Updated: Jul 7, 2019
If you want to get in shape then training like a professional MMA fighter is a good way to achieve exactly that. But there’s a lot more to being a professional athlete than just training regularly. In truth, it’s an entire lifestyle commitment.
Your diet is arguably the most important aspect of that lifestyle commitment. Without adequate fuel, you just won’t have the energy to train at 100%. And even when you do train, your body won’t feel the full benefits if you have an unhealthy diet.
In this post, we go over what the typical diet for an MMA fighter might look like.
Note: When "cutting weight," (when a fighter aims to temporarily shed the pounds in order to make fight weight) a fighter's diet changes significantly. Below is an example of when a fighter is not cutting weight.
While it’s claim to be the “most important meal of the day,” has been under attack in recent years, there’s no doubt that breakfasts are key to a healthy diet. A nutritious breakfast sets the tone for the day and helps with weight and hunger control.
For MMA fighters, eating breakfast is about more than just preventing hunger, it’s about fuelling your body for the tough day of training ahead. An MMA fighter will aim to consume 500-700 calories at breakfast.
Carbohydrates should be the main aim at breakfast time; so wholegrain toast, low-sugar cereals, and porridge are all good choices. Pair with a piece of fruit and a glass of milk for a proper athlete’s breakfast.
As most MMA fighters rise around 6am for breakfast and morning training, a mid-morning snack is a good idea to keep your energy levels up.
Here, the focus is on protein and carbohydrates so nuts, low-fat yogurts, and protein bars are all viable.
Most professional fighters will try and get in some short lunch time training, normally focusing on either cardio or strength.
If you’re having lunch before training, make sure to keep the portions small and low in fat otherwise it will impair performance, and also to refuel afterwards with plenty fruit and water.
Lunch should be low in fat and salt, so this means nothing from the baker’s or fast-food restaurants. Instead, it’s better to make your lunch at home the night before. Sandwiches, soups, and salads are good choices.
Some MMA fighters train in the early evening before they have had tea. In these cases, a good afternoon snack is a necessity.
As with the morning snack, the focus is on protein and carbohydrates but aim to make the portion sizes slightly larger in the afternoon to prepare you for training in the evening.
Again, nuts, yogurt, and protein bars should be considered as well as eggs, vegetables, or rice.
This is the meal that many athletes will “load up” on, aiming to pack their body full of protein with large portion sizes. Dinner is a good time to do this, but be careful not to eat just before training (it will impair performance) or too late at night (you might not be able to get to sleep).
Here it’s all about protein, typically an MMA fighter will try to consume at least 40g of protein at dinner time. The best way to achieve this is with lean meats- meat with low fat content. Chicken, turkey, and red meat are all good options.
Pair your meat choice with vegetables and carbohydrates (rice, pasta, soup) for the perfect dinner.
While there a vast array of drinks claiming to have all sorts of health benefits, it really is best to just keep it simple when it comes to what you’re drinking.
Nothing is better for your body than water. No matter how many different vitamins a sports drink claims to have, it’s not better than water. An MMA fighter will drink at least 2 litres of water daily, often more depending on how often they are training.
While a cup of coffee in the morning can help you get the day started, avoid consuming too much, especially after lunchtime.
What Not To Eat
Professional MMA fighter’s follow the same rules as the rest of us when it comes to what they should avoid putting in their body.
Foods high in fat, salt, or sugar must be kept to a rare treat alongside highly processed foods.
Fast-food, fried food, cakes, sweets, and chocolate have no place in the day-to-day diet of an MMA fighter.
That gives you a good idea of what a typical professional MMA fighter’s diet might look like. Every athlete is different, but the focus is on consuming enough carbohydrates and protein to fuel your training and build muscle mass while maintaining low fat levels and avoiding sugar and salt.
While all that might sound like a lot of work, you’ll be surprised at the benefits. Even if you’re an MMA fighter, having enough energy to get through the day is always a good thing.
Give the MMA fighter’s diet a try and let us know what you think.