We all know that we should eat clean, healthy and stay hydrated, but on competition day when the chips are on the line, too many people fall apart on the nutrition side. We plan our takedowns, we plan our bottom guard combination attacks, but when it comes to competition day fueling, very few plan and execute properly.
Lets start with this statement that will most likely not be well received, weight cutting can and often does hinder performance and health. To dehydrate your body so that for one moment on the scale you are at a lower number makes no sense. Recent studies are now showing that after a weight cut, even if full poundage is put back on, the body is still in a dehydrated state in many of the athletes. We are seeing time and again professional MMA fighters paying the price with performance and health from their so called professionally monitored weight cuts. It is even causing them to be hospitalized and forced to withdraw from their big fights. Wrestling, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and MMA organizations all over the world have all started implementing non weight cutting programs because they are finding its not the best way to enhance your performance or health, so please, fight at the weight you train at. Royce and Rickson never worried about a weight difference of 5-10 lbs. when competing, neither should you.
That being said, hydration is key. Just about every chemical reaction and bodily function relies on proper hydration including our speed, strength, endurance and cognitive processing. Drink plenty of water. You can also drink a bit of coffee an hour or so before the matches begin. The coffee will not dehydrate you if its only a cup or two and the caffeine can give your body a small boost in energy. In between the matches you also need to stay hydrated and replenish your glycogen stores with a fast digesting liquid. Solids most likely will not digest in time and could hinder your match. This is when a natural sweetened ice tea or juice comes in handy. I do not advocate sports drinks that are filled to the cap with artificial chemicals and don’t even have electrolyte levels that match whole foods like fruit. Fueling and hydrating between matches will really make a difference 2 – 3 fights into a tournament. The competitors that fail to do this really start to fade.
When it comes to food, well nobody can argue that a good breakfast sets up your days performance. Some fruit for electrolytes, some whole grains and nuts for complex carbohydrates, fats and proteins that will fill the glycogen stores while giving a feeling of satiety and preventing a bit a muscle breakdown for the day. Play around with what works for you. Make sure you have at least 2-3 hours to digest before the competition. The closer to the match, the less fat and less calories your food can have, simply because it will take too long to digest. If your getting hungry and your only an hour or so out, fruit will give you the boost you need and be out of the digestive system fast. If you are going to have a substantial amount of lag time between matches you can also include an organic energy bar or a small acai bowl.
I have seen matches won and lost on competition day with nutrition being the differentiating factor. You work so hard for months or years for this moment, don’t let something in your full control hinder your performance. Plan, pack and practice the nutrition along with all those arm bars. Stay hydrated throughout the day with no weight cutting, keep the glycogen stores filled, they fuel the muscles, watch the digestion times by switching to liquids when there is little time left to digest and eat more solids when time allows. Keep the junk and chemicals to a minimum.
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