MMA Diet On A Budget (With Example Meal Plan)

September 17, 2021

You open the fridge and all you see is some leftover takeaways and a bottle of milk. Well, I guess that’s dinner then! You may imagine the diet of an MMA fighter on a tight budget would look something like this. But I would argue this is an MMA fighter that doesn’t have their sh*t together and hasn’t done any nutritional planning.

Eating on a budget is easier than you think. And eating takeaways is a sure-fire way of burning through your budget quickly. Not to mention the poor nutritional quality of the food won’t do you much good for your next training session.

So I’m going to show you exactly how you can create an MMA diet on a budget so you can fuel your training and become the next UFC superstar (maybe).

Budget Food For An MMA Diet

Budget Food For An MMA Diet

Contrary to popular belief, you eat very well with health in mind on a budget. Most important is buying food when it is on special. If there is something you eat every day, buy 2-3 weeks’ worth when it is on special which will save you money in the long run.

If there is a particular food you eat each week that is not on special but a similar product is, go with the other product. Here is a list of foods that fit perfectly into an MMA diet on a budget. You may notice there are a lot of foods missing.

That is because they are generally more expensive than the options I’ve listed. Remember, you’re on a budget.

Protein Sources

Protein is your building block not only for your muscle but for things like enzymes which break down molecules during digestion. This is where you are going to spend most of your budget and is generally the most expensive part of your shop.

  • Chicken breast
  • Pork loin
  • Chicken thighs
  • Beef mince
  • Turkey mince
  • Canned tuna
  • Eggs (also falls under fats)

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are your predominant energy source. Do not follow the fads and eat a low-carb diet while training for MMA. That is a recipe for low energy, poor training, under-recovery, and injury. Carb sources are generally cheap and you can get a weeks’ worth for approximately $10-15 depending on what you buy.

Fruit is a little more expensive which may bring your carbohydrate price higher, but it is worth it for the vitamins and minerals you will get.

White rice

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  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Oats
  • Pasta
  • Bread
  • Bananas
  • Apples
  • Oranges
  • Milk
  • Greek yogurt

Fats

Fats underpin many functions in the body including your hormone function. You will likely get some of your fat intake from eating eggs and some fattier cuts of meat. But this usually isn’t enough to meet your requirement for the day.

Adding fat sources from unsaturated fats is going to round out your MMA diet on a budget.

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Avocado
  • Peanut Butter

Vegetables

Of course, you can’t forget your veggies! Vegetables can also be pricey. So, choose two or three that are on special. I’ve listed some that are generally cheaper than other vegetables.

  • Lettuce
  • Cucumber
  • Spinach
  • Green beans
  • Carrots (also higher in carbohydrates)
  • Peppers

Supplements

Even though you are on a budget, supplements can make your budget go even further. Whey protein is one of the most cost-effective sources of protein so it makes sense to have it on hand. Further, we only want to use the most scientifically robust supplements on the market.

There aren’t many. But these are the most effective supplements for MMA when you are on a budget that can move the needle in your training.

  • Whey protein
  • Creatine
  • Vitamin D3
  • Caffeine pills

How To Determine Your Caloric Intake

Example MMA Diet On A Budget

For this example, I'm going to assume you want to maintain your current bodyweight while training. The most accurate way to determine your maintenance calories is to track your intake for a week. It must be a full 7 days as you often eat differently on the weekend compared to weekdays.

Take your 7-day average and that will be your maintenance calories per day assuming your bodyweight has remained the same. The other method is to take your bodyweight in pounds and multiply by 15. If you are very active (i.e. training twice a day), you may bump this up to 16 or 17. If your goal is to start cutting weight, then multiply by 13 or 14 to be in a slight caloric deficit.

For example, if you weigh 170 lbs, 170 x 15 = 2550 calories per day. That is where you would start. Knowing your calories is only half of the job done. You now need to calculate your macronutrient breakdown.

This is important as you’ll get vastly different results by eating 10% protein versus 25% protein. Here is how you calculate your macros. A quick primer, 1 g of protein and carbs is equal to 4 calories while 1 g of fat is equal to 9 calories.

Protein Macros

Always start by calculating your protein intake. Set protein to 1 g per pound of bodyweight as a general rule of thumb. In our example of a 170 lb MMA fighter, that would come out to 170 g.

Fat Macros

Next, set your fat intake to your desired level. For MMA performance, I would recommend 25% of your total calories. This is low enough to allow a high carbohydrate intake for energy but high enough to support hormone function.

2550 x 0.25 = 637 calories

637/9 = 71 g

Carbohydrate Macros

Finally, carbohydrates make up the rest of your diet.

