Much of the MMA training process is focused heavily on preparation. The rigorous training programs set out to prepare a fighter both physically and mentally for whatever comes their way on fight night. Few athletes, however, put as much thought into how to prepare their body after a fight for maximum healing recovery.
To keep your post-fight body healthy and strong, consider these nutrition tips in your recovery process.
A post-fight diet should aim to nourish a body that is likely damaged or wounded. It’s important to fill your plate with foods that provide the building blocks necessary to restore and support muscle growth. The first meal after a fight should include generous protein to replenish glycogen stores and prevent muscle damage or deterioration.
A good after-fight meal incorporates a healthy amount of protein and hydration, preferably within an hour after a fight. MMA fighters frequently turn to high impact whey protein powder to fulfill both needs with one solution. A balanced plate with protein-heavy foods will help your body rebuild glycogen and proteins in its enhanced, post-workout state.
Another key player in glycogen replenishment is carbs. Carbohydrates provide energy to push past tough opponents and rough rounds, so during a fight, their stores can become depleted. Post-match carbohydrate intake will not only restore your energy, but will also help to elevate insulin levels and transport amino acids into the cells of your muscles.
It’s important to rebuild the lean muscle tissue that was broken down during the match. High-glycemic carbs are ideal for a post-fight meal because of their enhanced effect on insulin levels. After a fight, try to consume carbohydrates like white rice, flour pastas and potatoes.
Though fighters are no longer concerned with making weight, jumping straight into food groups, portion sizes or nutritional profiles that you’ve avoided during training can make you feel ill. It’s okay to relax a bit after a tough fight, but try to take it easy when it comes to resting and recovering, without food choices that could shock your system.
Stick to familiar food groups you clung to during the training period. Meals after a fight can be slightly more or less than what was eaten during training, but any major departures in portion sizes could leave you feeling groggy, lethargic or irritable. It is likely that after recovery, you’ll jump right back into training for the next fight. Celebrate with a good meal, but don’t abandon your diet completely.
Fighters should eat as soon as they feel ready, but the first post-fight meal should be within six hours after a big fight. After an extended duration, the body’s nutritional stores could run low and start digesting muscle or organ tissue to maintain energy levels.
Include anti-inflammatory foods to further repair damaged muscle tissue and speed up healing. If you won’t be at the dinner table for a while, pack some quick nourishment before the fight. Many fighters turn to tart cherry juice before sitting down for a proper meal, as it has powerful anti-inflammatory properties.
Perhaps the most important tip is to stay hydrated. The human body needs water to function properly, and intense physical activity more quickly exhausts internal water supplies. One of the first things a fighter should reach for after a big fight is their water bottle.
Drinking water after intense physical exertion replaces fluids lost through sweat and cools your body from the inside out. Though some post-workout supplements include electrolytes and other additives, the best choice for a recovering body is pure, straight water. Water also flushes out toxins, reduces muscle soreness and assists in muscle recovery.
After a fight, it’s more important than ever to give your body the nourishment it needs to recover swiftly and properly. Combine the recovery tips above, and you’ll be back in the gym as soon as possible, training for the next big fight.
Mikkie is a freelance writer from Chicago. She is also a mother of two who loves sharing her ideas on interior design, budgeting hacks, and DIY. When she’s not writing, she’s chasing the little ones or rock climbing at the local climbing gym.