FOOD FACTS FOR MMA ATHLETETS

THIS article is about the kinds of food that you should, and shouldn’t, be eating. If you don’t have to cook for yourself – if, for example, you’re married and your partner cooks, you still live with your mum, or you’re a single soldier living in barracks – here is a guide to what sorts of food are good fitness fuel and what aren’t. And if you do cook, there is a complete set of fourteen days’ worth of easy recipes, together with two shopping lists and some suggestions on how to get on with the cooking.

A lot of people still feel that being able to cook properly is pretty wet, that it is a black art taught to little girls at their mother’s knee (or some other low joint) – what a load of old bollocks! There’s a saying in the army that ‘Any idiot can be uncomfortable’, meaning that if you aren’t prepared to look after yourself properly, then you have nobody to blame but yourself. Anyone with two brain cells to rub together can learn to cook some pretty good food – all you have to do is follow a recipe in a cookbook, use the correct ingredients and Bob’s your uncle! But the herehave been devised especially for people with just one brain cell sparking away on its own; they are all very healthy and they don’t take long to prepare – so give them a try.

This is not a calorie-controlled diet. There are only fourteen days’ worth of food here, and you may find yourself getting a little bored if you repeat the recipes week after week. The important thing is that you learn how to choose, prepare and eat the right sorts of food and stop eating the crap.

I have to admit that I didn’t devise any of the recipes myself. I like cooking and following recipes, but I’m not up to creating them. Instead, they were provided for me by

Caroline Mercer, a professional cook whom I’ve known for years. I asked her to come up with meals that are high in carbohydrates and fibre, low in fat, easy to cook, tasty and filling.

For each week there is a complete shopping list which covers everything on the diet for that week for one person; and when I say everything, I mean everything – like Old Mother Hubbard, I’m assuming that the cupboard is completely bare. Check the contents of your fridge and larder against the shopping list because you may well have a lot of the ingredients already. The shopping list is designed so that you will have to make only one visit to a reasonably sized supermarket each week.

There is a selection of breakfasts and lunches for you to choose from, together with instructions on how to make salads and prepare vegetables to go with the evening meals. The evening meals themselves are given after the shopping lists, and I have included an entire suggested menu for each week as a quick reference.

Finally, the equipment that you need is basic. You should easily be able to cook it all on a stove with a couple of rings, a grill and an oven. You will need a small selection of pots and pans, a sharp knife and a wooden spoon or two.

THIS IS A brief introduction to the different types of food that we eat and what their benefits are.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are the most efficient source of energy for people who take a lot of exercise and the food that you eat should contain lots of them.

Fats

Apart from being a source of energy, fat is required by the body for a number of tasks, including the production of tissue and as insulation against heat and cold. Unfortunately, our normal Western diet contains too much fat and it ends up in hideous, wobbling lumps in all the wrong places. Fat should form no more than is per cent of your total food consumption, so in the long run you’re better off avoiding foods which contain concealed fats such as:

We all know what we shouldn’t be eating. There is no harm in the occasional burger and fries, but if that’s all your diet consists of then you are going to turn into a real porker!

Protein

Proteins are the basic building materials for our bodies, but like fat they shouldn’t form more than is per cent of your diet. The reason for this is that excess proteins are either eliminated from the body as urine or they are stored as fat. Most diets which include the following will supply more than enough protein for the average person’s requirements:

Water

You should always ensure that you are drinking plenty of fluids, particularly if you are doing a fitness programme. Dehydration markedly reduces your ability to exercise and can be dangerous. The best way to gauge whether you are drinking enough water is by examining your urine. It should be clear and any discoloration could be a sign of dehydration.

BREAKFAST AND LUNCH

Breakfast

One bowl of high-fibre cereal with skimmed milk and a sugar

Choose from brands such as All-Bran, Bran Flakes or Shredded Wheat.

Plus

One slice of whole-wheat toast spread with Marmite or Vegemite or a low-sugar jam or marmalade. No butter or margarine to be used. Once a week you may have a small grilled breakfast consisting of:

GUARDHOUSE GRILL 3 rashers of grilled lean back bacon 2 grilled tomatoes

Grilled mushrooms

I boiled or poached egg

I piece of fruit

Lunch

Choose any of the lunches described below. You can also eat a piece of fruit or a diet yoghurt each lunch-time. Remember — no butter on your bread.