2550 – (637 fat + 680 protein) = 1233 calories

1233/4 = 308 g

So, your final macronutrient breakdown for each day comes out like this:

Macros

Grams

Protein

170 g

Carbohydrates

308 g

Fat

71 g

Here is an example diet based on these macronutrient ratios. Bear in mind that you don't need to hit these numbers exactly. You will drive yourself crazy doing that. Instead, allow yourself a ± 10 g difference for protein and carbohydrates and a ± 5 g difference for fats.

Example MMA Diet On A Budget (Evening Training)

Meal

Protein

Carbs

Fat

Calories

Breakfast (7 am) - Overnight Oats

29 g

75 g

10 g

495 cal

Quaker Oats (80 g)

Cell
Cell
Cell
Cell

Low Fat Milk (250 ml)

Cell
Cell
Cell
Cell

Oikos No Fat Greek Yogurt (100 g)

Cell
Cell
Cell
Cell

Mid-Morning Lunch (10.30 am)

38 g

57 g

24 g

596 cal

4 Eggs (Size 7)

Cell
Cell
Cell
Cell

3 Pieces Toast

Cell
Cell
Cell
Cell

1 Apple

Cell
Cell
Cell
Cell

Afternoon Lunch (1.30 pm)

37 g

81 g

18 g

637 cal

Chicken Breast (100 g Cooked)

Cell
Cell
Cell
Cell

Jasmine Rice (220 g Cooked)

Cell
Cell
Cell
Cell

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (1 Tbsp)

Cell
Cell
Cell
Cell

Lettuce (1 Cup)

Cell
Cell
Cell
Cell

Pre-Training Smoothie (4.30 pm)

29 g

13 g

43 g

390 cal

Low Fat Milk (250 ml)

Cell
Cell
Cell
Cell

1 Banana

Cell
Cell
Cell
Cell

Peanut Butter (1 Tbsp)

Cell
Cell
Cell
Cell

Handful Spinach

Cell
Cell
Cell
Cell

Whey Protein (1/2 Scoop)

Cell
Cell
Cell
Cell

Creatine (1 Scoop)

Cell
Cell
Cell
Cell

Dinner (7 pm)

34 g

56 g

10 g

447 cal

Beef Mince Burger Patty 93/7% (100 g Cooked)

Cell
Cell
Cell
Cell

Baked Potato (260 g)

Cell
Cell
Cell
Cell

1 Cup Green Beans

Cell
Cell
Cell
Cell

Total

166 g

311 g

74 g

2565 cal

Example MMA Diet On A Budget (Morning Training)

Meal

Protein

Carbs

Fat

Calories

Pre-Training (6 am)

30 g

22 g

1 g

212 cal

Whey Protein (1 Scoop)

Cell
Cell
Cell
Cell

1 Apple

Cell
Cell
Cell
Cell

Breakfast Post-Training Smoothie (9 am)

34 g

70 g

16 g

540 cal

Low Fat Milk (250 ml)

Cell
Cell
Cell
Cell

1 Banana

Cell
Cell
Cell
Cell

Peanut Butter (1 Tbsp)

Cell
Cell
Cell
Cell

Whey Protein (1/2 Scoop)

Cell
Cell
Cell
Cell

Quaker Oats (40 g)

Cell
Cell
Cell
Cell

Creatine (1 Scoop)

Cell
Cell
Cell
Cell

Handful Spinach

Cell
Cell
Cell
Cell

Lunch (11.30 am)

37 g

92 g

18 g

685 cal

Chicken Breast (100 g Cooked)

Cell
Cell
Cell
Cell

Jasmine Rice (250 g Cooked)

Cell
Cell
Cell
Cell

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (1 Tbsp)

Cell
Cell
Cell
Cell

Lettuce (1 Cup)

Cell
Cell
Cell
Cell

Afternoon Meal (3.30 pm)

38 g

53 g

24 g

586 cal

4 Eggs (Size 7)

Cell
Cell
Cell
Cell

3 Pieces Toast

Cell
Cell
Cell
Cell

1 Orange

Cell
Cell
Cell
Cell

Dinner (7 pm)

34 g

56 g

10 g

447 cal

Beef Mince Burger Patty 93/7% (100 g Cooked)

Cell
Cell
Cell
Cell

Baked Potato (260 g)

Cell
Cell
Cell
Cell

1 Cup Green Beans

Cell
Cell
Cell
Cell

Total

175 g

301 g

68 g

2509 cal

"A really massive part of the success was the weight cut."

"Dr. James Morehen knew my body better than me. My performances were staying, my training in the gym, my sleep pattern was good. I wasn't going to bed starving, I was getting good rest in and sleep in." - Rocky Fielding (WBA Super Middleweight Champion)

About the author 

James de Lacey

I am a professional strength & conditioning coach that works with professional and international level teams and athletes. I am a published scientific researcher and have completed my Masters in Sport & Exercise Science. I've combined my knowledge of research and experience to bring you the most practical bites to be applied to your combat training.


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