Written by James Cooper
Last Updated

MMA fighters are disciplined to maintain a fit physique. Training sessions alone won’t build the body that they need for fighting. That’s why an MMA fighter must have a proper diet plan.

Why Diet is Important

An athlete’s diet plan consists of different foods and supplements. The composition of an MMA fighter’s food intake, the meal frequency, and the number of calories is essential in making a meal plan.

Dieting is just as important as your training session. Your body as an MMA fighter needs certain types and amounts of food to fully benefit your body. Here are the things to consider when choosing food for your MMA diet plan.

Source of Energy

In a vigorous sport such as MMA, you need to eat the right nutrients to maintain your energy while using your muscles and other tissues during training sessions and actual fights. Carbohydrates are one of the best sources of fuel for your body. It can be tricky, though, as not all types of carbohydrates are good for your diet plan.

Growth and Repair of Tissue

In combat sports, damaging tissue is inevitable. Protein intake is essential for the growth and repair of tissue. Amino acids are building blocks of protein that help develop and repair body tissues. Including whey protein, protein powders, and protein bars in your MMA diet would be beneficial.

Anti Inflammatory Properties

MMA fighters are susceptible to injuries and inflammation during fights and training sessions. Including food with anti-inflammatory properties will help your recovery and overall health condition.


Understanding Calories/Caloric Intake

The MMA fighters’ caloric intake varies on the fighter’s requirement. Factors can include the training intensity, weight target, etc. However, eating anything just to fill the required calories is not recommended.

An MMA diet should include foods with high nutritional value to complete the calories you need. On average, athletes usually take 3000 to 3500 calories a day.

An MMA fighter can burn as much as 2000 calories in an hour of intense training. Therefore, it is really important to know how many calories you burn to compensate for the amount you have to take to provide you with the energy you need.

The calories you need don’t necessarily come from food. During the last week before a fight, you can take protein powder and energy bars for weight cutting.


Types of Diets

Understanding diets and their benefits in building an MMA fighter’s body will allow you to create a suitable diet plan for you.

Here are some types of diets MMA fighters do.

Paleo Diet


As mentioned earlier, eating any type of food is not recommended just to attain calories. The modified Paleo diet is one of the most suitable diets for MMA fighters as it consists of healthy food selections.

The Paleo diet includes animal protein except for processed foods, healthy fats, fruits, vegetables, eggs, nuts, seeds, natural sweeteners, and fermented food. However, there is a high absence of carbs in this diet that can be an energy source, which an MMA fighter needs.

Yes, fats help with the fighter’s endurance, but it’s not enough to provide you with the explosiveness you need for training and fighting.

To accommodate the need for energy in your intense training, you have to add carbs to the paleo diet, as the carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables won’t suffice.

It is recommended to eat carbohydrates two hours before the workout and after. But it should be limited to the recommended amount of 225 to 325 grams per day. Aside from the amount, you should also be careful of what kind of carbs you are eating.

Here are some grains you can eat:

  • 23 grams of brown rice
  • 21.3 grams of quinoa
  • 31 grams of macaroni
  • 29 grams of white rice
  • 25 grams of egg noodles
  • 25 grams of rice noodles
  • 30 grams of spaghetti

Keto Diet


The Keto diet is prominent for its weight loss results. Like the paleo diet, keto has a high absence of carbs in the meal plan. This diet presents disadvantages for an MMA fighter with a high demand for energy consumption during intense training and combat.

But that doesn’t mean that Keto has no benefits for MMA fighters. Keto may not be beneficial for excellent athletic performance, but it’s an excellent diet for your weight cut.


The Best Type of Diet for You

There are several factors to consider in choosing the best diet for you when you’re training and preparing for a fight. But the general rule is to keep a healthy and balanced diet. Understanding the number of macronutrients you need should guide you in creating a proper diet plan.


Protein is one of the essential macronutrients that MMA fighters should include in their diet. Burning body fat and building lean muscle mass are benefits of eating protein correctly. Protein can come from various sources.

There are plant-based proteins and animal-based proteins. You must choose high-quality protein-rich foods to get the right nutrients your body needs for muscle building and recovery.

Protein Intake

Ideally, an athlete engaged in MMA fighting should eat protein three to four times daily. The amount of protein will vary on your weight or the weight you want to achieve. Measuring how much protein you eat will result in the best result. Eating 1 gram to 1.5 grams per pound of your body weight.



The fuel that feeds your body during an intense workout comes from carbohydrates. But you just can’t take any carbs to your liking as they can affect your physique when not properly taken. Before stuffing yourself with calories from carbs to keep you going, you need to distinguish which type is right for you as an MMA fighter.

Good Carbs

Good carbs are healthy carbs that can be sourced from plants. Whole foods like sweet potatoes, grains, and some fruits.

