The build up to a MMA bout is serious business. Often 8 to 10 weeks are spent in strategic training camp. The workouts are rigorous and designed to help the athlete peak when it counts the most, on fight night. However, once the fight is over many athletes just want to relax, take some time off training, and not be so strict about their diet. It’s easy to understand, there is so much focus on weight and diet throughout the camp and right up to the moment of the fight. Most MMA fighters lose more weight in on day than most of us lose in a year! But there are many reasons not to ditch the diet after a MMA bout. Here’s why.
With the exception of an early 1st round knockout, MMA fighters take quite a beating. There are many strikes to the body and head. It is not unreasonable to think that most MMA fighters receive some sort of brain trauma after each bout. This is where a well formulated ketogenic diet (and fasting) comes in.
A Well formulated ketogenic diet is popular nowadays with MMA athletes to control weight. Many top MMA / UFC athletes like Connor McGregor, Miesha Tate, Brian Caraway, Kyle Kingsbury and Gray Maynard all follow to some extent, a well formulated ketogenic or strategic low carbohydrate way of nutrition. But a well formulated ketogenic diet actually does so much more than just help you lose weight. It is a great way to control inflammation, improve mitochondrial function, maintain weight, and can speed brain healing.
Both calorie restriction (fasting) and the ketogenic diet possess broad therapeutic potential in healing the brain after mild brain trauma. It is also useful in preventing brain or neurological disease. Following a ketogenic diet, there is notable improvement in brain health, mitochondrial function, a decrease in inflammatory mediators, a decrease in neuronal cell death, and an increase in the things that grow new brain cells called neurotrophic factors. Although it is not yet clear exactly why this happens, but it is pretty clear that it does. A properly designed ketogenic diet will cause the body to produce around 150 g of ketones per day.
The hard part is often staying on a ketogenic diet after such an intense training period. It is understandable that an athlete just wants to let loose after training so hard. And whether you win or lose, you need a mental break. I always advise athletes to stay on a ketogenic diet some weeks after their bout so that they can gain the maximum neural protection. Once the damage in the brain is done, it is nearly hard to reverse.
Even if you do not practice a ketogenic diet or intermittent fasting, it would be a good thing to do after a bout. Consider fasting 15 hours every day for 2 weeks after a fight. This could be done by stopping eating at night, then not eating a meal until about 11 o’clock. Or just eat big salads with plenty of fatty fish with high omega 3 content. Those are just some examples and there is much more.
Finally, there are many other things besides fasting and a ketogenic diet that help to speed brain recovery. Things such as optimization of circadian rhythms, adequate sunlight, intermittent fasting, hiking on rocks, walking barefoot, call thermogenesis, taking MCT oil, vitamins, minerals and much more are all integral in mitigating inflammation in the brain and body.
So the next time you think you should splurge after fighting in a MMA bout, consider continuing taking some steps to take care of your brain health.
To your health, Doc Edwards