Fighters Guide to Performance Training & Nutrition

Fighters Guide to Performance Training

My favorite quote from Dana white is “So you want to be a fighter?”.  That is the question I will present to you as well.  If that is the case then continue reading this article but if you just want to train and look like a fighter then our Fighters Guide to Looking Like a Fighter is a good read for you. 

Anyways, we will be looking at how to train, eat and live to optimize performance specifically for MMA.  Don’t you worry Boxers we have a Fighters Guide to Performance Training For Boxing as well.  The goal of our Fighters Guide of this particular guide will be to again optimize performance, but also educate you on why we are doing exactly what we are doing.  How will these tactics benefit you as a fighter, optimize performance and also lengthen your career so you can continue to fight when others are physically breaking down.

We 100% Believe the Motto Train Smarter, and Harder.  Obviously a little twist on the Train Smarter, Not Harder approach.  For Fighters we need to train smarter and harder than other athletes because of what our sport entails.  Understanding when to pull back in training, and when to pick it up so you can peak for fight night is crucial.  We will be diving into modalities to prevent injury which is what we call our Prehab work, along with the meat and potatoes of performance training, plus throw in some knowledge bombs on the why behind the what, then go over the nutritional element of a fighters diet for both in camp and out of camp.  Then we will go into some FAQ and fun input at the bottom.  Hopefully you guys enjoy this guide, and if you found it helpful during your fight camp let us know with a comment below, or sharing on social media and tagging us 🙂

-Top 3 Exercises for Fighters

  1. Hack Squats
  2. Pulls/Rows/ PKC work and most important focus
  3. Cuban Press

-Explosive Upper Body Movement

DB Row and Release


-Explosive Lower Body Movement

Hack Bar Deadlift


 ER vs IR… Prehab movements and approach?
-Cuban Press

All are crucial for optimal performance.  Exercise use and choice should be focused and based upon the need of the given athlete.  For example a collegiate wrestler is going to be more focused on a blend of isometric, and plyometric training vs a boxer is going to be more concerned with speed, agility and repetitive power.  Understanding this goes into how we assess the athlete or individual and will require a more complete article for just that but here are some tips to look for.

-what makes mma conditioning different than other sports, if anything?

-Energy Systems and which is most important to a fighter


When looking at performance for MMA we again want to train smarter and then harder.  Part of doing that is understanding the why behind what we are doing.  A big influence on why we are performing specific lifts and exercise movements has to do with the energy systems that we need to utilize for our given sport or activity.  For combat sports we have to utilize all 3 energy systems to perform optimally in MMA.


  1. Phosphagen (immediate source)
  2. Anaerobic (somewhat slow, uses carbohydrates)
  3. Aerobic (slow, uses either carbohydrate or fat)


This system uses creatine phosphate (CP) and has a very rapid rate of ATP production. The creatine phosphate is used to reconstitute ATP after it’s broken down to release its energy. The total amount of CP and ATP stored in muscles is small, so there is limited energy available for muscular contraction. It is, however, instantaneously available and is essential at the onset of activity, as well as during short-term high-intensity activities lasting about 1 to 30 seconds in duration, such as sprinting, weight-lifting or throwing a ball.


Anaerobic Glycolysis

Anaerobic glycolysis does not require oxygen and uses the energy contained in glucose for the formation of ATP. This pathway occurs within the cytoplasm and breaks glucose down into a simpler component called pyruvate. As an intermediate pathway between the phosphagen and aerobic system, anaerobic glycolysis can produce ATP quite rapidly for use during activities requiring large bursts of energy over somewhat longer periods of time (30 seconds to three minutes max, or during endurance activities prior to steady state being achieved).


Aerobic Glycolysis

This pathway requires oxygen to produce ATP, because carbohydrates and fats are only burned in the presence of oxygen. This pathway occurs in the mitochondria of the cell and is used for activities requiring sustained energy production. Aerobic glycolysis has a slow rate of ATP production and is predominantly utilized during longer-duration, lower-intensity activities after the phosphagen and anaerobic systems have fatigued.

