Carbs or Protein?

By: Mary Bell
The Fight Dietitian
I get this question a lot! The answer is yes. You actually need both, but it needs to be in the right proportions. There is a balance between the types of calories that must exist for everything to work correctly. As an MMA athlete, you need a diet that allows you to train for long periods of time, facilitates muscle recovery and repair, and keeps you lean. This can only happen when there are enough carbs and enough protein. Too much of one, means not enough of the other and that’s not good enough to make you excellent. Let’s look at carbs for now, and then we will look at protein next time.

You are probably familiar with the term GLUCOSE. Glucose is the form of carbohydrate that cells can use for energy. This is the type that is found in the blood. All carbs are broken down into the simplest carb, glucose. This is the most efficient way for the body to make glucose. By that I mean, you get the most energy production for the least energy cost. This is a good thing. Carbohydrate that is not needed for energy right away can be stored in the body as glycogen. Carbs are stored many places, but muscle and liver are the two big ones. The amount of carbs in the diet needs to not only provide fuel for NOW, but stored fuel for LATER. If you find that you run out of gas frequently during extended training sessions, this is a huge red flag that your carb intake is off.Carbs need to make up at least 50% of the total daily calories, and sometimes even more—just depends on the sport and the training. Carbs are anything made from grain or sugar.

Examples would be: Cereal, pasta, rice, crackers, breads, pizza, muffins, sugar, honey, fruits, vegetables, candy, soda, fruit juice, and more!

A 2000 calorie diet should provide around 1000 calorie, or 250 grams, of carbs. Most of you guys should be eating at least this, if not more.

Carbs are EXTREMELY important to your ability to train hard and recover properly. They are also necessary to PROTECT muscle from being broken down and used for energy. If you are avoiding carbs because somebody told you to eat lots of protein, you are probably experiencing fatigue during workouts and difficulty building and maintaining muscle mass.

It would be worth it for you to have your diet evaluated and see if what you are doing is really working for you. A good diet analysis should include at least 3 days of intake, should be done by a Registered Dietitian, and should cost around $100 or less. It’s worth the money to KNOW if you really eat as well as you think you do. What are you waiting for? 🙂

Mary is the owner of Rudog, a nutrition consulting company for the MMA community. She can be reached directly at or via Rudog Nutrition


Rudog Smoothie

A quick and easy way to get in some carbs is with smoothies. Unfortunately, they can be really expensive when you purchase them from a smoothie place. Save the money and make them at home! You need a really good wand mixer, or a blender, that can be left out all the time. This increases the odds that you will actually make the smoothie. Other than that, all you need is fruit on hand all the time. Smoothies are an especially great way to use up extra-ripe fruit.

What you need:

  • A hand mixer or blender
  • Fruit (bananas, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries)
  • Yogurt
  • Milk
  • Plastic cups (so you can hit the road with it)

Smoothies are not supposed to be complicated. Keep it simple. Here is a really good basic recipe that I use all the time. I think that the yogurt you use makes a HUGE difference in the taste. I love Brown Cow. If you have a recipe you like, please share it!

  • 1 cup Brown Cow lowfat vanilla yogurt
  • 1-2 ripe bananas
  • Handful strawberries
  • Handful blueberries
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 1/2 cup shaved ice (optional, but makes it REALLY cold!!)

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One thought on “Carbs or Protein?”

  1. You can use frozen strawberries and blue berries instead of ice and makes it nice and cold and simpler too!

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