Mixed martial arts fighters are widely regarded as some of the fittest athletes in the world, and with good reason. Speed, agility, strength, and mental acuity are key to success in this demanding sport. While a solid fitness routine and lots of practice are unquestionably important, MMA fighters should never discount the importance of a healthy diet.
When thinking about a diet that is optimized for athletic performance, many people automatically focus on protein. While it is true that protein is an important nutritional building block, it’s not the only one. An often misunderstood but critically important nutritional component is carbohydrates. Understanding which carbs are healthy and where to get them is key to building a diet that fuels an MMA fighter from the inside out.
Not All Carbs Are Created Equal
There are basically two categories of carbohydrates, simple and complex. You need to know the difference in order to make smart choices to support athletic performance.
Simple carbohydrates are digested quickly, raising the body’s blood sugar level and then burning off abruptly. Some simple carbs are healthy, like fruits and vegetables, and should be included in a balanced diet. But others, like soft drinks and other processed foods containing added sugar, should be avoided.
Complex carbohydrates, on the other hand, are almost universally healthy. Because they take longer to digest and provide a steadier energy source, complex carbs provide a more stable energy source than simple carbohydrates.
Examples of excellent sources of complex carbohydrates for MMA fighters and other athletes include brown rice, sweet potatoes, and beets. In fact, just about any whole grain or unprocessed vegetable, fruit, or legume is a great choice.
Oats Have Boasting Rights
Incorporating oatmeal carbs into your diet is one of the smartest things you can do, since they are not only nutritious but filling and economical as well. From a bowl of hot oatmeal for breakfast to a delicious batch of oatmeal-raisin cookies for dessert, oats are a great addition to your healthy lifestyle.
Oats are high in fiber and are a good source of protein. Studies have shown they are especially beneficial in lowering blood sugar levels, reducing cholesterol, and promoting weight loss.
Keep in mind that some oat products marketed as healthy actually contain added sugar and other ingredients that can sabotage your fitness goals. Do your research and read labels carefully to ensure you’re feeding your body with the highest quality oats possible.
Long Live Legumes
If someone asked you to name a legume, could you do it? Many people don’t realize it, but legume is the correct term for black beans, peanuts, lentils, green peas, and thousands of other varieties of beans and peas.
Health benefits of legumes include the fact that they are low in fat and high in fiber and protein, all of which promote long-lasting energy. For some inspiration on incorporating these carbohydrate all-stars into your diet, check out these 13 nutrient-packed legume recipes.
Fresh Fruit is Fab
Many carb-conscious people are leery of eating fruit since it tends to contain a relatively high level of natural sugar. But fresh fruit eaten in its natural state is an excellent source of healthy carbohydrates. Oranges, apples, blueberries, and bananas are just a few of the wide variety of fruits loaded with vitamins and minerals, fiber, and antioxidants.
Just remember that once the fruit is transformed from its natural state into juice or jelly, it is no longer the healthy source of carbohydrates it once was. Consume fruit in its natural state, and you’ll reap its many benefits. By balancing fruit consumption with other components of your diet, you can keep its naturally-occurring sugar levels under control.
Eating right is a basic building block for overall health and vitality. Whether you’re an MMA athlete, a devoted fan, or just a health-conscious individual, fuel your body with healthy carbohydrates from the best sources. Then watch as your personal performance soars.
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