Superfoods for an MMA fighter prolong endurance and work capacity, help with muscle recovery and growth, and help prevent injury, which ultimately helps in and out of the cage. Here are 10 essential foods you need to add to your diet to help with your fight preparation.
1. WHEY PROTEIN – Naturally found in milk, but more popularly known as a nutritional supplement, whey protein has high concentrations of essential amino acids and BCAAs, which are important for muscle repair and growth. It also helps improve overall muscle strength over a long period of use. It is rapidly absorbed (better than soy and animal proteins) into the body, which makes it ideal after your workouts. Someone training MMA should consume 20 to 60 grams per day. Add it to shakes, oatmeal/cereals, or waffle/pancake mixes.
2. SWEET POTATOES – Yes, the ugly, weird orange-looking root you see in the grocery store that you often pass up is one superfood that you want in your diet. This complex carbohydrate that is low in sugar and high in antioxidants/anti-inflammatory properties will help with your post-workout recovery and energize your next training session. These potatoes are better than your traditional kind, and they offer significant amounts of vitamin C, fiber, and many B vitamins.
3. FLAXSEEDS – Often found in your local health food store as flaxseed oil or ground flax meal, flaxseed is the Anderson Silva of omega-3 fats as it has twice that of salmon and cod liver oil. It contains not only essential fats, but highly digestible proteins and fiber. It also has anti-inflammatory/antioxidant properties that will help with muscle recovery and joint and muscle pains—which is much needed after those three-per-day trainings! One to 3 tablespoons per day is effective. Throw it in your shakes, cereals, or salads, or just have it plain.
4. COCONUT OIL – Despite what you have heard or read, coconut oil is good for you. Coconut oil is high in mediumchain triglycerides (MCTs), which are easily digestible and help increase your metabolic rate, allowing you to burn fat more efficiently during your MMA workouts. It has the ability to boost endurance, increase energy levels, and increase overall athletic performance. Coconut oil is another food that supports muscle healing and repair due to its antioxidant properties. Cook with it like you would any other oil.
5. OATMEAL – Many of you already have this easy and convenient food in your diet, but I thought I might remind you how good of a food it really is. There are many types of oatmeal, but steel-cut oats would be the best choice. This type of oat is closest to its natural form, which means slower digestion and prolonged energy for MMA training. In addition to being good for sustaining energy levels, oatmeal is packed full of fiber, which prevents fat from being stored, and amino acids, which help with muscle recovery.
6. TURKEY – It isn’t just for the holidays anymore! Turkey is not only low in fat, it is packed full of nutrients like B6, B12, niacin, zinc, and selenium, which help produce energy, increase metabolism, and improve the immune system. Carnosine is another nutrient found in turkey meat. This type of protein allows athletes to train harder, which is what is needed when you talk about MMA training. So pick some up on your next visit to the store.
7. QUINOA (KEEN-WAH) – Considered the most nutritious grain in the world, it has more protein than any other grain, it is low in carbohydrates and high in fiber, and it contains adequate amounts of healthy fats and other vitamins/minerals. It is a complete protein like any meat or egg, which means it has muscle-building properties. It is great to add to your post-training meal to speed up recovery or when you’re cutting weight and monitoring your carbohydrate intake. Use it like you would any rice or pasta.
8. ACAI (AH-SIGH-EE) – Often found here in the United States as a juice or a nutritional supplement, this unique berry is very potent in many antioxidants (more than any other berry), which helps relieve muscle damage after a long day of training. Acai also helps sustain energy during your workouts with its blend of healthy fats, vitamin/ minerals, and fiber. It also improves circulation, sleep, and digestion. This berry is tasty and would provide an added benefit in your diet.
9. SOY – This high-quality plant protein that is rich in vitamins/ minerals and plenty of fiber and omega-3s has been shown to increase the body’s fat-burning capabilities; increase growth-hormone production for muscle growth and strength; and suppress food cravings and appetite. One to two servings per day (one serving equals 1 cup soy milk, ½ cup edamame beans, ½ cup tofu, or ½ cup soy nuts) is recommended for these added benefits.
10. LOW-FAT YOGURT – This nutritional powerhouse is packed full of nutrients. It contains calcium, which plays an important role in muscle contraction, preventing muscle spasms/cramps, as well as reducing muscle fatigue during exercise. Rich in vitamin B12, yogurt will help with energy production for longer-lasting training bouts. The carbs in yogurt are also great to replenish energy and aid in recovery post-training. Try 8 ounces with some fruit about an hour before your workout for a boost or 30 minutes post-training for a recovery snack.