Like any other sport, proper nutrition is key in order to be adequately prepared for training and to recover as quickly as possible. If you are interested in MMA, you will quickly learn the benefits of a healthy diet, as well as the timing of various meals. It may sound like a hassle, but those who are new to MMA find themselves getting in the groove quite quickly, and before they know it, they’re following a dietary plan that is easy and healthy.
Unless you’re really serious about fighting and you’re at or near the professional level, then you have a bit a more flexibility with your nutrition. This can allow you to incorporate more convenient food into your diet without changing things up too much. In this article, we would like to focus on some tips and tricks to keep you properly fueled for your MMA training, and maybe even an upcoming fight!
Glycemic Index for Preparation
If you’re fueling up for a training session, one thing to consider is glycemic index (GI). This may sound a little advanced, but it’s actually quite simple and more info about the GI is readily available online. Essentially, the GI is a scale of 1-100+ whereby foods are rated in terms of how they affect your blood glucose (sugar) levels.
For example, things like baked potatoes or white bread, which both have really high GI values, will cause a sudden spike in blood glucose levels. If you’re going to performing some form of power or sprint training, then these types of food could be a good option (or you could select slightly healthier options than potatoes or white bread), as they will provide a good burst of energy before “crashing” quickly. On the other hand, things like el dente whole wheat pasta, brown rice, chick peas, and lots of fruit have GI values on the lower end of the scale. These will provide a slower, longer, rise in blood glucose levels, which will allow you to sustain a particular level of energy for a longer period of time. This is beneficial for longer training sessions that require good endurance.
So what if you don’t know, or your training involves a bit of both power and endurance (like most MMA training does)? In this case, look for low-mid range GI value foods that are healthy and familiar to you. This will provide a nice balance in terms of providing enough energy without crashing too quickly.
Carb to Protein Ratio for Recovery
One thing that stuck with me from a nutrition course is the benefit of optimizing your carb to protein ratio for recovery. Let’s say your training session consisted of a bit of everything, e.g. you were keeping your heart rate up with cardio, while also stressing various muscle groups through resistance training, discipline-specific exercises, or sparring. In this case, a 3:1 carb:protein ratio is excellent for recovery and getting you ready for your next training session.
A lot of people don’t believe it (I didn’t at first), but chocolate milk is actually an ideal beverage to consume after a workout, ideally within the first 45 minutes of when you stop. Usually, you can find about 7-10 grams of protein and 25-30 grams of carbs in 16oz of chocolate milk. Keeping this to the 1% variety or lower will also help cut down on the fat intake. A great way to reward yourself after a hard day in the gym! Another good way to try and achieve that 3:1 carb:protein ratio is with a peanut butter sandwich.
If you’re really training hard and have been doing so on a regular basis, then chances are you will need more than this, and sometimes drinking a gallon of chocolate milk just isn’t that appealing. You don’t need to be exactly precise or stick completely to the 3:1 ratio, but even 16oz of chocolate milk within 45 minutes after your workout can go a long way, and then from there you can enjoy a nice healthy meal. Furthermore, if your training session incorporated a lot more resistance training and muscle building, then you may want to increase your post-workout protein intake as well.
At the end of the day, these are simply a couple tips that we found benefited our training and isn’t too complicated to follow. You can find a lot more information online, or talk to your trainer and see what they think. The fact that you’re thinking of nutrition is already a great step in the right direction, but the more informed you are in terms of performance benefits and convenient food choices, the easier it will be to stick with an effective nutrition plan.