A Fighter’s Diet

Written by Travis “the Gorilla” Thompson

(The good stuff, where you should spend most of your time at the store)

The two big questions many people have are:

  • “How do I lose weight?”

  • “How do I keep it off?”

Losing weight is the easy part. Keeping it off is more difficult.

Losing weight is roughly 70% diet and 30% exercise. There is a drastic difference between cutting weight for a fight and legitimately losing weight and how the two are approached. For now, we will focus on losing weight and will address cutting weight separately. A diet should not limit one’s intake so much as regulate what is taken in. First, let’s distinguish the difference between losing weight and cutting weight for a fight, so that any confusion is cleared up.

Cutting weight is not as simple as not eating or drinking for the week leading up to the event. Cutting weight is when a fighter loses anywhere from five to ten pounds in a 24 hour time frame. If at 24 hours prior to weigh-ins a fighter is not ten pounds or less over-weight, then he or she has failed to diet properly. Now that cutting weight has been distinguished, we can focus on diet.

To support this we must first look at what we are as humans and how we have evolved. Humans evolved on a diet consisting of fruits, vegetables and nuts. Think of your image of a cavemen and what they would be able to eat prior to learning how to control fire. Certain raw foods that we cannot consume today, like raw poultry, could not be safely consumed and digested by our great ancestors either. Some diets promote high intakes of protein, especially chicken. High protein intake is essential, but chicken is not the only source of protein. Nuts happen to be rich in protein as well. So what does this mean I should eat?

As stated earlier, fruits, vegetables and nuts should be the foundation of a solid diet. Focus on water based fruits such as oranges instead of starchy fruits like bananas. Vegetables can be consumed in large quantities making the consumer feel full while not taking in a large number of calories. Nuts are where things get confusing. Most people first think of the peanut, which is easy to understand as it has the keyword “nut” in it. However a peanut is not a nut. Peanuts are actually beans. While the peanut does boast various benefits, all of these benefits can be found in true nuts (cashews, Brazilian nuts, walnuts, almonds…etc.). I recommend you get your nutrient boost from nuts instead of peanuts.

What particular items should one not eat?

Going back to the caveman diet, which is largely considered a raw diet, products that must be processed before consumed should be ignored. This caveman style diet is so popular that it actually has a name, The Caveman Diet, or scientifically, it is referred to as a Paleolithic Diet or in short Paleo Diet/Challenge. The basic guideline is that if the product must be cooked in any way, it is not acceptable in this diet. This is the reason that beans are not included, nor is poultry. Even red meat should be avoided. Dairy products from cheese to milk should also be minimized if not avoided entirely. If you have paid attention, you do not find uncooked peanuts in grocery stores, nor do you eat beans raw which is why peanuts/beans are dismissed. You can further research this by “googling” the diets specified above in bold print.

Let’s recap the basic guide to this diet:

  • Fruits, vegetables and nuts are acceptable.
  • Foods that cannot be consumed in their raw form are unacceptable; this includes beans and even potatoes.
  • Do not add sodium to your meals. On this diet, most of your fruits and vegetables will not taste good by adding salt anyways.
  • Drink lots and lots of water. Someone doing an average amount of daily exercise should consume between ¾ a gallon and 1 gallon of water a day. Those doing lots of exercise should be taking in upwards of 1½ gallons of water.

Taking a trip to a Subway restaurant can help to illustrate what a meal should consist of. Order a salad with all the vegetables but no dressing or croutons and swap out the lettuce for spinach (only because spinach is healthier, nothing against lettuce). A single subway salad for me could be divided into three of my meals for the day, as I also eat a piece or two of fruit with each meal. Nuts are generally snack food. You should grab a handful and walk away from the jar. Through a test in Europe, ten individuals were placed on this diet; the subjects were considered average weight people who did not exercise regularly. The subjects ate upwards of 11 pounds of fruits, vegetables and nuts a day to achieve the calories they needed to function. After ten days the average weight lost was ten pounds. Simple math shows that eating 11 pounds of food a day, the individuals lost about a pound a day. Adjust to see what works for you to reach your goals within your time frame.

Everyone has heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It most certainly is.

The meal can be anything from a bowl of cereal to a glass of cold water. Putting something into your stomach to start your metabolism for the day is what’s important. Essentially, you want to stop your body from fasting which it has done overnight. That’s why we eat breakfast not breakfest.

I personally aim for 4 meals a day:

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Mid-Afternoon
  • Evening

The idea is to each every 3-4 hours to prevent hunger. When your body begins to starve is when people indulge and eat too much. I’ve heard the saying and do believe that, “Your mind is five minutes behind your stomach.” This means that it takes roughly five minutes for your brain to realize your stomach is full. This is why it is suggested to eat slowly, so that you do not eat too much. If I am between meals and hungry, a trick I have found is to pour a large glass of water and quickly drink it. Your stomach will feel full and it does not know what has been consumed until it has been broken down, which takes time. In other words, immediately after consumption, your body does not know if it has consumed water or food.

