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September 24, 2015

Supplements for MMA and Endurance Athletes

Andrew McInroy, B. Sc. Nutrition
By Andrew McInroy, B. Sc. Nutrition

MMA, Cross-fit and other strength-endurance sports are much different than bodybuilding and power lifting. In strength-endurance sports you burn a ton of calories, lose electrolytes, work all muscle groups, and the joints take a beating. If you want to perform at your best for these sports you will need proper nutrition and proper supplementation.

Nutrition

You need to eat the right foods and eat the right amounts of them if you want to be your best. Strength-endurance sports are unique in that they usually include weight classes so you have to be careful with how much you eat. Here are some great guidelines for anyone trying to recover their fastest, build strength and muscle and have tons of energy:

Protein

You need this to help your muscles recover as fast as possible. Too often strength-endurance athletes do not get enough of this important macronutrient. Think about it: you kill your muscles day in and day out – they NEED protein to come back stronger, faster, bigger, harder! My recommendation for strength endurance athletes is to get 1 – 1.5 g of protein per lb of bodyweight. Great sources of protein are: Seafood (Salmon, Haddock, Tilapia, Tuna, etc.), extra lean beef (steak, roast beef, hamburger, etc.), chicken, turkey, eggs, egg whites, whey protein powders, casein protein powders.

Carbohydrates

This is one of the trickiest macronutrients to manipulate because if you have too much, you get fat. But if you have too little, your performance is down! So this is really where you need to experiment with yourself to find out what is best to keep you lean but also keep your performance sky high. It isn’t all about how much carbohydrates you eat, but it is also what type of carbs you eat and what time you eat them. The best times to have carbohydrates is breakfast, pre-workout meal and post-workout meal. Your pre-workout meal should be about 2 hours before your workout (and sometimes up to even 3 hours if you need extra time to digest your food). Your pre-workout meal should have about 0.5 g of carbs per lb of bodyweight. So a 200 lb strength endurance athlete would consume 100 g of carbs about 2 – 3 hours before their workout / event.

At most of your meals you will want to consume complex carbohydrates because they digest slowly and give a good slow release of energy so you will be fueled for your workouts. However, immediately after a workout it can be a good idea to go ahead and have some fast digesting carbohydrates such as fruits. Here are some of the best sources: Sweet Potato, Yams, Ezekiel Bread, Brown Rice, Quinoa, Wheat Free / Gluten Free Oats. Optional: Pasta (contains gluten)

Make your carbs gluten free as this will greatly enhance your physique and also make you feel better. Strategically eat your fruits at breakfast and post-workout for greater uptake of the sugars into muscles. Eat your veggies whenever.

Dietary Fats

You definitely want to incorporate a lot of healthy fats into your diet because they will help you with healthy testosterone levels. Aim to get 20 – 30% of your calories from dietary fats. Definitely make sure to get your omega-3fatty acids because they will help with blood pressure, blood triglycerides, blood cholesterol and other important factors of health. Furthermore, omega-3s also help to enhance protein synthesis and fat loss. Some great fat sources are: Salmon Oil Pills (Omega-3s), Avocados, Pistachios, Almonds, All Natural Peanut Butter, Almond Butter, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Flax Seed Oil.

Hydration

You need to hydrate to dominate. Having adequate water will help to delay fatigue, regulate body temperature, enhance recovery, and many more performance factors will be enhanced. Aim to drink 3 – 4 L of water per day at least.

A lot of strength-endurance athletes are on the fence about whether or not they need supplements. Let me make it simple for you: If you are training your hardest and have perfect nutrition, you are still not doing enough; supplements WILL give you the competitive edge and enhance your performance. In this section I will tell you what supplements are a must for any strength-endurance athlete if they want to take their game to the next level.

Supplements

  1. Protein Powder

    Get a good whey protein powder. With high protein requirements you might not always be able to get in all of your protein requirements from food, though you should make an effort to get the vast majority of your protein from food sources. However, you will want to have a whey protein immediately after you train because it is by far the highest quality protein that you can have and it is also extremely fast digesting. This is important after a workout because you want to get nutrients as fast as possible to your muscle cells so that you can gain muscle and recover even faster. Whey powders are also important because you can add them to a weight gainer shake. Here is my own personal favorite: Chocolate whey protein + all natural peanut butter + ½ cup wheat free / gluten free oats – mix it up and it tastes legit good like a reeses pieces (only a bit crunchier!).

