Eating and Hydrating for Combat Sport Athletes Part 1

Posted: Wednesday, 23 May 2012 by Strength&Nutrition24/7 in Labels: ,

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Combat sports in recent years have exploded with the start of the UFC TV series. MMA has become the world’s fastest growing sport. With so many people having the dream of being the next great MMA fighter, boxer, kick boxer, etc. We need to start with having proper nutrition and hydration.

Nutrition for combat fighters is unique. In order, to bring your performance to the next level, we need to work on creating a nutrition plan that enhances skeletal muscle skeletal recovery from the high intensity training associated with your sport. In order to deal with this intensity, we need to provide your body with adequate energy and protein consumption.

In order for competitive athletes to maintain a high level of training and perform optimally during their training and competition, they will require an energy intake that matches their energy expenditure. The amount of energy required is significantly higher than the energy needed by the average sedentary population. Assuming the combat sport athlete goes beyond just doing the skill training and does the resistance training and the cardio training necessary to succeed in their sports, it has been that the energy intake requires 3 to 4 fold higher than that recommended for the average person.

As you are familiar with the standard recommendation of a balance 55-60% carbohydrates, 30% fat, and 10-15% protein, this may be appropriate for the average population (debatable). However, for most athletes, this is not sufficient for meeting the nutritional needs. The protein and carbohydrate intake will need to be altered.

The most common thing you will see involved with combat sports is serious dehydration before weigh in. I know from personal experience, coming to weigh in with a four liter jug of water, stepping on the scale making weight and downing that water instantly. If I had none, the effect this has on my performance then as I do now, I would have done as much as possible to avoid this scenario. This habit of mass dehydration can have brutal consequences on the athlete’s health and performance. To put into perspective, the body is capable of withstanding a 40% loss in body mass due to starvation, a 9-12% loss of body fluid can lead to death. With most people, performing this method of weight loss being amateurs without medical supervision, they place themselves at great risk. They are clearly not taking the proper precautions and an understanding of the physiological adjustments that are involved with the nutritional intake and or rehydration strategies is not observed, undesirable outcomes may occur. To further emphasize the importance of proper rehydration is that if you are simply 2% dehydrated, a significant decrease in your performance will occur.

The purpose of this series is to address the nutritional and hydration strategies necessary to be successful in combat sports. We will look at how these strategies are specifically related to combat sport and the relation it plays to the training and competition.


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