Nutrition Focus: Intermittent Fasting For MMA

Nutrition Focus: Intermittent Fasting For MMA

Intermittent fasting is a popular topic in nutrition circles, and Mike Leng explores the option for fighters.

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Intermittent Fasting for MMA by Unorthodox Nutrition
Intermittent Fasting for MMA by Unorthodox Nutrition

So you love MMA. You train 3-6 times a week, you keep an eye on your rest and recovery and you know that good nutrition is the key to maximising all of these (yes, nutrition even affects sleep people). Because of this you keep an eye out for what is happening in the world of nutrition as you want the best possible information about how to be stronger, faster and leaner.

However, herein lies the problem. 99% of the nutritional information out there is for either people wanting to lose a couple of pounds or for bodybuilders, not MMA fighters. This doesn’t mean that all of this information is useless though, sometimes all it needs is a slight twist or adjustment to make it beneficial to a combat sports athlete.

One of the things that keeps cropping up in the nutrition world at the moment is intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting is where an individual spends 24 hours not taking in any solid food, just a small amount of supplements to preserve muscle mass, or a portion of the day not eating anything then a few hours of providing nutrition for their bodies.

For the purpose of this article we will look at the latter with the goal of dieting/dropping some fat. The same principles apply for maintaining or gaining muscle, simply increase the macronutrients to suit your individual needs (I recommend starting with protein and good fats before carbs to help aid body composition).

Both can have very positive results depending on your goals (dieting, gaining strength etc). The problem with applying this to MMA is that combat athletes need certain nutrients (carbs, proteins, fats) at certain times to train optimally. So how can we get the benefits of intermittent fasting (IF) but fuel our training sessions so we don’t gas out and get punched repeatedly in the face? Here’s where a slight change becomes a good idea!

A regular day of IF would look like this:

• Stop eating the following night at 9pm
• The following morning (8am) take 1 litre of water with 60g hydronised whey and 10g BCAA (branch chained amino acids, I recommend the powder over the pills for ease).
• Take the same mixture again at 11am.
• Eat between 1pm – 9pm. This leaves you 8 hours to get your nutrition in for the day.

On paper this looks good. Your muscle is preserved by two servings of very fast acting, pulsed protein and BCAAs, and you have a solid 16 hours of fat burning. The problem comes when we throw training into the mix. While you can train in this depleted state, it won’t do you much good if you are working on fight fitness or long drilling sessions for a game plan. So what changes can we make so that we get the most from our training sessions, but also the fat burning window that IF provides?

What we need to look at is how to fuel your training session so that you get the maximum amount of potential from it but still keep your body dropping fat.

Ok, here I’m going to make an assumption that you are either training once a day or, if you are training twice a day, one session is a lot less intense than the other i.e. cardio in the AM and strength/combat training in the PM. If you are doing two heavy sessions a day then your rest and recovery plan better be beyond awesome (if it is and works, please send me a copy of your programme, I would love to see it).

In light of this I’m going to give you two outlines for ways that you can work IF into your nutritional strategy. As with any nutritional plan, I suggest you give it a go, monitor your results and adjust as necessary. If you are unclear on this please consult with your coach or nutritional coach (or drop me an email at mike.unorthodox@gmail.com).

Ok so this is what IF would look like if you trained in the PM (as most classes happen then):

• Stop eating the following night at 11pm.
• The following morning (10am) take 1 litre of water with 60g hydronised whey and 10g BCAA.
• Take the same mixture again at 1pm.
• Eat a small meal of protein and carbs at 3pm.
• Half an hour before training take a shake of 30g whey protein, 30-60g (depending on body weight/composition) waxy maize (or dextrose) and a fibre supplement.
• TRAIN.
• Take a shake of 30g whey protein, 30g waxy maize (or dextrose) straight after training.
• Eat till 11pm. Only take in carbs in the first hour of eating, then good fats. After that focus on lean protein. Again, make sure you are getting in the right amount of protein and fats in this time (if unsure, consult your coach etc).

This still gives you a good window of fat burning, fuel for your training then a chance to get your nutrition in and fill up your energy stores. Another way to do it is if you train twice a day (again I’m going to assume that your harder training session is in the PM). So here is what twice a day training would look like;

• Stop eating the following night at 11pm.
• Before your morning training session take 30g hydronised whey with 5g BCAA.
• TRAIN.
• 10am take 1 litre of water with 30g hydronised whey and 5g BCAA.
• Take the same mixture again at 1pm.
• Eat a small meal of protein and carbs at 3pm.
• Half an hour before training take a shake of 30g whey protein, 30-60g (depending on body weight/composition) waxy maize (or dextrose) and a fibre supplement.
• TRAIN.
• Take a shake of 30g whey protein, 30g waxy maize (or dextrose) straight after training.
• Eat till 11pm. Only take in carbs in the first hour of eating, then good fats. After that focus on lean protein.

This is a brief overview on how you can adapt IF to work with your current training schedule. As always, everyone is different and adjustments should be made depending on the results achieved. If anyone has any questions or comments then I would love to hear them. Please email mike.unorthodox@gmail.com with any you may have.

Keep training smart,

Mike Leng

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