Combat sports are as much a mind game as anything else, and although we associate this side of things with psychologists and coaches, you’d be surprised how much nutrition impacts confidence and mental preparation.
Nathaniel had always gone about his nutrition through own reading, common sense, knowing his body, trial and error and a little guidance from coaching staff. However as he was rising through the ranks to World Champ status (which he’s defended 2x now) the focus on nutrition became more and more important.
I was introduced to Nathaniel from another UFC destined fighter and client Corrin Eaton, who indirectly introduced me to both his and Nathaniel’s Osteopath at Buckingham Osteopaths in London. Nathaniel was receiving the best input from coaching and medical staff and nutrition needed to sing in harmony with all this.
What we did…
We reinforced the good and encouraged him to do more of it, and we gave solutions to sub-optimal parts of his diet. The ‘good’ included the simple but imperative matter of food quality! Nathaniel knew what to eat in terms of fresh wholefoods, he knew processed junk came with empty calories and did little in way of recovery and nutrient replenishment.
The ‘bad’ sides included meal structure, nutrient timing and quantity, no different to my general clients in truth. Combat athletes however notoriously under eat, particularly in the run up to a fight when they have to make weight, Nathaniel knew what he needed to eat and avoid, but he lacked the confidence to eat enough!
Inadequate calories make it difficult to meet nutrient requirements such as protein, carbs and fat, and particularly micronutrients including those all-important vitamins and minerals.
You don’t know what you don’t know
It wasn’t until Nathaniel was getting adequate calories and macronutrient ratios that he finally realised what his body felt like at full tilt! Energy, perceived exertion, rate of recovery and overall strength improved…no surprise there. What was a surprise according to Nathaniel was that his original diet only needed minor amendments to get massive improvements in performance.
Making the most of every ‘nutritional window of opportunity’ was a revelation, mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks were much needed injections of nutrition that meant energy improved, hunger subsided and performance output in the gym improved. The quality and composition of the calories in the snacks meant body composition didn’t change in terms of body fat (Nathaniel is ridiculously shredded year round) but performance output and rate of recovery increased noticeably.
Rate of recovery
We can all go balls to wall when it comes to exercise, but it’s those who can do it for the longest time without getting injured, or getting beat that go on to great things. Nutrition is key here, and one area many athletes fall short on is protein and carb replenishment, more specifically amino acid pool and glycogen replen.
Post training protocols became key for Nathaniel, looking to get at least 60g carbs post high intensity training session within the hour post session (ideally within 20mins for maximal benefit) meant he was readily fuelled and recovered from an energy point of view for tomorrow’s session. Then there is the inclusion of protein post session, a shake delivering 30g protein alongside the isotonic drink and banana ticked that box.
The message was to not be scared of carbohydrates, they are not the devil. In fact, if you are chronically low in carbs then the body has no choice but to dip into lean muscle mass in order to ‘steal’ glucogenic amino acids to form glucose for energy via gluconeogenesis.
So a lot of Nathaniel’s nutrition support revolved around changing perceptions, that carbs are cool and actually, a lot of what he was already doing was great…he just needed to do it on a bigger scale i.e. have more!
He nailed it, applied himself to it in unwavering fashion, which won’t come as much of a surprise should you ever get to see the man training. Check this out!