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Supplements for MMA Athletes

by Jack Doherty - Dietitian at The Fight Dietitian thefightdietitian.com June 12, 2020 3 min read

Supplements for MMA Athletes

A question that is often asked is, “What supplements do UFC fighters typically take?” The following supplements are not only what a lot of UFC athletes utilise but are also what everyone should be using to increase performance; and are backed by the research.

Caffeine

Caffeine is the component to coffee that we all rely on and is the main ingredients in the ever-growing popular supplementation range known as “pre-workouts”, but the question is does it aid in the performance of an athlete? The complex explanation is that caffeine effects the central nervous system acting as a adenosine receptor antagonist, resulting in the alteration to the sympathetic nervous system, and fatigue and pain perception. Simply, caffeine can delay the perception of both effort and fatigue that usually occurs during exercise, allowing an athlete to work at a given intensity for longer, and potentially increasing performance.

Dosage: 1-3mg per Kg of Bodyweight (One hour prior to training), as this is when peak concentrations are seen in the blood! An example dose is a doubled shot short black which equates to around 200mg of caffeine.

Beta-Alanine

As combat sports have round 3-5 minutes, meaning there is heavy recruitment of the anaerobic energy system, which when in high use produces bi products in lactic acid and hydrogen ions (H+). The increase in hydrogen ions in the muscle, NOT LACTIC ACID ACCUMULATION AS SOME HAVE PREVIOUSLY THOUGHT, increases the acidity in the muscle, which is strongly correlated with muscle fatigue, resulting in the reduction in performance and the ability to train at high intensity. An increased availability of Beta-Alanine in the muscle in strongly associated with greater levels of muscle carnosine. The greater level of muscle carnosine results in an amplified ability to “buffer” the hydrogen ions/acidity allowing an athlete to train at high intensity for longer and delay fatigue, and therefore increasing performance.

DOSAGE: In relation to dosage, an optimal intake has yet to be established, although amounts of between 1.6 – 6.4 grams of Beta-Alanine per day has been seen to significantly increase muscle carnosine levels within muscle

Creatine

Creatine monohydrate has been found by researchers to be one of the most effective performance supplements currently available to athletes. Specifically, creatine enhances high-intensity exercise capacity (enhancing both power and strength), and potentially increasing lean body mass.

DOSAGE: Typical dose of between daily dose of 3-5 grams per day has been found to be effective.

Beetroot Juice

Beetroot juice contains high levels of nitrate (NO3−), which when ingested effectively increases blood nitric oxide (NO) concentrations.NO promotes vasodilation and blood flow, and positively impacts on muscle contractions. Beetroot juice given as a single dose or over a few days improves performance at intermittent, high-intensity efforts with short rest periods! In addition, beetroot juice supplementation has been seen to improve muscle power output and recent research has also found links to improved indicators of muscular fatigue.

Protein Powder

Protein supplementation can be helpful as part of a overall nutrition plan, although it is not an essential component. It is a fact that the athletic population have a greater protein requirement than the general population, but in saying this many athletes meet their protein requirements through the whole-food component of their nutrition plan. Vegan, and vegetarian athletes, on the other hand may find it more difficult to meet their requirements and supplementation may be a suitable option. Supplementation should be based upon the following; training load and therefore requirement, nutrition plan strategy, daily energy requirements, appetite post-training, budget and dietary requirements/preferences.

Electrolytes

Electrolytes are one of the most important components in maintaining fluid balance, proper muscle contraction and neural activity, which are all essential for performance and overall function.

Water is drawn to concentrations of electrolytes, so in basic terms it follows wherever the electrolytes go. When athletes sweat, then they're also losing electrolytes, so when you start to replace lost fluids, athletes need to be replacing the electrolytes as well.

Therefore, to optimise performance and recovery, it is essential that hydration protocols include the consumption of adequate amounts of electrolytes. Post Weigh-In is the most important time for electrolyte consumption and should be formulated on an individual basis by your dietitian. Overall, it is recommended that athletes consume adequate electrolytes daily, with heavy emphasises post-training as part of their hydration protocol.


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