It is important to remember that all three of these systems contribute to the energy needs of the body during physical activity. These systems do not work independently of each other, but rather dominate at different times, depending on the duration and the intensity of the activity. -Reference


-which muscle fiber type is most important in MMA

Slow Twitch (Type I)
The slow muscles are more efficient at using oxygen to generate more fuel (known as ATP) for continuous, extended muscle contractions over a long time. They fire more slowly than fast twitch fibers and can go for a long time before they fatigue. Therefore, slow twitch fibers are great at helping athletes run marathons and bicycle for hours.

Fast Twitch (Type II)

Because fast twitch fibers use anaerobic metabolism to create fuel, they are much better at generating short bursts of strength or speed than slow muscles. However, they fatigue more quickly. Fast twitch fibers generally produce the same amount of force per contraction as slow muscles, but they get their name because they are able to fire more rapidly.

Having more fast twitch fibers can be an asset to a sprinter since she needs to quickly generate a lot of force.

What Causes Muscle Fatigue?

Type IIa Fibers
These fast twitch muscle fibers are also known as intermediate fast-twitch fibers. They can use both aerobic and anaerobic metabolism almost equally to create energy. In this way, they are a combination of Type I and Type II muscle fibers.

Type IIb Fibers
These fast twitch fibers use anaerobic metabolism to create energy and are the “classic” fast twitch muscle fibers that excel at producing quick, powerful bursts of speed. This muscle fiber has the highest rate of contraction (rapid firing) of all the muscle fiber types, but it also has a much faster rate of fatigue and can’t last as long before it needs rest.

Fiber Type and Performance
Our muscle fiber type may influence what sports we are naturally good at or whether we are fast or strong. Olympic athletes tend to fall into sports that match their genetic makeup. Olympic sprinters have been shown to possess about 80 percent fast twitch fibers, while those who excel in marathons tend to have 80 percent slow twitch fibers. -Reference


 Periodization and Programming

Synergistic Firing


Sample Workout Template for Synergistic Firing, and power.  This would be the power phase of a more complex periodization that occurs during a fight camp.  We will be just specifically looking at the power phase, this should be the last 2-4 week phase prior to peaking for the fight.  This is not just about power but also about optimizing the synergistic firing rate of each subgroup of the Posterior Kinetic Chain PKC.

 1A – Front Squat
1B – Box Jump

2A – Standing Good Mornings
2B – Sled Run

3A – Weighted Pullups
3B – Battle Rope

4A – Push Press
4B – High Pulls



If again you are new to Health and Fitness or haven’t really gotten the basics of a healthy lifestyle down you will want to check out Fighters Guide: Healthy Eating For Beginners

For our more advanced fighters and audience we will dive into the fun stuff now.









Nutrition Fundamentals


  1. Fuel with PURPOSE


2.        Eat consistently (timing)


  1. Eat (good) FOOD (quality)


  1. Supplements to supplement food


5.        Hydration is key for muscle & organ performance àà ELECTROLYTES



Consistency & Timing


¡¡ When you   eat as important as what you                  eat

¡¡    Targeted Fueling


Nutrition Timing



What challenges are there to fueling training?




What’s unique about Game Day fueling?



Nutrient Timing: Meal Spacing


¡¡Fuel every 3 hours

¡¡ 3 Main Meals


¡¡Snacks to bridge


¡¡Carbs to support activity


Replenishing Skeletal Muscle Glycogen
Another aspect of post-workout nutrition is replenishing depleted fuel stores to provide energy for the next training bout. One of the most important fuel depots is glycogen because it fuels the majority of high-intensity skeletal muscle contraction, it can be rapidly exhausted depending on the intensity and duration of the training bout, and its relative storage capacity (approximately 1,200 kcals) is nothing close to that of adipose tissue (upwards of 100,000 kcals depending on leanness) (13,18). Therefore, the repletion of lost skeletal muscle glycogen stores can be seen as an important post-workout nutritional concern.

