Why Is It Important to Eat Before martial arts or MMA training?

Eating before your martial arts training is just as important as wearing your Gi. Unfortunately, there is a myth that eating before your workout will hamper your training. As I said, it is a myth. Training on an empty stomach is like driving your car further than the gas you have in the tank. Exactly, you can't.

Eating before martial arts training firstly prevents blood sugar from dropping during your training. Secondly, eating will provide optimal energy for your muscles to work longer and harder. And thirdly, your muscles will recover faster. Good nutrition before your training session, will maximize your performance.

Every martial artist needs to experiment about when and what to eat before training. The ideal pre-workout meal should be consumed 2-3 hours prior. First, it should be high in complex carbs—secondly, low in fat. And thirdly have a moderate amount of protein. You want to minimize the amount of protein and fat because they sit in your stomach longer to break down.


Glycogen is the process of storing glucose in your muscles, which comes from eating carbs. Your muscles glucose as energy. Glycogen/glucose is the primary source of energy when performing high intense explosive types of movement. If glycogen levels are low, your body will not use glucose and resort to breaking down protein, your muscles, for energy. Protein is not a fuel! And, fat is a fuel used for longer workouts. Your muscles can only perform according to the amount of energy you have. Your muscles can be super strong and trained. But if you don't have energy, they will not work well.

Glycogen/glucose, however, is constantly being replaced. In 30 seconds, you get a 30-50% replacement. In about 2-3 minutes, it is at 90-100%. Therefore, based on what you eat optimizes and maximizes storage.


Loading up on carbs before a workout is one way to avoid protein from being broken down. To escape the process, consume protein with your carbs. Eating protein alone or with carbs before training, increases protein synthesis- the rebuilding of muscles. 20-25grams of protein seems to be the magic number. Research shows that having 20g of whey protein 45 mins before training preserves muscles and reduces the amount they will break down from your training and assist in rebuilding faster post-training.


Fat is important. It is a source of fuel used for more extended time in training. Fat is an essential source of energy, especially if you are training for more than 20 minutes.

Timing Is Key

To maximize your training results, try to eat a complete meal containing carbs, protein, and fat 2–3 hours before you train. However, if you eat closer to your training, for example, 1 hour, choose more simple carbs with some complex carbs and some protein.

Within 2–3 Hours

Eat a regular meal—no problems eating what you want at this time. If you eat before 3 hours, your energy may be depleted before your training begins. If you eat too close to your training time, the stomach will have food inside during your training.

The best time to eat a meal is between 2-3 hours before training.

You can eat between 800-1,000 calories as your meal. Make sure 60-70% are complex carbs, 20-30% are protein, and about 10% are fat.

  • Grilled chicken sandwich on whole-grain bread with vegetables.
  • An omelet with toast and mixed vegetables.
  • Grilled chicken, burger, or fish with integral/brown rice with vegetables.

Within 1-2 Hours

The meals need to be condensed and the foods must be simple to be easily digested and broken down. At this time, fats should be minimized, closer to one hour, and can be transferred to increase your carb percentage. For example, you can eat 60% complex and 10% simple carbs. If it is closer to 2 hours, you can eat fat.

If the time is less about 1- 2 hours, consume 500-800 calories per meal.

  • Whey protein smoothie using milk, granola, banana, and mixed fruits.
  • Oatmeal, whole-grain cereal, or granola with milk.
  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole-wheat toast (Closer to 2 hours).
  • Chicken or turkey sandwich on whole wheat toast.
  • Pasta and chicken.

Within an hour or less 

Your food needs to be very condensed. Meal or snacks need to be easily digested to break down—minimal to no fats in this time frame.

If the time is 1 hour before eating, consume a smaller meal of about 300-500 calories.

In general, it is best to consume a smoothie or a blended drink to empty the stomach quickly before your training.

  • Whey Protein shake with a banana and mix fruits.
  • Oatmeal or granola with milk. You can add blueberries, dates, figs, raisins, and or banana.
  • Yogurt and fruit mix.

Usually, you should consume about 1 gram of carbohydrate per kilogram of bodyweight about 1 hour before your training. If it is two hours before, make 2 g of carbohydrate per kg of body weight. This can provide a better energetic gauge for your training.

If you do not eat anything before your MMA training, you will not perform well and be tired and tapping out quickly.

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