The timing and makeup of your pre-fight meals and snacks are key for optimal performance.
It’s fight day, and you’re rolling with confidence, as your training and nutrition have been carefully calculated for months prior to the big event. Don’t let excitement or nerves steer you off path. Finish your preparation with the proper fuel on the day of competition.
Early fatigue, lightheadedness, trouble concentrating, decreased strength and endurance, and gastrointestinal discomfort are not issues you want to deal with during a fight, so make sure you have a well-tested eating plan. Food choices can vary drastically from fighter to fighter. People with nervous or sensitive stomachs may only be able to handle liquid meal replacements, while some fighters can digest heavier solids closer to fight time. Experimenting with meal timing and composition in the weeks leading up to an event is crucial to getting it right when it counts.
In general, you’ll want to consume foods derived from primarily carbohydrates, with moderate protein (lowering as time gets closer to event) and low-fat and low-fiber content. Carbs are king, as they are quicker and easier to digest, and they provide immediate fuel. Slow-cooked oats, sprouted wheat bread, English muffins, whole-grain crackers, baked sweet potatoes, brown rice, fruits, and steamed veggies are all great sources. Protein and fat take longer to digest and could uncomfortably linger in your stomach. Pass on the greasy fast food and opt for lean baked chicken or fish. High fiber foods may cause gastrointestinal distress, so this is definitely not the time for a bran muffin. The smaller amounts of fiber in oats, brown rice, fruits, and veggies should sit just fine, but again, experiment for yourself during training.
The timing of your fuel intake is just as important— if not more important—than the type. Even the healthiest foods that are eaten too early or too close to your start time could work against you. If it’s too early, you may feel hungry, shaky, or tired. If it’s too close, you may feel weighed down, sluggish, or queasy.
Digestion times will differ for everyone, but you should allow three to five hours for a larger meal; two to three hours for a smaller meal; one to two hours for a liquid/ blended meal or larger snack; and 30 to 60 minutes for a small carb-based snack.
If you’re competing in the afternoon or at night, breakfast and/or lunch can be a larger meal, containing carbs, moderate protein, and low fat and fiber, as long as you have three to five hours of digestion time. Something lighter, smaller, and primarily carbohydrate based may also be needed one to two hours before the fight. If an earlier morning event is scheduled, the meal the night before needs to be your substantial fueling, with the lighter and smaller intake consumed upon waking.
With many MMA bouts taking place at night, your pre-fight meal should typically be lean protein, healthy starches, and a veggie dish. Grilled chicken with a baked sweet potato and green beans or broiled wild salmon with brown rice and sautéed spinach are prime examples. Foods such as whole-grain or sprouted breads, dinner rolls, and crackers can also be consumed if additional carbs/calories are needed.
Steer clear of high-fat, high-fiber, spicy, or dairy-loaded foods, as well as carbonated beverages, as those are a common cause of gastrointestinal troubles. Stick to personally tested foods, and make sure you have the time your body needs to properly digest and feel comfortable. Composition, timing, and familiarity are your keys. Keep it simple, and use your head.
Lemon-Garlic Grilled Chicken with Baked Sweet Potato and Roasted Green Beans
Place the sweet potato in the oven about an hour before you’d like to eat. After 45 minutes, start grilling your chicken. Once the potato is done, turn the temperature up a little on the stove and roast the green beans.
1 (5-6 oz) chicken breast, boneless and skinless
2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tbs. fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
¼ tsp. sea salt and black pepper
1. Combine the ingredients in a large zip lock bag and marinate for 30-45 minutes.
2. Grill over medium/high heat for approximately seven minutes on each side or until done.
BAKED SWEET POTATO
1 large sweet potato Ground cinnamon/Stevia/sea salt to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degree, pierce the potato with a knife several times, and wrap it in foil.
2. Bake for one hour or until tender, and top with ground cinnamon, Stevia, and/or sea salt.
1 cup green beans, washed and trimmed
1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil sea salt and black pepper to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees, place the beans in a bowl, drizzle with oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
2. In a single layer, arrange the beans on a baking sheet and bake until crisp-tender, approx. seven minutes.