It has been shown that carbohydrate and protein administration immediately following training has profound effects on glycogen resynthesis rates, with a 50% reduction in glycogen resynthesis rates seen with a delayed ingestion of carbohydrates two hours after training (10,22). While the reality of expeditious nutrient ingestion with regards to glycogen resynthesis is not under contention, the utility of such dietary timing strategies apply only to a subset of athletes who compete in multiple glycogen depleting events throughout the day (e.g., swimmers, wrestlers, runners, cyclists, etc.). 

Thus, it can be argued that immediate post-workout protein and carbohydrate ingestion for the purposes of increased rates of glycogen synthesis may be of low importance for the majority of athletes who do not undergo twice-daily training sessions or who do not have multiple events over the course of 24 hr. -Reference

¡¡Balanced Protein

 Practical Nutritional Recommendations
Multiple studies have shown a maximal anabolic response of skeletal muscle to protein ingestion maxing out around 25 – 40 g of high-quality protein that contains high levels of leucine (14,25). Thus, any more than this amount can be seen as unnecessary for skeletal muscle protein synthesis. For example, this could be accomplished by consuming a meal that includes 4 – 7 oz of lean meat, poultry, or fish, or 1 – 2 scoops of protein powder (e.g., whey, casein, or soy).

With regards to carbohydrates, there is a dearth of research related to long-term increases in skeletal muscle mass from carbohydrate consumption (6). Moreover, it has been shown that the inclusion of post-workout carbohydrates (e.g., 30 g of sucrose or 50 g of maltodextrin) alongside an adequate protein bolus (e.g., 20 – 25 g of whey protein) does not lead to any further increases in MPS compared to just protein alone (7,11,20). Thus, as long as carbohydrate-rich meals are consumed at some point during and after the post-workout period, and that adequate protein is consumed, glycogen stores should be replenished before the next training session and maximal synthetic rates of skeletal muscle protein can be achieved. It may be best to let personal preference, dietary goals, and carbohydrate tolerance dictate the source and overall amounts consumed. – Reference




Sample Pre & Post Meals & Snacks




Pre Game Meal

3-5hrs Pre-Game/Practice



Pre Game Meal


¡¡ Nutrient profile



¡¡ Examples

¡¡ Peanut Butter sandwich w/ honey

¡¡ Turkey sandwich w/ yogurt & granola

¡¡ Oatmeal w/ brown sugar & banana


Veg Dietary Fat Pro






Pre Game Snack


30-60 mins




Pre-Game Snacks

¡¡ Nutrient profile






¡¡ Examples

¡¡ Fruit & Granola

¡¡ Banana

¡¡ Jam/Jelly Sandwich

¡¡ Sport Drink/ Sports Gel



Veg Dietary Fat Pro






Hydration 101

1* cause of decreased performance


Fluids vs. Electrolytes


¡¡ Fluids:

¡¡ Necessary to maintain plasma volume

¡¡ Impacts transport of nutrients and waste


¡¡ Electrolytes:

¡¡ Primary focus is Na+

¡¡ Cell signaling

¡¡ Fluid balance (solute)


Nutrient Timing:



¡¡#1 limitation on athletic performance

¡¡ Carb depletion

¡¡ Quick energy

¡¡ Lower residue & fat

¡¡ Electrolyte Imbalance

¡¡ Na+






Hydration Protocol

¡¡ Daily hydration


¡¡Pre-Game and Game-time strategies

¡¡ Cramping



Mid-Game/ Half-time Fueling

  • § Nutrient Profile





Veg Dietary Fat Pro


¡¡ Same examples as pre-game snacks

¡¡ Pretzels

¡¡ Orange slices

¡¡ Gatorade

¡¡ Goo, Gells, chews, etc…

¡¡ Bars









Hydration Products


¡¡ Pretzels, Crackers, Goldfish

¡¡ Sports Drink

¡¡ Salty Bar (Clif Mojo)






¡¡ Gatorlytes

¡¡ The Right Stuff

¡¡ Sports Drinks

¡¡ Pedialyte

¡¡ Clif Shotz









Post Game

Immediately Post-Game/ Practice




Nutrient Timing: Post-game

  • § Nutrient Profile


Veg Dietary Fat Pro


¡¡Protein for rebuilding (20g)

¡¡CHO for energy/ glycogen repletion

¡¡Specifically sugar for anabolic effect

¡¡Hydration- water and electrolytes

Nutrient Timing:

Post-Workout/ Game

Recovery Nutrition:

  • § PRO+CHO recovery snack within 30-45mins


§§ Meal w/in 45 minutes




Recovery Hydration

¡¡Critical to facilitating recovery

¡¡ Weigh-in -> weigh-out

¡¡ 16-24 oz/ lb lost

¡¡ Largely glycogen lost

¡¡ Fluids, Na+, Sugar




Energy Neutral Training

What is ENT?

