Nutrition for MMA Fighters


Your body is programed to become lean and muscular when you train hard.  So, why do so many fighters who train hard struggle to maintain that iconic, strong, shredded to the bone fighter physique?  Shouldn’t all fighters who work their ass off in the gym look like they are carved out of iron?

The answer to these questions, of course, boils down to proper nutrition.  Either you are eating the right way, like high-level professional athletes such as GSP, or you aren’t.  Since your nutrition dictates daily energy levels and overall body composition (your body fat levels and how much muscle you hold) more than exercise, it is the one of the most important aspects of your game you can improve.  A solid nutrition program is not something you find the average person practicing, therefore proper eating for mixed martial arts (and other combat sports) is something that needs to be learned, understood, and practiced to give athletes the true edge they need in order to excel in such a competitive sport.

The goal of any well designed nutrition program is to get you eating foods that are full of usable energy sources, vital nutrients, and muscle preserving proteins which keep your body a well-oiled, lean fighting machine.  A good nutrition plan will also minimize the amount of water weight needed to be cut in order to make a specific weight class, thereby also minimizing the performance-killing effects of a hard cut.  But making better choices doesn’t happen overnight, especially when you are used to eating foods that you know are less than healthy.

The right starting point isn’t a radical “diet” or “pill.”

You see, nutrition is much like martial arts.  Simple but effective habits are the difference between success and failure.  Do you keep your head up when you shoot for a takedown?  Do you keep your chin protected when you throw your combinations?  These habits are the building blocks that are ultimately the difference between success and failure in the long run.  Similar to the process of learning any martial art, developing and practicing successful nutrition habits requires the right guidance and the right starting point.

So, what is the right starting point?

For most fighters, post-workout nutrition is a great starting point.  Immediately following a workout, your muscles are in a state where they are ready to maximize nutrient uptake.  By supplying them with critical nutrients, such as amino acids and glucose, at the right time you will improve your ability to retain strength and re-charge for your next workout without putting on superfluous body fat.  You will also reduce your cravings for junk food by a thousand fold.  It’s a win-win situation.

After feeling the immediate benefits of tweaking post workout nutrition, many will be eager to add more performance and physique enhancing habits, such as:

-Eating a lean protein source with each meal

-Improving the quality and timing of carbohydrate sources

-Getting enough food in throughout the day to recover properly and elicit fat loss via thermogenesis

-Taking supplements like Omega-3 Fatty Acids and high quality multi-vitamins

And the list goes on.  But it’s all about the habits, not some unsustainable “overhaul” and certainly not some fad crash diet.  If you take your sport and training seriously, you already have developed some essential habits to succeed on the mats and in the arena.  Take it to the next level by working on your nutrition, one step at a time.

In Strength and Balance,


Danny Clark



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