As a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fan, I often search the internet and participate in MMA forums. I like seeing the pulse of what's going on the industry. As a result, I can't help but to come across nutrition and dieting information for MMA that is completely off based.
As a result, I've decided to write the definitive guide for MMA nutrition. That is, for a fighter who is going into camp and looking to lose some fat and improve their performance. This post will NOT include a final well prep for those that still need to shed a few pounds to make weight or the water and nutrient manipulation that I'd recommend for fighter to make weight then refeed properly for their fight.
For starters we need to address some quick bullet points to make sure that we're on the same page as to what "good nutrition" means.
Often times elite level athletes are able to consume foods that are generally deemed unhealthy. Their metabolisms are elevated and they train multiple times per day so they are actually able to compensate for their poor nutrition habits. Now imagine how they'd look, feel and perform if they cleaned up their diet?
I've personally worked with world champion MMA athletes whom consume fast foods five times per week yet they are only one or two pounds above their fight weight. The important key for adjusting your diet is to understand that by simply choosing quality over quantity, you'll begin to see changes.
And let's be realistic for a second, just because you're in fight camp, that doesn't mean that you can only eat chicken and broccoli. Of course not. Stop viewing your diet as what you can't have and focus on improving your performance.
Let's talk about what good nutrition really means. Here's a few bullet points. You'll find more in my Physique Formula manual.
- Focus on choosing quality protein sources such as chicken, beef, elk, turkey and fish and eating them every 3-4 hours. Wild caught, organic, free range and grass fed options are preferred but not necessary. I'd rather you eat more protein than not just because you can't afford it.
- Focus on eating 4-6 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. While I skew toward berries and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, caulifower and kale, any vegetables or fruit is fine.
- Aim to consume 1 gram of carbohydrate per pound of bodyweight at the start of your camp. Quality sources include unrefined grains like potatoes, rices and oatmeal.
- Increase your healthy fat intake via grass fed meats, shimbo's organic extra virgin olive oil or shimbo's coconut oil, Physique Formula Fish Oil or mixed nuts.
- Try to get 6-8 hours of quality sleep per night.
See, nutrition can be easy right?
Your goal should never be to lose 20 pounds in a month. Your goal must be to lose about 3-6 pounds per week with the numbers being closer to 1-2 pounds per week. Understand that you will lose more in the form of stored water weight and stored carbohydrates during the initial dieting phase but you must aim for 3-6 pounds per month. That's the start of your mma nutrition plan.
The faster you lose weight, the weaker you get in your training
Keep that in mind.
How Do We Calculate Our Caloric Needs For Our MMA Diet?
I want to talk about how you should determine your calories that you need for daily function. While the most popular form of calculating your resting metabolic rate is the Harris-Benedict Formula.
Women: BMR = 655 + ( 4.35 x weight in pounds ) + ( 4.7 x height in inches ) - ( 4.7 x age in years )
Men: BMR = 66 + ( 6.23 x weight in pounds ) + ( 12.7 x height in inches ) - ( 6.8 x age in year )
While that’s the most popular formula, it tends to underestimate the needs of the physical active or muscular individuals. As a result, I don’t like to use it.
We’re in the business of keeping things simple. So I LOVE this simple formula for determining calorie requirements for our mma nutrition.
IMPORTANT point: You must monitor your progress weekly to ensure that you aren’t losing muscle mass.
Let’s face it, most people aren’t serious. Most people just go to the gym to say they go. If they diet, they do so for a few days or don’t even start because they don’t like certain foods. Listen, dieting, like building muscle, is hard work. You MUST focus and you must be driven with your mma nutrition.
So here’s the quick and dirty formula for determining your needs and a general outline of a proper mma diet.
Our example is a 200 pound male.
First we must establish the caloric needs for this individual based on his metabolism. If he has a fast metabolism I will multiply by 17, if the metabolism is medium then I will multiply it by 15 and if it slow then I will multiply it by 12.
Where do these numbers come from? They come from my personal experience in the field. They weren’t numbers that were designed in a lab but they work well for your mma nutrition.
