Being an athlete takes a level of commitment and being an MMA fighter takes it to a whole new level. Not only do you need speed, power, strength, endurance, agility, coordination, and toughness, but you also have to lose weight at the same time. It’s a balancing act. Although I hate diets, there is a sense of achievement when you clean up your nutrition and can visibly see your body changing.
During fight camp, I typically track my macro nutrients and base what I eat on getting enough fat, protein, and carbs throughout my day. Leading up to the week before the fight, I’m aiming for 1600 calories a day, 160 grams of carbs, 120 grams of protein, and 53 grams of fat. Carbs are 40% of my diet, protein is 30% and fat is 30%. These are just estimates and I don’t obsess about hitting them exactly everyday. I typically don’t even count my macros everyday because I’ve done this long enough that I know what I need to eat without counting everything. If you’re going to track what you eat, I recommend using My Fitness Pal and manually setting up your calorie goals.
I’m the type of person that can eat almost the same thing every day and I’m okay with that. I try to mix it up for dinner since I cook for my whole family. Here’s the bottom line on my daily eating schedule:
Breakfast: I eat light for breakfast because I’m not super hungry in the morning and I know I like to eat more at night time.
Half a cup of steel cut oats. One teaspoon of honey. 1/2 cup of blueberries.
Sometimes, I’ll switch it up and make two eggs with avocado and a slice of whole wheat toast.
Two slices of whole wheat toast. Pack of spicy tuna. Half an avocado
OR spinach salad with chicken, feta, quinoa, carrots, celery, cabbage, and balsamic dressing
If I eat toast for breakfast, I’m not going to eat it for lunch.
Snack: Sometimes I’ll eat a snack before dinner or after depending on how hungry I am.
Smoothie Queen – Banana. 1/2 cup of plain Greek yogurt. 1 scoop of protein. 1/2 cup of almond milk. 2 tablespoons of peanut butter. Handful of spinach all blended together.
Dinner: This will vary day to day, but here are a few examples of things I would make. I aim to have a lean protein, a lot of veggies, and a small amount of complex carbs.
Turkey Chili – loaded with lean ground turkey and veggies. Watch the sodium, though.
Ground turkey with sweet potatoes, squash, and onions. Just add some spices like paprika and chili powder and you got yourself an easy, nutritious meal.
Grilled chicken taco salad – no tortilla. Replace the sour cream with plain greek yogurt. No cheese. Lots of veggies like peppers and onions. Add some beans and lettuce for a little extra filling.
Stir fry with sirloin steak tips – get creative with the veggies you use. Whatever sounds good to you. Can’t go wrong with some steak, am I right?
If I’m still hungry after dinner, I’ll have a protein shake or some rice cakes. This will keep me full and energized throughout my day. I also don’t have a set time when I eat. I eat when I feel like I’m ready and hungry. I don’t believe in starving myself and restricting myself from nutrients that I need. Never do I find myself incredibly hungry. Do I still have cravings for junk? Definitely. But this is temporary until the fight is over, then I can go back to eating intuitively.
The week leading up to the fight, my diet changes completely. I want to be around 108-110 pounds. I start water loading and cut starchy carbs and sodium completely out of my diet. I’m preparing my body for a water weight cut. Starchy carbs tend to make your body retain water more, which is not what you want when you’re trying to drain the excess water from your body. 4-6 days before I weigh in, I’m drinking 2 gallons of water a day with high protein, medium fat, and very low carbs. 3 days before I’m drinking 1.5 gallons and 2 days before I drop it down to 1 gallon. The day before the weigh ins, I’m drinking a half gallon of water and no water the day of weigh ins. The night before or day of weigh ins, depending on what time they are, I’m soaking in hot, Epsom salt baths to sweat out the excess 3-5 pounds of water weight.
I can eat or drink nothing until I weigh in. It’s miserable. There is no part of me that likes this process and I usually look and feel like a zombie the week of weigh ins. But as soon as I weigh in, I’m immediately re-hydrating with half Pedialite, half water. I eat a filling nutritious meal and already, I feel better. I have 24 hours to recover before the fight and I use that time wisely. I eat a lot, but I still choose foods that will give me long lasting energy and not make me sluggish. I can eat all the carbs I want!
This is not for the faint of heart and although I don’t like the whole weight cutting process, it’s part of the sport. It’s amazing how much your body can change when you are extremely strict and dedicated. I only follow this nutrition plan during fight camp and it lasts no more than 3 months. I do not recommend this to any of my clients. I work with my clients on getting rid of diets. My clients are not fighters or athletes and they have no reason to follow this sort of nutrition plan.
If you’re looking for a plan to follow to help you cut weight for a competition, I would recommend this if you are similar size to me and wanting to lose about 15 pounds in 2-3 months. Someone who is a male and is bigger will probably want to add in more calories and macro nutrients, but you can stick with 40% carbs, 30% protein, and 30% fat and see results. If you want more in depth help, check out my nutrition coaching page.