MIDDAY MUNCHES 1 I boiled egg with 2 slices of whole-wheat toast. 2 A whole-wheat sandwich made from 2 slices of bread with 2 slices of lean ham or beef, some lettuce and some low-calorie mayonnaise. 3 Tuna fish salad made with a small can of tuna in brine, drained, with a quarter of a cucumber sliced, 2 tomatoes, shredded lettuce and low-calorie mayonnaise. 4 A whole-wheat sandwich made with 2 slices of bread (dry), half a sliced chicken breast with the fat and skin removed, low-calorie mayonnaise, shredded lettuce and salt and pepper 5 Jacket potato with a) low-fat pineapple cottage cheese and a small salad, or b) I slice of chopped lean ham, I teaspoon of mustard, I teaspoon of low-calorie mayonnaise and a small salad, or c) low-fat grated cheese with a handful of chopped chives and a small salad. 6 6 Ryvitas or similar spread with low-calorie mayonnaise or oil-free dressing, and either 2 slices of lean meat with shredded lettuce and sliced tomato, or half a sliced chicken breast (the fat and skin removed) with shredded lettuce and sliced tomato. 7 1 piece of cold, cooked chicken (the fat and skin removed) with a mixed salad, 8 2 slices of dry whole-wheat toast with I small can of baked beans, warmed through. 9 2 slices of dry whole-wheat toast with I small can of tuna in brine, drained. 10 Mixed vegetable salad made with row broccoli, cauliflower, mixed peppers, cucumber tomato and mushrooms. Use oil-free dressing. 11 An omelette made with chopped vegetables and herbs, not cheese. Use 2 eggs. You should not eat this lunch more than once a week.

Steaming Any combination of vegetables will do, but vary the mixture so that you do not become bored. Peel and chop the vegetables as appropriate and place them in a sieve over a pan of boiling water, or in a steamer. Cover with a lid and boil until they are just tender but not soft. Keep an eye on the pan to ensure that it does not boil dry.

VEGETABLES

Cooking Methods

SPECIAL FOODS AND SUPPLEMENTS

This is not recommended, as Dioralyte is a medicine and should only be used under trained medical supervision.

In a lot of health food and specialist sports stores, you will see shelves weighed down with various types of food supplements, drinks and pills aimed at sportsmen and women, body-builders and so on. Most of these promise some vague improvement in performance to the person who is prepared to shell out the high prices that are demanded of them. With a few exceptions, these claims are bogus or nearly so, because you can obtain exactly the same benefits by eating foods containing the same substances at ,a much lower cost and with much better taste.

Food and fluid supplements are useful in certain circumstances, however, as follows: Fluid Replacement Drinks

There are an increasing number of special drinks on the market that are designed to help replace the water and minerals that you lose during exercise. Among the better known brands are Gatorade, Isostar, Lucozade Sport and Dexters. These taste pretty good and, if they do actually replace fluid more quickly than drinking straight water, may be of some benefit. Even so, they are expensive and the benefits are marginal — I only drink them because I like the taste! Some people drink Dioralyte, which is a preparation designed for patients suffering dehydration as a consequence of diarrhoea.

Even if supplements do work, they will only do so in conjunction with exercise. Many people have abused anabolic steroids in the mistaken belief that they will build muscles without effort, but this is not the case — and the same is true for ‘legal supplements. If food supplements work at all, it is simply by giving a slight edge over those who are training as hard but without the supplement

Vitamin Supplements

You can buy all kinds of vitamin supplements from pharmacies, health-food stores and supermarkets, but if you eat a properly balanced diet there is no need to. I would consider taking some multivitamin pills if I was going to be away from home for a while, and thus not sure whether I would be eating properly, but not otherwise. The quantities of vitamins that your body needs are fairly small and you will get all of them from the diet described here. Excess vitamins are, generally speaking, excreted in your urine — almost literally pouring your money down the drain!

Protein Supplements

You are not likely to require protein supplements for the same reason that you don’t need vitamin supplements — you will get more than enough from a healthy, balanced diet. Excess protein goes the same way that excess vitamins do — down the drain. It is possible that protein supplements help body-builders (though not as much as a couple of years in psychoanalysis would), but even they should be able to get all they need from protein-rich foods.

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