All You Need To Know About The Keto Diet For MMA

Should I try the Keto Diet for MMA?

The outcome of an MMA fight is often determined by the smallest of margins. For that reason, athletes are constantly looking at the latest research to get a competitive edge over their opponents.

Keto has become an incredibly popular diet in recent years. Everywhere you look, there is yet another person who touts this way of eating, suggesting that it helps us lose weight, optimize our athletic performance, and feel great.

With that, many fighters have also asked, “How beneficial is the keto diet for MMA?”

Below, we’ll go over the keto diet, what it is, what benefits it offers, and whether it’s suitable for martial artists.


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What Is The Keto Diet And What Effects Does It Have On The Body?

Keto is an almost zero-carb diet that has you consume most of your calories from fats and proteins. Typically, you should consume fewer than 50 grams of carbs per day – ideally, you should drop down to fewer than 20 grams.

The most common food choices on a keto diet are:

  • Meats and poultry
  • Fish and other seafood
  • Cheese
  • Eggs
  • Avocado
  • Natural oils (coconut, olive, etc.)
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Berries (in limited quantities)
  • Butter and cream

By eating like that for several days (sometimes weeks), your body goes into a ketosis state where it starts using fat for fuel instead of carbs. It begins converting fats into ketone bodies within the liver, which become the primary source of energy for the body.

The body also produces some glucose from fats and protein through a process known as gluconeogenesis. This is important as glucose is the primary fuel for the brain.

In essence, ketogenic dieting turns the body into a fat-burning machine.

What Makes Keto Dieting So Popular?

Keto has been around since the 1920s when it was first used on people with epilepsy to help soothe their symptoms. For the last decade or so, the diet has become incredibly popular among weight loss communities because of its simplicity and effectiveness.

Ask Joe Rogan any keto evangelist out there, and they will probably say something like, “I love the keto diet because it allows me to lose weight effortlessly and keep it off.”

There is some truth to this, but things are a bit different from what most people imagine. You see, keto isn’t a special or magical diet that puts the body in some fat-melting state. At its core, keto works because it makes it incredibly easy for us to consume fewer calories and achieve the calorie deficit needed for weight loss.

As you cut out all of the hyper-palatable carb foods from your diet and replace them with eggs, meat, and leafy greens, you find yourself a lot fuller from lower-calorie meals.

Is the diet genuinely beneficial for us? Let’s see.

keto diet for mma

Benefits of Ketogenic Dieting

Another significant reason why keto dieting became so popular in recent years is thanks to its supposed health benefits. According to some experts and research, keto is beneficial and can:

  • Decrease epilepsy symptoms
  • Improve cardiovascular health
  • Reduce the risk of some cancers
  • Improve blood sugar levels and decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Reduce acne
  • Improve brain function and prevent age-related mental decline

Whether keto alone brings about these benefits is yet to be fully understood. For example, supposed benefits such as better cardiovascular health can also be attributed to most people’s weight loss on a keto diet.

Benefits And Drawbacks of Keto Diet For MMA

As a whole, research isn’t leaning in favour of ketogenic dieting here. Many experts advise against the use of keto diets if the goal is optimal athletic performance. The reason for that is simple:

Carbs are the primary source of energy for the body. Athletic performance heavily relies on energy. Without it, we can’t function well.

This is particularly pronounced in endurance athletes, where the steady supply of energy is vital. When endurance athletes go on a keto diet, they often find themselves less able to cover the same distances, or, if they can, they do so more slowly.

Some research suggests that keto dieting can help stabilize our energy levels and boost our cognitive function. This itself can be a significant advantage for athletes, but we need more research before concluding.

Keto is also beneficial for athletes looking to cut weight for a competition, especially if they need to do so rapidly.

Should I Go On a Keto Diet For MMA?

The scientific consensus is that keto isn’t optimal for people who want to optimize their athletic performance. Dozens of studies have shown that the lack of carbs hinders athletic performance, decreases time to exhaustion, and slows down the post-workout recovery period.

If you’re interested in taking your MMA performance to the peak, then keto dieting might not be a good approach for you. In that case, consuming an adequate amount of carbs will help you perform better in training, progress quicker, and become a better and more resilient fighter.

On the other hand, if you’re an average person who wants to lose weight and improve their health, keto might work with MMA. You need to realize, however, that your martial arts performance might not be as good. But, if your goal isn’t to become the next Connor McGreggor, it probably won’t matter much.

In other words, you need to ask yourself and get clear on your MMA aspirations. Depending on that, you can answer yourself whether you should go on a keto diet for MMA.

Final Thoughts

Keto is not a wrong way of eating, but it’s not the best way to go about optimizing your athletic performance. If you want to become a great MMA fighter, you need carbs – there is no way around it.

But, if you only aspire to fight for fun and want to use it as a means of losing some excess fat, then pairing it up with keto might work well for you.

Martial artists should check out my recent post on Why You Should Practice Yoga For Martial Arts.

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Gareth Davies

I'm a martial arts competitor and enthusiast. Over the last 15 years, I have trained and competed in several martial arts. I live in Manchester U.K working as a strength & conditioning coach when I'm not travelling and exploring martial arts around the world.
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