In addition to an excessive passion for culturing the physique, since childhood I have always liked and practised martial arts (which in my spare time I still try to do with the aid of a teacher specialised in these disciplines) and which I consider three hundred and sixty degree psycho-physical training for the person.
In recent years a rapid growth in the popularity of Mixed Martial Arts has been noted, American television frequently shows UFC fights and these are even starting to be shown here in Italy in addition to the consolidated international event, "Octagon", in Milan.
The business that these industries are generating is growing exponentially, so much so that even the large American nutritional supplement companies are believing and investing in this type of environment a lot.
It is a very vast sea for sure, potentially huge, but actually, those who practice this type of activity are athletes encouraged to endure brutally challenging levels of intensity and a food support can only be of considerable help.
Clearly, all this must be developed with sufficient and targeted nutrition, something that unfortunately was neglected in contact sports until not long ago.
However, being "war machines", "fighters" must be able to avail themselves of macro-nutrients and nutrients in order to be able to perform to the maximum and be powerful, fast, and strong at the same time in combat, as well as during hard and frequent workouts, characterised perhaps by more disciplines (see in MMA) and the different types of aerobic and anaerobic effort made.
In addition to "approximate" nutrition, perhaps with absurd methods for the reaching the category weight, years ago the masters of martial arts or boxing of the past were fixated on the individual style of training and the search for perfecting the gesture.
From there, they jealously refused to "open up" to other training scenarios, discrediting weight training as a way of "slowing down" and erroneously seeing it only as body building. At best, a little cardio activity could be given a little space running parallel to the training activity in the class. A certain "bigotry" can be noted, it must be admitted, but it is important to note that today we are seeing a sort of metamorphosis, a real opening towards the training of MMA fighters who train with four or five disciplines: from Muay Thai to wrestling , from the Greek-Roman wrestling to Brazilian jiu-jitsu, judo, or other techniques that can complete the arsenal of shots and technical effectiveness of the fighters.
But in all this we are also seeing a lot of support for training in the gym with weights, from pure strength training to gruelling targeted crossfit circuits that make aerobic activity a real massacre, thus preparing the athlete to maintain performance in the various restarts, to endure gruelling moments, even under blow's from opponents or the great exertion required during a struggle on the ground.
All this structured in daily sessions and often to a certain level several times in the day for the fighter. However, at every level, from amateurs following a workout schedule of three times a week up to professionals, the energy, metabolic and nervous effort required is to say the least terribly intense.
For those who may lack nutrition in their food or may otherwise benefit from dietary supplement support, which should not only be of importance to the student of fitness or the body builder, but we can see that to maintain the pace of training required and a performance at as high a level as possible, the fighter can support his/her food intake with specific supplements that can support performance, or facilitate the recovery processes allowing the athlete to train so frequently and so intensely.
The main dietary supplements for mma
Given that food supplements should be seen as such, as a support, "integrating with", completing and helping what must be an already solid and well-built training and nutrition base, the nutritional elements that can be of help and support to the fighter are varied, but leaving future investigations to others, let's have a look at the most famous and used supplements.
Protein supplements made with whey protein
We try not to see the protein supplement simply as a brick for building muscle.
The intensity generated by a training session, whether it's MMA or Brazilian ju jitsu, wrestling or Karate Kyou Kushin Kai, often involves a very high calorie use and thus the consumption of a great deal of carbohydrates to the extent of risking ignoring muscle proteins for energy purposes (gluconeogenesis).
If the diet is not well supplemented and maybe specific liquid carbohydrates are not consumed during exercise, the risk of catabolising muscle protein with a consequent decline not only in the muscles but also in performance, thus compromising recovery, is all to easy.
Not good I would say!
We notice how protein shakes are omnipresent in the diet of fighters, because no one wants to weaken and waste valuable, good-looking muscle tissue. The first "critical" moment to direct the body to repair damaged muscle tissue from training is immediately after the training.
This will be synergistically enhanced by the restoration of glycogen consumed through the introduction of preferably simple carbohydrates or the new generation carbohydrates with high molecular weight. The concept is thus the sooner you provide the muscles with what they need (carbohydrates and proteins), the better and faster they will recover. The protein of choice is ionic exchange "whey", one of the best sources that you can ingest in terms of digestion, assimilation and absorption.
Another high quality (high biological value) source is egg protein. Nowadays, they come with pleasant flavouring and excellent solubility, which means you can drink them, thus improving hydration, in addition to having precious amino acids circulating in the bloodstream to "necessary" areas in a short space of time.
BCAA (branched chain amino acids)
The most "famous" amino acids that have always been used in all sports, not only in body building, for the many functions associated with them.
They are made up of three essential amino acids, leucine, isoleucine and valine, which the body cannot produce by itself, therefore, if the diet does not supply sufficient levels of bcaa, the body breaks down muscle tissue to fill the need. Over time, intense workouts in the gym with techniques and various disciplines, trying to strengthen blows and become ever faster, perhaps with a reduced calorie intake to achieve the weight for the category ... in order to cope somehow with the many energy demands made on it, the body greedily uses the bcaa.
That's why including branched amino acids is more than kind, it is a rapid buffer instead of muscle proteins, and this leucine is an important activator of protein synthesis and therefore the muscle recovery processes.
For the fifty percent, the amino acid glutamine is found in most abundance in muscle tissue. During intense training, the levels of this important amino acid drop a lot, thus slowing recovery and adjustment.
