This is an excerpt from The Fighter’s Diet

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We’re going to take a slight detour off my daily diet in this post so I can explain what exactly I’m looking for out of each meal I consume. I realized that I’m telling you what I’m eating and why, but I haven’t really broken down my plan heading into each of those meals.

Whether it’s your strength and conditioning, or your skill work, or in this case, performance nutrition, it’s super important to have a plan.

Plans get results.

The Properly Balanced Meal

The original idea behind the MMA Diet was outlined in the Intro, but basically we’re attempting to maintain our muscularity while decreasing our bodyfat percentage—to be the biggest and strongest we can be at the lightest possible weight class.

In order to achieve that we’ve got to eat properly balanced meals 6 or 7 times a day. I already covered why we need to eat so frequently, but I haven’t talked about a balanced meal.

What do I mean by properly balance meals?

Now I know the simplest way to look at losing weight is to burn more calories than you consume (because we are trying to lose weight by cutting body fat).

But I’m not a big fan of calorie counting. Besides the fact that it seems like way too much effort to me, I know that all calories aren’t created equal.

So what I try to do instead is just improve the quality of calories I consume.

For example, I can look at a package of crackers and say to myself ”oh, look it’s only a hundred calories, so that’s ok”, but out of those hundred calories there’s only 2 grams of protein with 23 grams of carbs and 8 grams of fat (I’m making these numbers up by the way).

Even though the calorie count is low we’re coming up short on several fronts.

For one, that isn’t exactly the protein to carb ratio we’re looking for out of a meal.

And two, the TYPE of carbs and fat contained in the crackers aren’t ideal.

I’ll explain both.

Protein to Carb Ratio

Usually I want at least a 1:1 protein to carbohydrate ratio.

So that means if the meal you’re consuming contains 20 grams of carbohydrates you’ll want 20 grams of protein to go with it.

The typical american diet contains a larger percentage of carbohydrates than protein. And that’s ok, but I’ll keep reminding you that in order to cut weight we need to consume less carbs to accomplish that.

Obviously it’s more difficult to get enough protein in each meal than it is carbohydrates, so just as long as the ratio isn’t too far out of whack then I think you’ll be fine.

Something like 15 grams of protein to 30 grams of carbs isn’t so bad.

We have to increase our protein consumption because that’s what helps us sustain our muscle mass. And also, protein slows down the digestive process so your blood sugar would spike less if you took in the wrong type of carbohydrates.

Less of a spike=less body fat stored.

If you did nothing else right, choose to never eat a meal without a good amount of protein.

I’ve made that a habit over the last two years, so even when I quit exercising and eating correctly, the amount of body fat I put on was negligable for that one reason.

The Types of Fat

There are a couple different types of fats, and not all fats are bad. Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are the ones you want and need.

So, despite the name, just because you’re consuming fats doesn’t mean that it’s going to make you fat.

The ones you do need to keep an eye on are trans fats and your saturated fats.

You shouldn’t consume trans fatty acids under any circumstance (think margarines, fried food, depending on whether the type of oil it’s fried in is hydrogenated or not. If you see that word on any label, RUN) because your body can’t do anything with it. It’ll just store as fat.

You should keep the amount of saturated fats you consume to a pretty low figure (think beef, pork, egg yolks, and dairy products), but you still need them because they help maintain muscle mass by their association with testosterone production.

The Types of Carbs

As for carbohydrates…there are two groups of carbs, simple and complex.

Simple carbs are sugars. With names like glucose, galactose, fructose, sucrose, lactose, and maltose.

For the most part you want to avoid simple carbs, except in the morning and post wkouts.

Discounting those two exceptions, as a general rule you should limit your sugar intake to under 25 grams TOTAL for the rest of the day.

Sugar is what will derail your diet more than anything else. So please try to adhere to this general rule, breaking it will more or less render the rest of the MMA Diet useless.

Fructose (which is the sugar found in fruit) might be the one exception to that general rule. Fructose has to be broken down further by the liver before it enters the blood stream so it isn’t going to raise blood sugar levels as much. But I still wouldn’t go crazy with fruit.

Complex carbs can be broken down into two groups…starchy and fibrous.

Starchy carbs are just longer chains of glucose molecules. In other words, sugar. So these complex carbs can get you in just as much trouble as simple carbs if you eat the wrong ones.

Starchy carbs are foods like bread, pasta, rice, cereal, potatoes, and beans.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t be consuming starchy carbs, but you should be consuming starchy carbs that are lower on the glycemic index (a chart that ranks different sources of carbs and how much of an effect they have on your blood sugar).

Foods like whole wheat or whole grain bread and pasta, brown rice, and sweet potatoes all have a lower glycemic index ranking and are ok to eat at the proper times.

Then you have your fibrous carbs...foods like fruits, veggies, nuts, and grains:wheat and oats

For the most part you can eat as much of these as you want. Americans typically lack dietary fiber in their diet (sounds kind of redundant doesn’t it?).

Fiber is good for you, so consume upwards of 80 grams a day if you can.

Back to our example

In all likelyhood, a 100 calories worth of crackers isn’t going to affect our goal here, but it’s that mode of thinking that can get you into trouble.

Think about it, what if you applied that poor protein to carb ratio with bad carbs, and bad fats to a much larger meal…what do think would happen?

One meal like that would eff up your diet for the entire day. It wouldn’t matter if you ate properly the rest of the day or not, you’re already storing fat that you shouldn’t.

It matters how much protein is in each meal. It matters what type of carbohydrates you consume. It matters what type of fats you consume.

My goal is to eat meals that are high in protein (anywhere from 15 grams to 35 grams), moderate in fats (under 15 grams), and moderate to low in carbs (under 30 grams).

I’m not looking so much at the number of calories per meal as I am the type of calories per meal that I’m consuming.

Keep that in mind each time you sit down to fuel up.