Bad Carbs

From the word itself, “bad,” these are the carbs athletes need to avoid eating. Any processed food with added sugar has low nutritional values and will make you gain fat.

Carbohydrates Intake

The key to including carbs in your meal plan is timing and amount. There is no one-size-fits-all diet when it comes to MMA fighters. It will all depend on your weight, build, and training intensity. Again, the general rule is to keep a balanced diet.

On physically demanding training days, it requires a high-carb diet. On other days you can minimize the consumption of carbs from low to moderate. You can divide your eating into small meals but frequent to 5 to 7 meals per day.



Healthy fat sources provide the fighters with enough calories they need without compromising their health and weight gain. These healthy fats can be found in fish oil, olive oil, eggs, avocados, and nuts.

Consuming good fat is beneficial in reducing inflammation and promoting endurance.

Fat Intake

Consuming food with fat is not as much as carbohydrates and protein. When you’re training for MMA, the fat in your meal plan should only account for about 15% to 20% of your diet – lesser during the weight cut.


List of Best Food to Eat for MMA Fighters

Training for MMA requires discipline, including maintaining an athlete’s body through a proper diet plan and exercise. When you figure out the macronutrient breakdown suitable for your nutritional goals as a fighter, it’s time to pick the best food to fill the macronutrients you require.

Good Carbs for Energy

As discussed earlier, high-quality carbohydrates from whole foods are the way to go. Here is the list of carbs you can include in your MMA diet:

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Buckwheat
  • Whole grains

Protein Choices

Consuming protein helps in building muscle mass, repair, and recovery. Here are some protein-rich foods you can consume:

  • Fish
  • Poultry
  • Red meat
  • Lean meat
  • Whey protein

Essential Fats

Aside from reducing inflammation, fat is also used as fuel for your body. Here are some healthy fat sources:

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Fish oil
  • Nuts
  • Avocados
  • Eggs
  • Food rich in omega-3



Vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Having greens on your diet has many benefits for keeping good gut health and recovery. Some vegetables also have anti-inflammatory properties. Here are some vegetables that make up a good diet plan:

  • Ginger
  • Turmeric
  • Garlic
  • Red cabbage
  • Brocolli


It only makes sense to keep yourself hydrated whether you’re training or not. Aside from hydration, liquid forms of supplements are also beneficial for MMA training.

  • Drinking water
  • Electrolyte drinks
  • Beetroot juice
  • Protein shakes


MMA Diet on a Budget

Training and diet for MMA can be costly. If you’re looking for an economical approach to your diet, here are some affordable food choices without compromising the result of your diet.

  • Fruits – Fruits like bananas, grapes, apples, and oranges can be easily purchased and are a good energy source for training.
  • Oatmeal – Oatmeal is a slow carb that provides consistent energy.
  • Whole Wheat Bread – This food product is high in nutritional value, such as vitamins, minerals, fibers, and carbs.
  • Rice Bran – Rice bran produces glucose – a type of sugar that can boost your energy.
  • Chicken Breasts – Besides being protein-rich, chicken contains niacin, B vitamins, and B6, beneficial for muscle gain.
  • Eggs – Eggs can be a source of both protein and fats.
  • Plain Greek Yogurt – Yogurt is one of the best sources of probiotics good for your gut health. It is also high in protein.

Pre and Post Workout Nutrition

What you eat before and after a workout is crucial. Before you partake in vigorous training, your body should have the proper fuel to bring explosiveness to your punches and kicks. Eating the right type and the proper amount of food will provide you with an energy boost during training.

And after a draining workout, your body should be able to recover with the help of post-training supplements and some food.


Eating at the right time is important for MMA fighters to efficiently and strategically use their energy in the training sessions. Because MMA meals are well-distributed within the day, you can eat small amounts of food 2 to 3 hours before your scheduled workout up to less than an hour. But, you must be cautious about the amount and type of food you will eat.

It is recommended to eat your meal between 2 to 3 hours before the training. The amount you can eat is between 800 to 1000 calories. It should consist of 20 to 30% protein, 60 to 70% complex carbs, and roughly 10% fat.

If you eat closer to your scheduled workout, you should lessen the number of calories you eat and eat something that can be easily digested to prevent bloating and stomach pain. You can also drink whey protein smoothies with mixed fruits pre-workout.

Food for Recovery

Consuming protein, carbohydrates, and fats are also known to help with recovery. Here are some food options beneficial for post-workout:

  • Water – Replenish the loss of fluid in your body after an intense workout with water.
  • Eggs – This high-protein food also has essential nutrients to help nourish and repair tissue after a workout.
  • Avocado – Rich in monosaturated fats that are beneficial for repairing muscles and joints.
  • Greek Yogurt – This probiotic-rich food can also help fight muscle inflammation.

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