Here is the breakdown of the “paleo diet”

  • Breakfast: Start the day with citrus based fruits. This will help “wake” you up as the fruits natural sugars will get your body moving.
  • Meals 2-4: Plate loaded with salad and more fruit.
  • 1-2 gallons of water a day.
  • Spaced out handfuls of nuts to prevent hunger.
  • Do not eat anything within two hours of bed.

For a lot of people, a gallon of water a day seems like a lot. I carry around a gallon jug everywhere I go so that I can see my progress. Other people have different methods and here is a good way to keep hydrated if carrying a jug of water is not practical for your daily routine.

A gallon of water is 128 ounces, or 16 eight ounce glasses of water.

If you are reading this diet it is because you exercise so here is a good method to consume more water. Every hour on the hour, fill an 8oz. cup of water to sip on for that hour. Eight ounces is not much, after an eight hour work day you have consumed half a gallon. The other half gallon is going to be easily consumed during and after your exercise. You should always bring your own water to the gym.

Compared to any other diet, this one does lack certain products. As stated above, there are advantages to consuming meat and other processed goods. The diet I have described is the one I follow precisely starting two weeks out from a fight. On the diet, I will go from “walking around at” 185 pounds down to 175. I am eating huge portions at each sitting because in that time period, I am exercising two or even three times a day and desperately need the calories. The diet is for the most part, empty calories. When I am not cutting weight for a fight, my diet will include some processed items such as cereals and chicken. Even when I am not dieting, I tend to stay away from red meat as the body has a harder time breaking it down and I just do not like it as much as fish and poultry. If you do not need to make weight for a tournament but for personal reasons then including these items that I previously ignored is not bad. I consider myself to be a walking specimen of diets and workouts. I try everything and find what personally works best for me and the paleo diet is what I have found to work most efficiently. There are statics that also show consuming 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight a day helps lose weight. I do consume protein shakes, usually one immediately after anaerobic exercise and a second one later in the day. As the days get closer to my fight, I have to stop taking my supplements to lose that extra pound or two, protein shakes included.

The last thing to be discussed is supplements.

I consume a lot of supplements to make sure my body is full of nutrients. For protein, you want a product that consists of different types of protein. I take a triple whey that is 26 grams per shake. Other products boast up to 50 grams per shake, however the body can only absorb 25-30 grams in a given period of time. The rest goes to waste. There are several needed supplements and using a multi-vitamin/mineral is essential. As with protein, your body can only absorb a certain amount of nutrients in a period of time. If in pill form, I split the pill in two and take one half in the morning and the other in the afternoon. If the product is a powder, only use ½ the recommended dosage, but consume it twice a day. Here is my disclaimer on splitting pills as many people think it should not be done. What I have been told comes from a credible source but if you find or believe it is incorrect, do not split your pills. Take one in the morning and the other later. To my knowledge, and again, I am not a doctor, pills can be split and/or crushed so long as they are not a time released product. In other words, you do not want to crush a pain reliever that is made to release over a six hour time period. I also consume ½ the recommended daily dosage of a fruit supplement and a vegetable supplement. The reason I do this is even though the paleo diet is fruit and vegetable rich, not all fruits and vegetables contain every nutrient. This way my body at least gets a little bit of everything. Another one I take is Spirulina, which is an algae, which I believe is only found in Thailand. Spirulina is considered a “super-food” in that it is basically a high-powered vegetable, comparable to the wheat grass shots we have all seen at “Juice It Up”. The fruit rival to this is the açaí (ah-sigh-ee) berry from Brazil that is becoming the new trend. The last of my supplements is a pre-workout drink. I have tried different ones but at the moment I am taking Body Storm. I like the benefits of this but it is important to cycle pre-workout drinks. If you constantly take the same product your body will build a high tolerance level to the product and you will not get the “pump” intended. The product comes in a month’s supply and cycling should be a monthly routine. The following month, find a product that does not have caffeine in it. It is simpler to leave it to the professionals. So, when you go to your supplement shop, ask the salesman what he recommends using for pre-workout and what he recommends to cycle it with. As with protein shakes, I stop consuming my pre-workout drinks a few days before weighing in as the creatine in them forces the body to retain water.

The basic principle of all of this is to consume more natural foods.

The diet does not need to be extremely strict unless you are aiming for certain goals. Consuming processed products and meats is not wrong as they have their own health benefits. Rather than eating at a fast food place, however, I suggest you start bringing a handful of fruits and vegetables to work for lunch. You will quickly become used to it. I know that once I stop eating junk (I typically find it takes a week) my body almost refuses it. After two weeks of very strict dieting, the last thing I want is a big unhealthy meal. My body would rather indulge in large quantities of fruit. Again, this is my “fighting diet” (the one I follow the weeks prior to a fight). Although I do not live by these strict dietary guidelines all the time, the goal remains to return to a more natural, raw diet.

I hope this information is beneficial to you and will help you to reach your health and fitness goals!