what do ufc fighters eat

What Do UFC Fighters Eat? [UFC Diets Explained]

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A very popular technique among UFC fighters is used when it comes to nutrition. The idea behind the mechanism is to achieve the lowest possible weight of an individual to enter a lower weight class.

This technique allows an advantage over opponents who are at the bottom of the weight class. The question of what do UFC fighters eat (especially before and after the weigh-ins) often arises.

The most important thing before a fight for UFC fighters is the intake of protein. As it grows, the intake of fats and carbohydrates gets lower. Foods like fish, poultry, red meat, and tofu are some of the safest choices. After the weigh-in, carbohydrates are here to provide as much energy as possible.

After weigh-in carbohydrates become a fighter’s best friend to provide the athlete with as much energy as possible.

In this article, I will talk about what UFC fighters exactly eat and drink before a fight and what they eat before and after the weigh-ins.

What Do UFC Fighters Eat Before a Fight?

Before the fight, it is necessary to consume food with as much protein as possible and reduce the intake of fats and carbohydrates to the minimum.

However, fats and carbohydrates should not be eliminated. To avoid exhaustion of the organism and other consequences harmful to the health, healthy levels of blood sugar are important.

After a successful weight cut, it is necessary to compensate for all the lost nutrients and get the body to its previous state. 

In the protein-based phase, red meat, fish, feta cheese and tofu are all viable options.

Vegetables such as leafy greens are also welcome, as well as beans, mushrooms, zucchini, or tomatoes.

This is a part of the plan for a diet that is high in protein and low in fats and carbohydrates and works best in the phase before weigh-in to ensure a quick weight loss.

When it comes to the energy needed for the fight itself, fighters should not neglect the main source of energy: carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates that are called slow-burning carbs, such as brown rice, pasta, or oatmeal are a great choice for the phase after weigh-in and contribute to healthy levels of zinc, B vitamins, and magnesium. Carbs are the quickest source of glucose, crucial for normal brain function.

However, fighters do not need an equal amount of carbs on days they train and rest days, so it is important to set limits.

The most important thing, however, is water. A necessary element in a person’s health, crucial when it comes to athletes.

In addition to nutrition, here is what exactly do UFC fighters fill their glass with during a meal.

What Do UFC Fighters Drink Before a Fight?

Since the body loses a lot of fluid in the weight loss phase, before weight-in, it is necessary to hydrate the body to avoid dehydration and other more serious conditions caused by reduction of fluid intake, taking laxatives and diuretics, sweating due to the use of sauna suits and hot baths.

Before the fight, it is recommended to consume at least half a liter of fluid per meal: natural water, sports drinks, and low-calorie drinks containing electrolytes.

Sports drinks such as Gatorade or Isostad contain a higher amount of carbonate and glucose, which restores energy.

Electrolytes such as sodium, calcium, magnesium, etc. are necessary for the functioning of the nervous system, muscles, the proper functioning of all cells in the body, and pH regulation.

Low-calorie drinks, due to the contained electrolytes, can help fighters more than natural water. The liquid should be taken immediately after weigh-in and then consumed in small sips between meals.

However, healthy sports drinks that contain electrolytes should not be confused with energy drinks.

Although their primary purpose is to quickly restore lost energy, long-term consumption can lead to serious health problems.

According to an article in the International Journal of Health Sciences, in the last 20 years, the consumption of energy drinks has increased among the younger population (including young athletes), specifically between 13 and 35 years of age. 2/3 of young athletes who consume energy drinks according to the article are men. [1]

These drinks act like an energy boost primarily due to the significant amount of caffeine and glucose that stimulate the body.

Due to the high percentage of caffeine, cardiovascular problems can occur in the form of arrhythmias, increased blood pressure, and even myocardial infarction.

Furthermore, anxiety, insomnia, indigestion, and headaches are associated with abuse of caffeine and other ingredients that these energy drinks contain.

Caffeine can cause loss of sodium in the urine, leading to kidney problems, and large amounts of sugar in these drinks increase the risk of obesity and diabetes.

Both conditions can cause life-threatening situations in the long run.

Despite its negative consequences, caffeine has been proven to better physical endurance when considering psychomotor performances in fighters who consume caffeine (energy drinks).

To ensure health and avoid potential harm to the body, energy drinks (if used) should be reduced to the minimum.

Instead, UFC fighters and other athletes usually opt for healthy versions that provide the body with lost electrolytes, or simply turn to good old natural water.

What Do UFC Fighters Eat Before a Weigh-In?

As I have mentioned, this is the protein phase. The goal of this phase is to lose weight quickly, but avoid potential damage to the body.

Lean proteins come into play, so fish and poultry are definite options. It is important to achieve a healthy intake of fibers from plant-based foods to ensure digestive health.

This natural “trick” can eliminate the abuse of laxatives which can lead to severe dehydration and feeling of the general weakness of the body.

Reducing fats and carbohydrates to the minimum is a sure way to reduce body weight, but a severe change in diets such as plant-based or a Mediterranean diet is a solution as well. 

It is also important to consider different ways to prepare foods to ensure the nutrients get to your body safely.

For example, steaming vegetables instead of frying them will provide a fighter with all the nutrients, and reduce the use of oils.

Another option is adopting Atkinson’s diet which is low in carbohydrates, forcing the body to burn fat through the process called ketosis. [2]

By reducing carbohydrates, glucose levels are also reduced which allows the person to lose weight fast.

However, since fruits are high in carbs, individuals using this diet may limit their intake and use supplements instead.

For fighters, fruits can assist in a healthy digestive system and allow them to lose weight and get rid of toxins in the most natural way.

It is crucial to stick to a diet plan which allows the athlete to bring their body back to its energized state in the period between weigh-in and the fight.

What Do UFC Fighters Eat After a Weigh-In?

After weight-in, it is necessary to recover the body and prepare it for the fight. Up to 36 hours can pass between weight-in and fighting, except in most amateur fights where weight-in is done the same day as the fight.

The diet strategy also depends on the duration of the fight. The calculation is simple – a longer fight requires more energy, meaning, food with higher nutritional value.

At this stage, the main source of energy is carbohydrates. Foods high in carbohydrates raise the level of glycogen in the muscles. Glycogen could be defined as a store of glucose that serves as a rapidly available source of energy.

In this case, UFC fighters reach for foods like cereals with a lot of sugar, white rice or pasta, and white bread. To have enough time to digest, such a meal should be eaten 3-4 hours before the fight.

In terms of quantity, according to some calculations, a pound of carbohydrates divided into several meals (i.e. 0.6 -0.8 ounces per pound of body weight) is enough for a fighter who weighs 130 pounds.

The exception is weight-in occurring on the same day as the fight, in which case the number of carbohydrates should be lower, approximately 0.03 ounces per pound of body weight.

What should be avoided is the intake of very fatty foods, which can cause abdominal pain, bloating, or cramps.

It is also not recommended to consume foods rich in fiber because they cause fluid loss and triggers intestinal activity.

Before deciding on food and drink consumption before a fight, fighters should check which food suits them personally, discuss their diet with a nutritionist or a doctor, and show the power of will.

Only then will they be able to give put in their maximum effort just when it is needed. After all, remaining healthy and strong is the goal, and results in competitions will only follow.

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