What Do Fighters Eat Before a Fight?


In my previous article, I discussed the best pre- and post-workout meals for high intensity sports like Muay Thai Kickboxing. However, when it comes to fight nutrition specifically, pre-fight nerves mess up the regular guidelines. In this article, I discuss everything fighters need to know about eating before a fight.

The best pre-fight nutrition includes the following ingredients:

  • Red beets, pomegranate juice, and pumpkin seeds for blood flow improving nitrates
  • Leafy greens and algae for oxygenating chlorophyll
  • Fruits for a light pre-fight snack
  • A foundation of complex carbs and protein, e.g. oatmeal + eggs
Various green vegetables and healthy foods on a wooden table

Keep in mind that pre-fight nerves will influence your digestion, which means that it’ll take longer than usual to metabolize your food. Moreover, as weird as it may sound, there’s also an argument to be made for not eating before your fight at all. And that’s regardless of the energizing effects of pre-fight nutrition! Read on to find out how exactly pre-fight nutrition is different from a regular pre-workout meal.

Do kickboxers eat before a fight?

Yes, since kickboxers weigh in in the morning or the day before the fight, most fighters eat and drink right after weighing in. They fuel themselves with carbohydrates for energy, and replenish the fluids and minerals lost from cutting weight to prepare their body for performing at peak levels.

Yet, there are also fighters who do replenish their fluids and minerals, but don’t eat any food before their fight. This is because a kickboxing match is not just a fight against your opponent, it is also a fight with yourself – the willpower you need to deal with the stress, emotions, and fatigue. When going into such a battle, some fighters prefer to be hungry (or “hangry”) because it gives them an extra edge – an edge where it feels that their life is at stake, which helps to tap into their primal instincts.

Angry looking kickboxer hitting a knee to the body

MMA fighter Cat Zingano famously explained on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast that fighting plays into her primal instincts. Particularly, when she won a hard fight, she explains that the “relief” was there because “we lived… we get to eat.” It’s about getting to “know” herself by “know[ing] what would have happened” if she would be “fighting over territory or food” – in other words, “who gets the bone.”

So, while eating the right foods can give you the nutritional fuel for optimum athletic performance, this does not necessarily ensure an optimum fighting performance. The latter is a personal preference that varies from fighter to fighter, and from day to day.

What food gives you the most energy?

  • Quick energy: fruits like bananas, apples, and strawberries
  • Long energy: complex carb foods like sweet potato, brown rice, and wholegrain pasta, quinoa, or oats
  • Energy boosting compounds: coffee, guaraná, cacao, tea, cordyceps mushrooms, red beets, pomegranates, and algae like chlorella/spirulina
Pomegranate seeds and juice

In addition to foods, there are various supplements that boost your energy levels as well. However, since supplements come in various shapes, forms, and pricings – and can sometimes even be dangerous if used wrongly – I’ll dedicate another blog to explaining which ones are suitable for fighting and how you use them best. Are you healthy and too impatient to wait? Have a look at Cordyceps extract and Beta-alanine.

How many hours should you eat before your competition?

Because of pre-fight nerves, your digestion will take longer than you’re used to. So, take small bites and eat slowly:

  • 4 hours out: a full meal – e.g. oats with pumpkin seeds
  • 90 minutes out: asmoothie containing leafy greens, red beet and pomegranate juice
  • 30-60 minutes out: a piece of fruit

Keep in mind that your metabolism is influenced by what you eat and drink throughout the day. Caffeine, ginger, and pepper speed up your metabolism, but fat, fiber, and alcohol (also if you’ve been drinking the day before) slow your digestion down.

Why do fighters eat oatmeal before a fight?

Oatmeal contains a lot of complex carbohydrates and fiber, which give you a lot of energy for a long duration. In addition, oats are rich in protein, which reduces muscle breakdown from a potentially grueling fight. Finally, you can eat oatmeal any way you feel like: warm or cold, sweet or savory.

Oatmeal with kiwi, orange, cashews, and star anise

On top of that, oatmeal is simple to prepare and to take with you wherever you go for your fight. If you cook it through and only use water and/or nut milk it’s very easy to digest for your body. Since waiting for a fight is one of the most nerve wrecking things there is, eating easily digestible foods is an essential part of preparation. The last thing you want is indigestion or stomach cramps mixing up with the nerves in your belly.

What are good snacks for sports?

If you lack time for a proper meal prep, simply have some of the following sports nutrition snacks:

Merlijn

Hi, I'm Merlijn Broersma, a Dutch entrepreneur with a passion for Martial Arts and the interplay between (fight)sports, nutrition, and mental fitness. I love writing and blending research with personal experience in a practical and accessible manner - welcome to The Warrior Way of Living.

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