    Before you go to bed you want to have a slow digesting protein. The best slow digesting protein is one that contains casein protein so consider having cottage cheese, greek yogurt or if you are like me and want to avoid lactose, invest in a casein protein powder. Casein digests slowly over 7 hours and this is perfect for when you sleep because it’s when you release the most growth hormone and so it is great for recovery.

    Optional

    You might also want to invest in a weight gainer shake. This is definitely not for everyone. I would only recommend this to someone who has a great nutrition regime, needs TONS of calories and also has a hard time gaining weight.

  2. BCAA

    You definitely need these if you want the best results. BCAA (Branched Chain Amino Acids) are the amino acids that your body wants for energy during exercise. By supplementing with them during training, you prevent muscle breakdown and enhance recovery, muscle size, strength and speed gains. They are a must for any athlete that is trying to cut weight fast because too often they lose a lot of muscle. BCAA will greatly help to preserve your muscle mass during a cut.

    One of the best BCAA products out there is USPlabs Modern BCAA because it contains electrolytes and as an elite athlete, you lose a ton of electrolytes during your training. It is important to replenish these and having a supplement like Modern BCAA is a great choice.

  3. Creatine

    No other supplement has stood the test of time like creatine. It is proven to enhance strength, explosive power, speed, endurance of strength, muscle size, and more. A lot of strength-endurance athletes are afraid of using creatine because they feel it may compromise their weight. Do not be afraid of this – it will be mostly water weight and you can easily cut the water weight when going for the weigh in. Furthermore, the water weight you gain from creatine is highly anabolic and this is because the water is stored within the muscles. When you increase the volume of the muscle cell, you also increase protein synthesis. Whether or not you are in a weight restricted class, you definitely should add creatine to your supplement regime because it will improve all aspects of being a better athlete. Safety is another issue that is often a concern. Research has showed that creatine does not give muscle cramps, it does not cause kidney problems, and there are no long term side effects. After all, it has been used as a performance enhancer since the 1970s and still, no one has been able to prove it is harmful! Just make sure to hydrate to dominate with your creatine.

  4. Joint Support

    Joints are unique in that they are easily damaged and very hard to repair. Even with a great nutrition program, it is still hard to repair your joints, however, omega-3s do help with the inflammation. The best way to protect your joints, help them recover and reduce pain is with a joint support product. One of the best joint supplements on the market today is Animal Flex by Universal. There have been many herbs throughout the ages that have shown to help the joints and Universal comes through with a great product and adds them all into one dosage. I have heard tons of great reviews about this product on forums all over the net and that it actually works on the joints. The price is great too.

  5. Multivitamin

    It doesn’t matter how good your nutrition is, you need a multivitamin because as athletes, we need more vitamins and minerals if we want maximum performance. If you are deficient in any one of them, it has negative effects on many biochemical pathways in our body. Vitamins and minerals are important for building up your body structures and turning your food into energy among many other important things. The way you have to look at a multivitamin is that it is an assurance factor that you are getting sufficient nutrients for optimal performance because you can’t always have perfect nutrition.

  6. Pre workout

    If you want enhanced focus, energy, endurance and strength you may want to look into a pre-workout product. They are great for your tough workouts when you need that extra push. Muscle Pharm Assault is a great one that you can use for all of your workouts and if you want an even harder kick then use Jack3d. A good pre-workout always contains creatine due to the reasons mentioned above. It should also contain beta-alanine because it has the ability to buffer muscle acidity which allows you to push harder for more reps. As an option, it can also contain a good stimulant to push you through your workouts.

Conclusion

Follow the advice above and you are sure to reach a new level. Eat enough protein to grow, recover and get faster. Eat the right carbs and enough of them to give you sustained energy and refuel your energy stores. Eat the right fats for testosterone production, overall health and much more. Drink your water for optimal performance. Get a protein powder and use it to recover even faster after tough workouts. Drink BCAA during your training to enhance recovery, strength, and more. Creatine is proven in research to increase your strength, explosive power, speed, and muscle gains – at least try it! Protect your joints with a great joint support product like Animal Flex. Every athlete needs a multivitamin – don’t let one of your vitamins or minerals ever be deficient or your performance and recovery will decrease. And lastly, if you want something to really turn your workouts up a notch, get a pre-workout product. Never give up on your goals!