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Post-Training Recovery for MMA

protein-shakeTraining for the sport of MMA arguably involves one of the most intense and rigorous training regimens in all of sports.  Hitting the mats several times per week, even multiple times per day, combined with strength training and cardio and conditioning work means full rest days are few.  Without a proper recovery strategy, one can quickly become overtrained, which can lead to a drop in performance level and worse, an increased potential for injury.

Part of a proper recovery strategy is inherent in a good training program, such as stretching and general physical preparation (GPP) methods, which are becoming increasingly popular and, very generally, include various forms of lower intensity training aimed at balancing the basic factors of fitness, increasing work capacity and assisting in recovery.   The recovery process also can and should encompass a variety of treatment techniques such as ice/heat, active release techniques (ART) and deep tissue massage.

A crucial, but often overlooked or underutilized facet of a good recovery strategy is post-training nutrition.  Ironically, it is also one of the easiest and least time consuming.  Recovery begins immediately after a training session is completed.  There is a small window of opportunity that must be taken advantage of to kick start the process.  Of course, adhering to a proper nutrition plan throughout the entire day is of utmost importance for maximizing performance and recovery and is a necessity to truly excel at any sport, especially one as physically demanding as MMA.   But let’s take a closer look at what can be done to take advantage of this post-training window from a nutrition perspective. 


Intense training depletes muscle glycogen (stored form of carbohydrates) and breaks down muscle tissue.  Longer sessions can also increase cortisol levels (a catabolic hormone).  In order for recovery to occur, glycogen stores must be replenished, protein synthesis must be stimulated (for tissue repair) and an anabolic environment must be created. 


After training, muscles are primed to absorb nutrients for recovery for up to two hours – this is the aforementioned window.  I like to get two feedings into this 2 hour period.  The first should occur within 15-30 minutes after a training session to quickly begin replenishing glycogen stores and stimulating protein synthesis for muscle repair.  The second should occur within about 1 hour to an hour-and-a-half later to continue the process.

The post-training meal immediately following training should consist of a high quality, rapidly digesting protein source and high-glycemic carbohydrates to ensure rapid uptake of the nutrients.  The best option here is a shake containing whey protein isolate and a waxy maize carbohydrate supplement – more on these in a moment.  In the absence of waxy maize, any sports drink, such as Gatorade will do.  Although these drinks are essentially sugar, they have an added benefit in that they contain electrolytes.  It is important to note that no fat should be consumed at this time as it slows the digestion and absorption of nutrients.

Whey protein isolate is a quick digesting protein that supplies all of the critical amino acids including branched-chain amino acids (BCAA’s) necessary for optimal recovery.  Several recent studies have shown that the BCAA leucine in particular not only has a significant impact on increasing muscle protein synthesis after training, but also has potent fat loss properties and both anabolic and anti-catabolic actions in the body.  The obvious question:  do you need to add BCAA’s or a leucine supplement?  Certainly doesn’t hurt if you have the budget (they can be fairly expensive), but it’s not necessary – spend your money on a high-quality whey isolate which contains an ample supply. 

Waxy maize is a high-molecular weight complex carbohydrate that is even more effective than sugar at facilitating rapid glycogen replenishment and nutrient uptake.  It does so by clearing the stomach quickly, bypassing digestion and getting into the bloodstream faster than sugar, where it also pulls more water and nutrients with it due to its molecular size. 

About an hour later, a mixed solid food meal containing protein (e.g. chicken, fish, red meat), complex carbohydrates (e.g. sweet potato, brown rice, oatmeal) and some healthy fats (e.g. extra-virgin olive oil, nuts, natural peanut butter) should be consumed.

How Much?

The amount of protein and carbohydrate that should be consumed in the post-training meals is dependent on many factors including gender, weight, metabolism, training volume and intensity and specific goals (examples: adding size or strength, reducing body fat, making weight).  As a general rule of thumb, I recommend 30-50 grams of protein and 40-80 grams of carbs for the post-training shake.  The second meal an hour later is about the same with the addition of 15 – 25 grams of fat.  An individual looking to add weight may require more carbs, while someone needing to lose body fat or a fighter cutting weight may need to significantly reduce the carbs.


The following is a sample post-training nutrition plan for a 180lb-200lb male.

15 minutes after training:
Shake: 40 grams whey protein isolate
              60-80 grams waxy maize

1 hour later:
6-8 ounces lean steak
8 ounces sweet potato (or potato)
Large salad with balsamic vinegar and 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

In summary, to maximize recovery from the rigours of your MMA training regimen, don’t miss taking advantage of the post-training nutritional window of opportunity.  Make it a habit by regarding your training session as incomplete until you have downed your post-training shake.  I guarantee you will feel the results.

Kevin Ferrell
CRE8iON Fitness & Wellness Inc. recommends the following brands for your post-training shake:

Whey Protein Isolate
Iso Pro Low Carb


Waxy Maize


  • I don’t know but that shake looks really good right about now, lol

  • Really enjoyed this article. I train MMA and this week has been particularly tough, hence my searching for workout recovery tips. Site bookmarked! Thanks

  • Bob Tomer says:

    Thanks for the Blog very intersting. My question is I train from 7 to 9 or 10 pm. Usually i’m in bed by midnight and back up at 6 am is it ok for me to eat that late at night?

  • Excelent blog, I just came across it and I am already a fan. I just dropped 30 pounds in thirty days, and I want to share my weight loss success with as many people as possible. If I can lose the weight then any one can. Whatever you do, never give up and you WILL attain every one of your weight loss ambitions!

  • Hi, its great to read some info my a fellow nutrition and fitness enthusiast. I personally am not a fan of whey protein, I know that on paper it is very efficient. But i have always wondered of the dairy aspect. A protein straight from milk, something great for weight loss and weight gain depending on usage but in terms of some folks you may find yourself to have a low metabolic tolerance to dairy (some people find the same with wheat). I prefer to diversify and try different proteins. This is all my personal opinion of course but i find all our body’s are different and you must do your own search to find the right form of powder for you. i personally shift between promasil and myofusion with some mutant mass if i feel like bulking or even as a recovery drink after a power cardio workout (such as plyo). Try to visit if anybody want more info.

  • Why whey protein is considered one of the best protein foods for humans. The nutritional characteristics of whey protein are outstanding, but you need to be selective when choosing a whey powder.Try to visit if anybody want more info.

  • Luke says:

    If I am Training 2 times per day, high intensity, (mixing up muscles and sessions of course) After each training session, is a bottle of gatorade and protein shake alright for the 15-30min meal, and a full proper size meal 1.5hours later? or should I add a bit more carbohydrates immediately post?
    I have a fight coming up and do not want to be restricted due to overtraining.

  • […] Post-Training Recovery for MMA : […]

  • JP says:

    Can I take my whey instead of a meal? or it is recommended to take both after training?
    If I take my meal just 30 minutes after my training, is that ok? or better to wait an hour?

    thx so much!

  • Pre-workout nutrition is also a topic that would be beneficial for most. Every time I train, I hear about people who didn’t eat for like 6 or more hours because the class is around supper time.

  • This is a great and MUCH needed topic to be posted. I for one believe there is no argument as to which sport is more physically demanding then the sport of mma.

    I use to just personally train those who wanted to just get in shape and build muscle, and post workout nutrition is extremely important; but now I train and teach mma fighters, and it is absolutely imperative that combat athletes get the proper nutrition after an intense workout.

    Having a “second” recovery meal is very important and often overlooked as well. Great post!

    Derek Manuel
    MMA Strength and Conditioning Coach
    MMA Workouts

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