You are what you eat. We’ve all heard that expression. Perhaps no one knows both the value and the accuracy of this statement better than elite athletes. Especially elite athletes who need to make a specific weight in order to be eligible for competition.
Among this group are UFC competitors and the argument could be put forth that when you combine the cutting weight aspect of mixed martial arts, along with the grueling punishment they must absorb inside the octagon, perhaps there is no sport where nutrition is as vital to success as it is for these athletes.
Fighters face fines when they don’t make weight for a UFC bout, so not only is improper nutrition harmful to their chances of success when they are in competition, it can also lighten their wallets significantly. Between 2015-17, 55 UFC fighters failed to make weight, so even at the elite level of sport, there are still those who don’t place enough emphasis on the nutritional aspect of their training regimen, to their own personal detriment.
The UFC Diet
Most of the top competitors in UFC, those holding or contending for world title belts, wisely employ a nutritionist as part of their team. The diet plan they draw up will often depend upon the tastes of the individual fighter but all tend to be founded in similar principles.
The meals they consume will contain the proper balance of carbs, fats and proteins, as well as a healthy supply of all the minerals and vitamins that a body requires to perform at its maximum level of fitness. Again, these meal plans will be built around the preferences and peccadillos of the individual fighter.
How They Carb Up
Past world champions like Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor preferred to get their carbs through a variety of bread, potatoes and rice. Legendary UFC competitor Anderson Silva, who fought well into his 40s, insisted that he avoided carbs – especially the so-called bad carbs – as he got older, because he found them to be a detriment to making weight.
“I don’t eat sugar, I cut bad carbs, salt, alcohol and I try to drink more water these days than I did then,” Silva told GQ. Regular intake of fluids is absolutely essential to maintaining an ideal level of nutrition. “It helps my body absorb the nutrients,” Silva explained. “If I don’t stay hydrated, it won’t matter what I eat.”
The Khabib Plan
On the other hand, UFC lightweight world champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, who recently announced his retirement from the sport, preferred to consume a carb-rich diet. He felt the added carbs enabled him to maintain a high level of energy for all five rounds of a fight.
Nurmagomedov, considered perhaps the greatest pound-for-pound fighter in the history of the promotion, preferred fruits such as bananas and blueberries. He gets his protein from lean meats, yogurt and nuts. Nurmagomedov believes that the cutting of sodium, processed foods and synthetic sugars is the basis of a healthy eating plan.
“You can’t out train a bad diet… period,” one of Nurmagomedov’s coaches told rdxsports.com. “Axing processed foods, synthetic sugars, and sodium is common sense. “Calories are also considered. If you’re eating more calories than you’re burning, you’re bulking up and you’re not going to make weight.”
Nurmagomedov takes part in that process that all those on diets dread. He keeps tabulations on every calorie he intakes and balances that with the exact amount of calories he burns.
Varieties Of Protein
Protein choices offer a wider array of options. Most tend to go with lean meats such as chicken and fish. Some will have a preference for red meat, while others are partial to dairy products. McGregor, for example, is known to drink a mid-day glass of milk as part of his training regimen.
When he was competing, Georges St-Pierre opted to get his protein from a concoction made of almond milk, a mix of berries and protein powder.
A variety of fruits and vegetables, rich in vitamins and minerals, are essential components of any athlete’s diet plan.Greens offer antioxidants and are beneficial to the immune system. Fruit provides necessary fiber. Nuts are a healthy alternative to deliver much-needed fats to the diet.
Nate Diaz, another prominent UFC fighter, is a pescatarian. He abstains from all animal products except for seafood. His nutrition comes almost entirely from a vegetarian diet. Light-heavyweight Jon Jones is another who eschews animal products. He’s switched to a diet that is 90 percent plant-based.