“Eat, Drink, and Be Merciless”
A lot of blood, sweat, and tears go into MMA training, so don’t overlook something as painless as proper nutrition planning to keep you performing at optimal levels. Just as you regularly wash your mouthpiece every night (you do wash your mouthpiece, right?), you need to pack your MMA training fuel, including: pre-training snack, in training hydration, and post-training recovery snack. These nutritional necessities will keep your energy levels maximized and the risk of fatigue and injury minimized.
While plastic water bottles may be convenient, many leach harmful chemicals such as bisphenol A (BPA) into your water. BPA is an endocrine system disruptor, meaning it mimics hormones such as estrogen, possibly leading to hormone irregularities, as well as myriad other health issues. Stainless steel water bottles are a much safer alternative.
Remember, these recommendations are for quick, convenient, portable snacks. Your regular meals and snacks prepared at home should consist primarily of whole, clean, unprocessed foods with the proper balance of carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fat.
In the 30–60 minutes prior to training, carbs are king. Carbohydrates digest quickly, help maintain blood glucose levels during exercise, and replace much needed muscle glycogen (storage form of the carbohydrate glucose within the muscles). Low-fat and low-protein content of the pre-training snack is necessary to facilitate gastric emptying (the time it takes for food to leave your stomach) and to avoid gastro intestinal distress. Approximately 40–60 grams of carbohydrates should be sufficient. Some athletes have no trouble consuming these carbs from solid foods, such as apples, bananas, or a Power Bar Fruit Smoothie Bars. For fighters that prefer liquids or semi solids,consider items such as Gatorade G1 Prime sports drink, gels from Power Bar and GU, or an all-natural fruit/veggie juice.
If intense training lasts more than an hour, refueling and rehydrating during the workout is key. A sports drink containing 6–8% carbohydrates and electrolytes will give you easily digestible carbs, as well as the water and electrolytes lost from sweating. Ironman Perform and Gatorade G2 Perform are two readily available drinks of this kind, providing 50–70 calories, 14–17 grams of carbs, 110–190 mg sodium, and 10–30 mg potassium per 8 fluid ounces. Many athletes alternate between plain water and sports drinks to get the recommended 30–60 grams of carbs and 16–24 ounces of fluid per hour of exercise. These are general guides, especially for hydration, as sweat rates differ for every athlete. You can find sweat rate calculators online to get your customized hydration recommendation.
Recovery nutrition is vital. Within the first 30 minutes after training, strive to consume 0.5 grams of carbs per pound of body weight. A 150-pound athlete would need approximately 75 grams of recovery carbs to start to replace glycogen stores. Protein also takes the stage at this point for muscle building and repair, but amounts will vary depending on your training. If you’re hitting the weights hard on a regular basis, you’ll need 20–40 grams of protein post-workout along with the carbs above. If strength training has taken a backseat to more cardio, 15–25 grams is sufficient. Natural peanut butter and jelly on wholegrain bread, Gatorade G3 PRO Recovery, or Muscle Milk, are all portable recovery snacks that give you a carb/protein combo. Keep drinking water too. You’ll need 16–24 fluid ounces per hour of intense workout.