¡¡When in calorie deficit (for weight based sport):

¡¡ Support and replace 100% workout needs 1hr pre/post

¡¡ Provides energy for work, repair and recovery (Training is Energy Neutral)

¡¡ The rest of the day is caloric deficit





Energy Neutral Training

¡¡Minimizes muscle catabolism- leading to better anabolism/ muscle development

¡¡ Improved appetite regulation

¡¡ Improved performance

¡¡ Improved Body Composition





¡¡Nutrient profile


¡¡ Sugar/cho


¡¡Ca+ and Vit D

¡¡Na, K, Phosphorous

¡¡ Water

¡¡ Inflammation





¡¡ Protein àà repairs muscle tissue

¡¡ Muscle protein synthesis

¡¡ Whey vs. casein protein




¡¡ Sugar/cho


¡¡ CHO àà restores muscle glycogen

¡¡ Insulin levels rise

¡¡ Glucose àà muscle tissue

¡¡ Fast recovery



¡¡Ca+ and Vit D





¡¡Na, K, Phosphorous

¡¡Na+/K+ pump

¡¡ Water


¡¡Na+ & Cramping





19 Chocolate, dutched powder                  40,200

20 Maqui berry, juice                                40,000

21 Sage                                                32,004

22 Mustard seed, yellow                           29,257

23 Ginger, ground                                   28,811

24 Pepper, black                                     27,618

25 Thyme, fresh                                     27,426

26 Marjoram, fresh                                    27,297

27 Goji berries                                        25,300

28 Rice bran, crude                                 24,287

29 Chili powder                                       23,636

30 Sorghum, grain, black                             21,900

31 Chocolate, dark                                  20,823

32 Flax hull lignans                                  19,600

33 Chocolate, semisweet                          18,053

34 Pecans                                             17,940



¡¡ Inflammation





¡¡Nutrient profile

¡¡ Pro

¡¡ Sugar/cho

¡¡ Kcals

¡¡ Ca+ and Vit D

¡¡ Na, K, Phosphorous

¡¡ Water

¡¡ Inflammation

¡¡ Delicious




What Besides Chocolate Milk for Recovery?






¡¡Pro/CHO meal

¡¡Protein Bar

¡¡CU Performance Milk!?



¡¡Protein Shake

¡¡Protein Bar


¡¡ HMB



¡¡Anti-oxidant supplement




When to eat what

Eating for your goals

Eating for your body type

Nutrient Timing

Eric Uresk Sample Meal Plan:

Supplementation for optimal performance

Workout Nutrition

28 day challenge

What To Eat Before, During and After Exercise:


References & Sources:

Andersen, JL; Schjerling, P; Saltin, B. Scientific American. “Muscle, Genes and Athletic Performance” 9/2000. Page 49

McArdle, W.D., Katch, F.I. & Katch,V.L. (1996). Exercise physiology : Energy, nutrition and human performance

Lieber, R.L. (1992). Skeletal muscle structure and function : Implications for rehabilitation and sports medicine. Baltimore : Williams & Wilkins.

Andersen, JL; Schjerling, P; Saltin, B. Muscle, Genes and Athletic Performance. Scientific American. 9/2000

Thayer R, Collins J, Noble EG, Taylor AW. A decade of aerobic endurance training: histological evidence for fibre type transformation. Journal of Sports Medicine & Phys Fitness. 2000 Dec;40(4).

Effect of varying exercise intensity on glycogen depletion in human muscle fibres

  2. PER C S. BLOM

Article first published online: 8 DEC 2008DOI: 10.1111/j.1748-1716.1985.tb07735.x

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