this diet pretty steady, even on my days off; and while it may seem Spartan at first, you have to keep in mind that the flesh is dumb. It can’t think. It likes what it’s used to and it doesn't like change. If you can take charge of the flesh with a disciplined mind, you can teach your body to enjoy healthy natural foods as though they were candy.
This diet isn't the ONLY effective way for an athlete to eat, and I certainly don’t recommend it for people who want to simply lose a few pounds (although you certainly would).
Losing a couple of pounds or staying energized doesn't take THAT much effort with your eating, but being a fighter does.
If I want to win, then I have to earn the victory. I can only do that if I've done everything in my power to prepare my mind and body for war.
To me, this type of diet is part of the preparation.
As always, I thank you all for your time, and welcome any questions or comments.
You can hit Lubomyr up below or in the MMA Forum. You can ask him anything you like.