Please resist the temptation to multiply your weight by 12 just because you think you have a slow metabolism. Most people do not and under-eating and overtraining is a whole heck of a lot more common than overeating and under-training is.
So we’ll say that the individual has a medium metabolism. So 200 pounds will be multiplied by 15.
We’ll start this individual on a 3,000 calorie diet. Key word is start.
From here, we want to aim to lose about 1.5 pounds per week. So we’ll subtract 600 calories from 3,000 and that leaves us with 2,400 calories. Now we can start our math.
Now how do we determine how we split up the macronutrients of the mma diet?
There’s multiple ways that you can do this.
My favorite being a steady approach of 50 percent protein, 30 percent carbohydrates and 20 per fat. Though do not be afraid to tailor this to your needs and adjust based on fatigue, irritability, hunger and other symptoms.
MMA Nutrition Meal Frequency
So you heard that you need to eat every 2-3 hours right? Well that depends on your bodytype.
Have a easy time losing weight? Then you need to eat every 2-3 hours.
Have an athletic body? It’s not that hard for you to put on muscle and it’s semi-easy to lose fat? You need to eat every 2.5-3.5 hours.
If you’ve always struggled to lose weight then you need to eat every 3.5-5 hours.
So how much protein, carbs and fat should you eat? That’s where we really get into the in-depth dieting stuff.
Again, we’re in the business of making this easy.
Have a easy time losing weight?
Protein-1.4 g/lb-1.6 g/lb
Fat-24%-28% of your total daily calories
Have an athletic body? It’s not that hard for you to put on muscle and it’s semi-easy to lose fat?
Fat-17%-23% of your total calories
If you’ve always struggled to lose weight
Protein-1.4 g/lb-1.5 g/lb
Now before we get to the carbohydrates, let’s go back to our explain and show you what his protein and fat breakdown of our mma diets would look like.
He’s 200 pounds and has an athletic body. So we’ll do 200x1.2 and we’ll see that he needs to consume 240 grams of protein per day. So that’s 960 calories from protein.
Hold on, where did I get 960 calories from?
Protein and carbohydrates both contain 4 calories for every 1 gram. Fat is 9 calories for every gram.
So I multiplied his 240 grams of protein by 4 and got 960 calories.
Now we go back to our example and look at his fat intake. We’ll start him in the middle of the pack between 17% and 23%. Let’s say 20% of the his diet comes from fat. He’ll consume about 45 to 60 grams of healthy fat each day. So 50 grams of fat multiplied by 9 gives us 450 calories from fat in our mixed martial arts nutrition.
Now whatever calories are left after we add the fat and protein together, gives us our calories from carbohydrates. So now our subject is on a 2,400 calorie diet to lose body fat.
We have 960 calories from protein and 450 calories from fat. That gives us 1,410 calories. So 2,400 calories minus 1,410 leaves us with 990 calories which is 247 grams of carbohydrates per day.
Now I know what your thinking. 247 grams of carbohydrates is a lot. Well our subject has a easy time putting on muscle and preventing bodyfat gain, so he’ll be able to handle the carbohydrates. This is where the personalization comes into play. If our metabolism was fast we would have a different caloric intake of protein and fat and less carbs.
So do you see how you’d decide how many protein, carbs and fats that you’d eat for your mma nutrition?
Mixed Martial Arts Program FAQS
Random reader email questions:
Q: Do you know what the Mike Dolce Diet is?
A: Honestly, I don't know what the exact mike dolce diet is but I have a rough idea from reading his articles and seeing his interviews. Essentially it comes down to a ultra low carbohydrate, high protein approach. I know a lot of people search online for the Mike Dolce diet and I'm sure there's more to eat then I'm saying here but I really haven't seen anything special about it in what I've read. I really have no clue though.
Q: What can you tell me about the George St. Pierre diet or how Jon Jones eats??
A: I'd imagine GSP follows a rotating carbohydrate diet but again, I have no clue.. You take basic nutrition fundamentals and you apple them to high intensity athletes with some selective carbohydrate placement to account for their activity levels. George St. Pierre trains very hard so he needs his carbs to recover but I really think it comes down to the same basics. Again, I have no clue what GSP or Jon Jones eats.