Eating for performance
Eating well for top performance / Lilian Dikmans

There’s a lot of information online about what you should and shouldn’t eat. Some of it is credible and some of it is not. In my view, nothing should be blindly followed. What works for one person may end in disaster for another.

In the past, I’ve shared the general principles I follow when deciding what to eat. For me, it’s basically about eating nutrient-dense foods, avoid processed ones and including a source of protein, carbohydrate and fat in each meal. This is my baseline diet for general health and wellbeing. Then, when the time comes to prepare for a fight, I make a few adjustments.

Fight preparation diet

In the lead up to my next fight, training gets more intense. So I have to adjust my diet to make sure I have enough energy, while still keeping the agreed fight weight in mind. There are two main things that I will watch more closely: my intake of nutrients and my intake of carbohydrates.

Getting enough carbohydrates to fuel longer training sessions is pretty obvious. In addition to some starchy vegetables like potato, I get most of my carbs from rice. I eat rice every evening after training, usually with some meat such as chicken, and leafy vegetables.

I’ve also found that keeping my intake of nutrients as high as possible has a huge effect on my energy levels and performance. When I’m not eating a good range of colourful vegetables I do notice a difference. Recently, I’ve also started to take zinc, vitamin C and fish oil supplements, which have been helping.

In terms of the time and amount of food I eat, I simply go by hunger. Personally, I don’t follow the typical three meals a day with snacks routine. This may be great for many people but I usually feel best just eating two larger meals per day. One around mid-morning or lunchtime when I get hungry and another after training in the evening. If I have enough energy to train well, I know I’ve eaten enough. If I’m lacking energy, I eat more the next day. It’s intuitive.

On the day of the fight, the one thing I’ve learnt is to just eat what you feel like. I’d also avoid anything completely new that your body isn’t used to. In the past, I’ve eaten oats with some nuts and pure maple syrup or some rice and vegetables.

Don’t get obsessive

Although I’m conscious of eating properly, these days I’m not obsessive about it. In the past, I have gone through periods of eating strict paleo and I also gave up sugar completely for a while. At the time, these choices helped me kick a pretty bad sugar habit so I don’t regret it. But for me, it’s no longer necessary to be so regulated.

I still enjoy making healthier versions of desserts, which I share on my Real Food Healthy Body blog. But if I feel like something less than healthy, I just eat it and enjoy it.

Even during fight preparation, it’s not a big deal if I eat some chocolate or have a sugary dessert. Georges St-Pierre said the same thing on a podcast with Joe Rogan. He said that he eats a dessert or has a glass of wine if he wants it, and it doesn’t affect his performance. He also said he does intermittent fasting or time-restricted eating. I tend to naturally do this too when I’m eating according to hunger.

Sometimes I think the stress of trying to eat perfectly all the time does more harm than good. At the risk of sounding cliché, it really is all about balance and finding one that works for you.

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