Like most things in life, there is some heated debate about what is the best MMA Diet. Without a doubt the most trendy diet that most people associate with MMA is the Paleo diet and with little wonder- it is the diet plan that is most often advocated on the most popular blogs and websites. It seems like you can’t do a Google search for “MMA Diets” and not turn something up about Paleo!
The problem is that not everyone is comfortable with “going Paleo” and there are other choices. If you have tried Paleo in the past and did not have success, did not care for it or were confused, there are variations and diets out there that can just as easily be used to give you the best results from your hard work not matter what your goals currently are.
The Basic Caveman
The basic Paleo diet advocates eating plenty of vegetables, some fruits, lean protein and healthy fat sources. You will be forbidden the following: sugar, grains, processed foods, saturated fats and potatoes. Dairy is on the forbidden list for the basic Paleo diet plan. The macro split here is 30% protein, 40% carbohydrates and 30% fat. You will need to determine your calorie needs based on your current weight, your height, weight loss or fitness goals, activity level and gender. Be warned, the most nutritionists do not advocate caloric restriction so your daily calorie goals will fall on the lower side.
Your calorie goals will help to determine how much protein, etc. you are eating because each is a percentage of your overall daily intake. If it sounds confusing you are not alone. There are online calculators to help you figure your daily calorie needs and then to split it up accordingly.
The Primal Eating Plan
Another popular MMA Diet suggestion is the Primal eating plan. This one is virtually the same as the Paleo diet but includes some dairy products (butter, some yogurts and some cheeses) and may be easier for some people to ease into. The Primal plan is more than just a diet though and offers suggestions for other body needs such as walking barefoot, getting sunlight every day and adequate sleep.
The Zone Diet Plan
Some athletes swear by the Zone for their MMA Diet. They claim that it is an absolute answer to optimal nutrition and simplified weight loss goals. However, there is nothing simple about this plan- it is the most complex of all eating plans and requires constant vigilance, planning and the utmost of organizational skills. If you are lacking in organization, you are not going to do well with the Zone. All meals are eaten in “blocks” at specified times during the day so you will have to plan activities around your meals rather than the other way around. Some people can eat a full meal and go full out at the gym without a problem. Some people cannot. Everything must be meticulously measured before you eat it so every meal kind of resembles a science project rather than food.
The Vegan MMA Diet is not an Anomaly any Longer
There was a time, especially in the earliest days of MMA’s emerging popularity where you were Paleo or you pretended to be to fit in. Now there is a better understanding of nutrition in general and of the specifics of individuality among the crowd so that people who do not eat Paleo do not feel shunned or shamed. Vegetarian and vegan MMA Athletes are becoming more and more vocal as their numbers increase. For the most part, the vegan diet is similar to the Paleo plan minus the animal protein. Vegans get plenty of protein from plant sources but, during MMA’s intense workouts may need to supplement with a protein powder. Vegetarians can use whey protein which is derived from milk, however, the vegan will use other resources such as hemp protein powders or pea protein powders. If you are interested in vegan dieting for your MMA Diet you can ask for recommendations from other vegans in your gym- they can offer tips and personal preferences to get you started but you will also need to do a little trial and error on your own. Not everyone will enjoy the same benefits from every product.
Special Dietary Needs and the MMA Diet
People who are diabetic or have food sensitivities and allergies may need to adjust their diet when they start MMA. This is an intense and extreme workout type and will increase your caloric needs to some degree. You will find that you are hungrier after your workout. You may also need to increase your protein intake to prevent muscle damage. It is important that these people consult with their doctor about their health needs before starting MMA. It might be a good idea to speak with a dietician or nutritionist about what the best eating plan for your health might be. Never assume that because something sounds healthy or works for one person that it will be alright or effective for you, especially if you have a chronic condition.
No matter which plan you choose, you will want to stay within your family’s food budget. While the advocates all cry “organic or die” the reality is that organic foods are more expensive and may not be feasible for a family. You can eat clean foods without breaking the bank if you know some strategies.
- A farmer’s market can be a great place to get fresh veggies and fruits as well as some meats. In most cases the organic foods here will be cheaper than those at the grocery store. Look to the farmer’s market as a resource as well- if you talk to some of the vendors they can point you in the direction of the best deals for certain food products and may even offer discounts themselves. Closing time at the stands is also a good time to swoop in and get some good deals especially for the weary farmer who does not want to haul items back with him.
- Local health food stores are a good resource for staples and may also be a great resource for recipes and guidelines.
- Buying protein powder online can typically save both time and money. Be wary of buying huge amounts until you know that you will be able to use it. Some protein powders are difficult to digest and may be unpalatable to some people. Sample before you commit.
You can adapt virtually any recipe to any eating plan so there is no need for specialized recipe books. If you find a good deal (you can often download eBooks for free) and it will be helpful, go for it. Find what works for you and then stick with it.
In Part 2 I will go over what I feel is the best MMA Diet Plan and has worked for me as a 14 year martial artist.
P.S. If you need some MMA Diet advice or want to get into MMA and live in the Los Angeles or San Gabriel area please check out my Mixed Martial Arts School by Clicking Here or call (626) 282-2012. We have 2 locations in the Southern California area and I love helping people reach their goals! Feel free to stop on by and say hi! :)