I welcome the immediate post workout supplement as it is a potent anti-catabolic and provides cell hydration (dehydration is a condition to be avoided!) as well as additional support for protein synthesis, since it transports nitrogen in muscle cells and to the immune system often tested by intense stress .
Mistakenly mistreated and considered "doping" by the media in the past, creatine is formed from the combination of three amino acids, arginine, glycine and methionine, in the liver, therefore it is an absolutely natural substance. Creatine has been the most famous supplement in recent years due to its value and functions in sport and thus it is the supplement most studied scientifically. The body uses a compound called adenosine triphosphate "ATP" which is readily available as an energy source, so when you need a boost of energy like for lifting weights, rapid-fire kicking and punching or working under submission, we get the energy from ATP .
The problem is that the muscles contain ATP for a period of about 10-15 seconds, so creatine enters into action supporting this need to provide more energy and prolong the duration of the intensive effort. We could write a lot about the type of effort, fuel used depending on the changing duration and intensity used in combat arts as well as for the further uses of creatine, but for now let's focus on the "presentation".
So forget all that may have been said mistakenly long ago, creatine is one of the safest and most studied supplements on the market with confirmed effectiveness, the fact is that with creatine supplements, the fighter will be able to exercise at a level of greater intensity, get more explosive and contractile muscle strength, for a longer period of time, all features that are definitely a great advantage for any fighter.
The key macro-nutrient from an energy point of view are obviously carbohydrates. If you are looking for absolute performance, they are our dearest ally and the body's preferred source of energy, so you need to train with adequate levels of muscle and liver stocks that will be just as adequately replenished after the training session to speed up the recovery processes. It is difficult to determine a standard quantity, since it depends on several factors, such as the subjective metabolism, but basically we are talking about "activity-dependent" nutrients.
We should also consider that consuming simple liquid carbohydrates must be secondary and only a supplement to a sustained diet based on carbohydrates with a low or moderate glycaemic index such as rice or pasta, preferably wholemeal, sweet or white potatoes , oatmeal and fruit. If the workout lasts over an hour, a positive supplement would be adding bars based on highly digestible carbohydrates that are absorbed rapidly and which contain glucose and / or maltodextrin and / or fructose, for example.
Otherwise you can add drinks based on liquid carbohydrate, and here we find a lot of different types, from glucose to maltodextrin (i.e. old generation) finishing up with high molecular weight carbohydrates that are rapidly absorbed and available in the bloodstream, such as vitargo or the latest ciclodetrine, to be sipped during the session. In this way they do not cause gastrointestinal disorders or cause performance to drop by being difficult to digest, rather they provide consistent support to the effort with a gradual release into the circulation to the muscles.
For those who cannot take them or prefer not to drink liquid carbs during the session, it remains crucial that these are replenished immediately post workout.
First we replenish nutrients at the moment the body needs them most, and the first nutrients should be carbohydrates, even better if they are combined with bcaa or at least amino acids / proteins, they will start off the recovery processes, resulting in you being able to train first and with results in terms of subsequent performances.
Caffeine is undoubtedly the world's most popular stimulant. It can be found in various forms, such as drinks, supplements, in energy drinks or in chocolate.
After you take it, it reaches its maximum levels in the blood within an hour (or less), with a stimulating effect on the brain, it raises your blood pressure, heart rate, gastric acid production and encourages the mobilisation of fatty acids.
Caffeine is much used by athletes such as fighters for its many effects, but above all for its ergogenic stimulating action that enhances performance and elevates the pain tolerance threshold.
Its most important characteristic is its ability to mobilise fatty acids from accumulated stocks, promoting their use to generate energy, which saves valuable muscle (and hepatic) glycogen, and thus extends the potential duration of effort with less fatigue, bearing in mind such savings are crucial during the first fifteen minutes of performance.
Individuals respond differently, however, to this powerful substance, as some people may suffer some typical side-effects, such as poor quality of sleep, gastrointestinal disturbances, feeling of fatigue, headaches, excessive anxiety and muscle cramps.
Recently, beta-alanine has become very popular in the field of endurance sports, as well as in contact sports. It works. Yes, its usefulness is linked to the fact that it is an amino acid precursor of dipeptide carnosine, it is therefore essential for the production of carnosine.
Carnosine is involved in muscle pH adjustment for which it acts as a "buffer", since it neutralises the hydrogen ions accumulated during intense physical activity, which prevent muscles contracting in the best way, resulting in muscle fatigue and reducing the strength at our disposal.
We have not yet spoken of lactic acid acidosis, but we know well its presence may be detrimental in training or worse in combat. The MMA or brazilian ju jitsu fighters, for example, know how difficult it is to move their muscles or produce power in these conditions while fighting on the ground.
We will have the opportunity to go into greater depth. With higher concentrations of carnosine in the muscles, you will be able to extend training sessions and make them even more intense. I recommend you look at the scientific literature here that is also interesting and confirms a real and lasting improvement in performance.
These are just some of the very useful and commonly used supplements in the world of combat sports like MMA, of course we could have added more to the list.
It is clear that they are not magic potions ensuring victories, but they are supplements to what must be a solid base of exercise and proper nutrition.
Today, the fighter is an athlete who is committed on various fronts, training with different disciplines and combining them with strength and aerobic conditioning training. Athletics (martial arts), anaerobic and aerobic effort.
A perfect athlete should be nourished with the best fuel possible, thus science has made available a range of effective dietary supplements.