MTG Contributor, Pascale Fontaine, Has a Question For You
Do you even supp, bro?
Eating whole foods, preferably organic – if you can afford it – is mandatory for anyone who’s seriously into combat sports. It is the only way to help the body recover after arduous training sessions. (Speedy mitosis anyone?)
However, no matter how much you want to prep your meals and think ahead, when it comes to nutrition sometimes life gets in the way. Before you know it, you are scarfing down the best thing you can get on your way up to the gym – just to have something to run on until that late o’clock meal you’ll devour before crashing to bed.
That’s where supplements come in.
Supplements, however, are by no means a get out of jail free card. They are, as the name implies, a way of completing a healthy diet. They don’t stand for one. There are no shortcuts in nutrition, just like there are none when it comes to your training. But are ways to sweeten some shit out. And supps is one of them.
Here are three I believe every fighter should have in their BPA-free shaker cup.
I know suggesting water as a supp might seem a little bit odd. And honestly, it is. (I’m kinda abusing this platform I’m very grateful for right now, but it’s for a good cause.)
So, just bear with me because, frankly, water doesn’t get enough ring time.
When I said I wanted to talk about the basic supps every fighter should have in their BPA free shaker cup, what I really should have said, is that every fighter should begin with having a shaker cup of water. You have no idea the amount of people I see walking into the gym, literally sweat their ass off, and then leave having only taken a few sips here and there from the water fountain.
People, drink up. Seriously, you have to just drink up. Think about it for a second, along with food and shelter, water is one of our top three survival needs as humans1.
But do yourself a favor, and do not wait to feel thirsty to hydrate, as thirst is only your body’s way to tell you you’ve been parched for way too long. If you only wait even a little bit – which means when you’re feeling thirsty – you’re already 1-2 % dehydrated.
By this time, even with this mild degree of dehydration, athletes especially will suffer reduced endurance, increased fatigue, altered thermoregulatory capability, reduced motivation, and increased perceived effort. And that’s just from 2%. 2
You need about “10 cups of water a day [just] to be hydrated.” 3 That’s without your roadwork, sparring, all those rounds on the heavy bag and your strength and conditioning sessions.
So stay on the safe side and aim for a gallon (16 cups) or a wee bit more than a gallon a day. You sure as hell will be peeing a lot, but you’ll wake up feeling better in the morning. You’ ll have more effective training sessions, your skin will look better and you’ll have better endurance all around. It’s worth the trade off of being that annoying one who always has to take a leak, if you ask me.
2. BCAA’S (Branched Chain Amino Acids)
Having shed 50 pounds and kept it off for 3 years, I’m a strong advocate of the clean-eating lifestyle. No processed foods, no packaged foods, three-ingredients-only foods, foods only your great grandmother would recognize foods. You get where I’m going here.
That’s why it always pains me a little to drink blue or orange neon colored water from my shaker. But I make an exception when it comes to BCAAs because I woke up one too many morning feeling like an 18 wheeler dragged my ass up and down the road during the night and I haven’t found anything else that helps me recover as quickly as they do.
The BCAAs that you’ll find in supplement stores (i.e. leucine, isoleucine and valine) are proteinogenic amino acids, which means they are protein creating, and, as a fighter, that is exactly what you need. When you train, what you’re basically doing is tearing your body down.
In reaction to this self-imposed strain, your system increases protein breakdown and liberates amino acids as it needs fuel, energy for the organism to use (this is what we call catabolism) and the first amino acids that are released by your system during muscular effort are the aforementioned ones.
So, by adding them to your diet – you can drink them, pop them as pills or even make popsicles for those hot training days – you reduce the rate of protein breakdown, which, to make a very long story short, allows you to train longer without feeling fatigue and recover better.
That being said, it changes nothing to the fact that BCAAs are laden with artificial chemical ingredients. So do not go overboard with them. Reserve their use to your training sessions or to help with your sugary cravings when you’re cutting weight.
3. Protein Powder
Protein shakes are God’s gift to anyone who’s in a hurry and watches what they eat. Depending on what you blend them with, you can use them as a pre- (if you add steel cut oats for carbs) or a post-workout meal. And they do wonders for anyone on a weight cut.
Also, they’re easy to find since everyone and their mother sells protein powder these days. And that’s definitely something to be careful with. Therefore when it comes to protein powder, spend the extra cash, because when you get on that train, you won’t want to get off. And you don’t want to drink and bake with a bad quality product.
I believe we should steer clear of anything that’s related to dairy (and that includes whey and casein protein powder). Starting from the fact that we stop producing lactase (the enzyme required to digest lactose, the main sugar found in milk) between the ages of 2 and 5.
We are talking cow milk, which is intended for calves (don’t kid yourself, the main purpose of milk is to turn a 65 lbs baby calf into a 400 lbs cow, not to do a body good), and that it’s jam-packed with hormones, antibiotics and pus. I just don’t see the point in putting that kind of shit into my body.
That’s why I highly recommend plant-based protein powders. They taste great, tend to be much easier on the digestive track than [those derived] from animal sources4 , and are just as efficient. My best bet are the the ones from Vega Sport and Iron Vegan. (Which both contain BCAA’s and glutamine. And, no, they do not sponsor me. But I’d be very open to it. So, you know, holla at the kid…)
In spite of all this, if you still chose to go for whey/casein, you’ll still reap benefits from it. Just make sure it comes from raw, grass-fed milk, as it is nutritionally superior to grain fed cow’s whey5 because of its higher content of amino acids and healthy fats, and has all the nutrients in their natural state as they haven’t been heat processed which actually makes whey inadequate for consumption6 like most other whey protein you see everywhere.
I went for a long time without supps, I thought they were a scam. Some of them are, some of them aren’t. Some of them work incredibly well, some of them made my eyes twitch (helloooo fat burners). It’s all trial and error, here, but the bottom line is to go for the ones that are closest to what nature intended and do not leave you broke or with a stroke. Until then :
*But for God’s sake, make sure it’s BPA free7.
1The body book. The law of hunger, the science of strengh, and other ways to love your amazing body, by Cameron Diaz.
3The body book. The law of hunger, the science of strengh, and other ways to love your amazing body, by Cameron Diaz.