With the recent craze that has been going on due to the growth of mixed martial arts, thanks to leagues like the UFC, there has been a growing number of everyday people who have gained an interest in Jiu-Jitsu, Maui Thai, and mixed martial arts generally. Everyday people have dropped their regular gym memberships to sign up at their local Jiu-Jitsu and MMA academies. I can’t blame them. Jiu-Jitsu and MMA in general are not only great for your health, but a very fun way to get or stay in shape. When speaking in terms of resistance training and cardiovascular exercise you can get the best of both worlds blended together in Jiu-Jitsu. Maui Thai is also a very high endurance sport. These two can bring one better physical health, anti-depressive properties, and an overall boost in confidence that one can apply in his/her daily life. But as with all physical activity, the most important part of it is not in the dojo or the gym, it’s in the kitchen. In this article, I will give a general layman’s explanation of how to approach your diet while training in MMA. There is a lot of malnourishment going on with practitioners of high endurance sports and I hope this article will help set some people straight. We will cover the basic macro nutrients like carbs, fats, and protein and I will touch up on some supplements that can help along the way.
I cannot express how important it is for high endurance athletes to get the right amount of protein in. Protein is the building block of muscle in your body. If you dont get enough in you will not gain muscle and more than likely lose it. If you get too much in your kidneys will be given a hard time and you creatinine levels might go up, causing concern from your doctor when you do blood work. Now there are alot of ratio to bodyweight figures out there that confuse the heck out of people. I have seen the 1.5g protein per bodyweight bit that is the standard in the community. When you dont have a professional nutritionist figuring out your protein intake this isn’t the worst of choices. The issue comes with a guy who is 280lbs and 35% bodyfat. This ratio of 1.5g to pound of bodyweight isn’t total bodyweight but lean bodyweight. Since people get pretty confused about how to figure out their lean bodyweight, I have given the formula below.
The first thing your going to need is your bodyfat. There are a few ways to get this done:
1. Calipers: Your local gym should have calipers and a bodyfat test available
2. Dexascan: Check your local schools and gyms and see if you can get this process done
3. BodPod: This is my favorite way of getting my bodyfat tested. You can usually find one at your local university
4. Hydrostatic bodyfat testing: This is the old school way of doing it and thought to be the most reliable way of getting your bodyfat tested. Again, check with your local university to see if its available
5. When all else fails, getting on a bodybuilding forum and posting pics can usually get you a pretty decent estimate if you talk to the right person. I would personally speak to a vet or the board nutritionist. They usually deal with people regularly and can give a decent guess to what your bodyfat might be.
Once you have a bodyfat percentage the rest is actually pretty simple, all you need is a calculator. Here is a step by step example of how your get your lean bodymass.
Lets say your stats are that you weigh 220lbs and have a bodyfat percentage of 18%.
You can turn the bodyfat percentage into a decimal point (in this case 18% would become .18) and subtract that by 1.00 (so 1.00 – .18 = .82). Your answer would be .82 (because .82 + .18 equals 1). Then you would simply take the .82 and multiply it by your bodyweight of 220lbs. So 220 x .82 = 180.4. Your lean body mass is 180.4.
Now that you have your lean body mass, take that and multiply it by 1.5. Your total protein intake in this case would be 270g which is reasonable. In all my years as a nutritionist I have yet to put a male weighing more than 135 lbs on anything less than 200g protein a day. Also, rarely have I taken a client above 350g protein. Please keep in mind that less than 20% of protein should come from supplements. You should be following a whole foods approach and getting your protein from lean choices of meats.
A high endurance sport means high energy requirements. Those who do high energy sports should not be looking into very low carbohydrate diets like ketogenic diets like the atkins approach. Ideally as a practitioner of MMA you dont want to bring your carbs down lower then 200g a day spread evenly between at least 4 meals (you should be eating 6 meals a day). If your looking to lose bodyfat 200g is a good place to start. If the loss of bodyfat is not your main concern I recommend a minimum of 300g carbs daily for energy use. The foods you choose should be complex carbohydrates throughout the day and a simple carbohydrate right after training with your whey shake. Ideally you want to get at least 50g carbs post workout from simple carbohydrates and the rest of your day should pull from complex carbohydrates. Try to spread your carb intake evenly throughout the day, but keep carbs out of your final meal (meal 6) unless you worked out immediately before. There is research that shows carbs before bed lower natural growth hormone productions, a big no no in your goals!
Examples of complex carbohydrates:
Examples of acceptable simple carbohydrates
A white bagel
dextrose or maltodextrine
People freak out when they think about fats. They believe the intake of fats will only make them fatter. This is far from the truth when you pull from the right fat sources. Foods like avocados (my fav!), organic peanut or almond butter, extra virgin olive oil, cashews, and fish oil to name a are essential to you daily needs and should be a part of your diet. The rule of thumb is that the higher your carb intake the lower your fat intake should be. As you bring down your carb intake, your fat intake goes up to make up for the calories.
Here is an example:
If you need 3000 calories for your diet, your macros might look like this:
If you wanted to lower your carbs, your fats would have to go up to take the place of those calories:
200g carbs (we have lost 400 calories here)
77g fats (we have added about 400 calories here, remember that fats have more than twice the calories then protein or carbs)
I recommend you take in a little fat with every meal except your post workout nutrition and take in the larger sum of fats in the last meal of the day where it will do the most for you.
A sport would not be called a high endurance sport if it did not take alot of endurace. Green leafy veggies have been found to promote endurance levels in athletes. If you watched the UFC hall of fame champ Randy Couture put a beating on Tito Ortiz years ago you may have noticed that Randy had a lot of gas in his tank even though Tito was much younger than him. Randy was on a high greens diet, and all high endurance athletes should follow this approach. Get those veggies in guys! Spinach, celery, broccoli, asparagus.. if its green its good to go!!! I recommend a total of 6 cups of veggies a day for MMA practitioners!
I hope this article has helped you get a better grip on what’s necessary in the kitchen when training in the wonderful sport of MMA. Look for more articles in the near future!
For more information on dieting and nutrition for people with aggressive workout routines, visit www.3jsdiet.com.