Ever wonder how UFC fighters get and stay in optimal shape? Obviously, exercise and nutrition are the two biggest factors! Read below to see what type of training helps these fighters build endurance and muscle and what type of nutrition is necessary to achieve their performance goals.
UFC® Fighters Training & Diet Plan
Endurance is not built from a boring, constant-rate, long-distance session on the treadmill, bike or elliptical. In fact, a shorter, yet very intense, workout a couple of times a week has proven to provide the same if not better benefits.
You’ve probably heard of High-Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT for short. This type of training is fast-paced and combines short, explosive (near-maximum effort) bursts with slow recovery work or a short rest period in between. For example, you may sprint for 30 seconds and then walk/rest for 30-60 seconds.
This type of workout is convenient because it only lasts about 15-20 minutes. It’s no easy feat though! If you aren’t worn out by the end of your workout you probably didn’t push yourself hard enough. Your heart should get up to 70 to 90 percent of your maximum heart rate. You can and probably will expend more calories at the end of an HIIT session that you would from doing cardio at a constant rate for 45 minutes to an hour.
With HIIT, you also reap the benefits hours after you finish your workout as you continue to burn calories. Your body uses a lot of oxygen for this type of training, and because of this, it takes more energy and calories to fully recover from it. This excess post-exercise oxygen consumption burns additional calories up to 24 hours after your workout.
You know what else is nice about HIIT? There are so many different exercises you can combine to do your workout, and you can perform them at home, outdoors or in the gym. Exercises can include sprints, pedaling on the bike, fast spurts on the elliptical, jumping rope, burpees (everyone’s favorite, right?), jumps, MMA-style moves and more. Plus, there’s plenty of other equipment you can use to increase strength gains and build muscle. The options are endless.
Here’s an example of Donald Cerrone’s high-intensity blast: (via Ask Men)
Find a set of hills in your area (e.g. local park, near a mountain, beach or wooded area, etc.) If you’re at the gym, set the incline on a treadmill to an extreme peak.
-Warm up with a 10-minute jog on flat terrain.
-10 sprints uphill at maximum speed (30 seconds rest in between each sprint).
-20 sprints uphill at maximum speed (no rest, descend the hill immediately following sprint).
As you would expect, diet is extremely important when it comes to being a UFC fighter. You need to give your body what it needs to train and perform well. You could train for hours each day, but if your diet is poor you won’t achieve the results you want. This centers around forming good dietary habits.
If you are consistent with your workouts, you will need to increase your protein intake. Most UFC fighters eat a medium-high amount of protein in order to build and maintain muscle.
You also need to be very careful of the carbs you consume. Conor McGregor, for example, sticks to a very minimal carbohydrate diet.
“I don’t eat a lot of carbs - if I do it’s something like sweet potatoes,” he told AskMen.com. “I eat good meat - chicken, salmon, some steak - and a lot of quality greens and some fruits like bananas. I eat eggs - an omelet with my Americano for a late breakfast or brunch. Getting enough protein is important when I train, to help build muscle and recover, so I’ll supplement with protein shakes. I drink mostly water or coconut water. It’s important to stay hydrated - first thing I do in the morning is stretch and drink water.” (via Telegraph.Co)
You don’t necessarily have to stick to a lower-carb diet like McGregor does, but you do have to be mindful of what types of carbs you are putting in your body. Stay away from processed and refined carbs like white rice, bread, pasta, and cereal. Instead, choose complex carbs full of fiber and low in sugar such as vegetables, low-sugar fruit (i.e. strawberries, raspberries, etc.), whole grains and sweet potatoes.
In addition, make sure to get plenty of healthy fats! There is such a stigma around “fats,” but it’s also one of biggest nutrition lies we’ve been told. It’s certainly true that not all fats are created equal as there is more much health benefit to eating avocados than soybean oil. Some healthy fats you can add to your diet include eggs, full-fat dairy, dark chocolate (70% cacao or higher), MCT oil, walnuts, almonds, chia seeds, coconut oil, grass-fed butter, ghee, and avocados. Steer clear of partially hydrogenated oils and processed vegetable oils (soybean, canola, sunflower, etc.), and try to consume more Omega-3s than Omega-6s.
Most importantly, stay hydrated! Dehydration will slow down your performance and affect cognitive function.
Here’s an example of a typical training day for Cody Garbrandt:
“I usually wake up and have eggs, turkey bacon, some toast, and maybe throw some oatmeal in there. I’ll usually have coffee with MCT oil too and then I go off to the gym to get my first session in. After that first session I come home and usually within an hour window I’ll have something like salmon, tilapia, or chicken. Those six to eight ounces of protein. I’ll do a carb with some brown rice. Some zucchini. Broccoli, asparagus, all that stuff. And of course I’m drinking my water. Over a gallon of water a day. Then I’ll take a couple hours off, do my next training session, go to the chiropractor or whatever.” (via GQ).
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