by J Small
Being an MMA fighter is a lot more complicated than it seems, as fighter, you need to be primed and ready at exactly the right time to get all your your body has to offer when it’s time to fight.
Unlike other athletes, MMA fighters don’t have many chances to prove themselves and make an impact on their careers, a fight going badly could have huge implications, so having the perfect diet is equally as important as having quality training sessions.
Stony Brook University’s Head Performance Coach, Chris Algieri, who is also the nutritionist for many MMA elite fighters like Gian Villante, Dennis Bermudez and Ryan LaFlare, has provided an in-depth look at what the perfect diet for an MMA fighter should look like. Chris is also the former WBO Welterweight World Boxing Champion, so he knows what he’s talking about!
Chris wants his fighters starting their day off with toast or oatmeal, fruit and 2-4 eggs about four hours before their workout. Out of all the many types of training, athletes should be most primed for sparring. Chris says it’s a simulation of fight night, and fighters need to fuel like they are heading for an actual fight.
“Carbs are a mainstay. It gives them sustained energy for the session”
About 90 minutes prior to training, Chris says that fighters should consume something high in nitrates, the perfect natural pre-workout supplement would be a smoothie with beetroot or pomegranate juice, as both are vasodilators and are nitrate-rich
Algieri says a whey protein shake and tart cherry juice for its anti-inflammatory properties is ideal around 30 minutes after finishing a tough session
“For dinner, it’s a lot of protein. Protein is especially important to help recover muscles faster,” said Algieri, “I try and change up the protein source every night. So one night might be salmon, another shrimp, roasted chicken, sushi… and then once or twice a week some red meat. Sundays are usually steak or hamburger night.”
The right amount of fat
Chris aims for 50-60% of the calories in his fighters diet to come from carbs, about 20-30% from fat and 20% from protein. He says his favorites are salmon and avocado for a good fat source and that he only uses grass-fed butter and extra-virgin olive oil for cooking.
“I push fats because they’re important for recovery and for joint health. Getting polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats help guys be more satiated, and it’s been shown that you sleep better with more fat in your diet,”
Nailing weight goals
At pro level, fighters are used to sticking to strict eating schedules. That said, MMA is a sport which competes based on weight, so determining how each individual fighter should be fuelled without causing weight or performance issues can be quite tough.
“Fighters are always in a catabolic state. And it’s really tough to make strength, endurance and power goals if they aren’t getting enough calories. But if an MMA fighter isn’t the right weight, he doesn’t fight”
Chris also says he does not prohibit his athletes from the occasional cheat meal and is not too strict on rules when it come to what they can and can not eat, if they really need a slice of pizza, he gives them the go ahead. The fighters are very disciplined and tend to eat clean meals, because they understand the importance if they want to have a career in MMA.
“That’s what separates guys, the amount of dedication they have to their training, there has to be progress every single day, and those who are at top know that.”