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Why Many MMA Fighters Are Going Vegetarian

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Photo Courtesy Jake Shields Facebook Page

Many MMA fighters are increasingly promoting the benefits of vegetarianism in life and inside the cage.

With some fighters, the typical high protein diet of chicken, fish, lean meats and smart carbs isn’t the best way to build muscle, cut fat and compete in the cage.Among MMA’s most high profile vegetarian fighters include: Jake Shields, Nick Diaz, Nate Diaz, Jon Fitch and Mac Danzig. Herschel Walker, NFL great  who toyed with MMA, is also a vegetarian.

Here’s what Shields, who was raised a vegetarian, told Yahoo! sports about a vegetarian lifestyle:

“I’ve been this way all my life. I’ve got nothing to compare it to. The only thing is, nobody can train as hard or as long as me and Nick Diaz, so that seems to indicate something.”

Nick Diaz takes it a step further, mostly promoting a vegan, raw foods diet.

“I try to eat raw vegan. I’ve been doing that since I was 15, 16 years old, so I’m used to it. It definitely helps me not feel like (expletive), you know, and I got to train all week long.”

Shields was the inspiration for Diaz, and his little brother Nate, to become a vegetarian.

“I can eat as much as I want and still lose weight,” Nate Diaz said. “Pretty much year round I try to eat raw foods. I have been vegan since I was 18 years old.”

Diaz tries to eat organic foods also.

“I try to keep my diet all organic. It’s healthier. You recover faster.”

Vegetarian fighters say that the diet helps them recover faster, gives them more energy and helps them to feel better overall inside the cage. The idea of meat, often filled with hormones, pesticides, and other harmful toxins,decomposing in their bodies, is something they want to resist.

For fighters who forgo meat, however, they look to other sources of protein, such as nuts, tofu and beans.

Here are some good sources of protein, according to vegetarianfighter.com

  • Legumes such as beans, peas and lentils
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Soy products including soy beverages, tempeh and tofu
  • Whole (cereal) grains.
  • Quinoa Rice
  • Spirulina

Mac Danzig, who competes tonight at the UFC on FOX 9 show told UFC.com that the idea that one needs to eat a lot of meet to fulfill protein requirements is blown is incorrect.

“The truth of the matter is that protein requirements are blown all out of proportion,” Danzig told UFC.com .”We are led to believe that we need huge of amounts of protein for physical activity. People have been saying that for so long. The fact of the matter is, even if I did eat meat I wouldn’t be so focused on my protein intake. . . You don’t need one gram of protein per pound of body weight. You don’t need that at all. If you are regularly active and at a good weight, if you get more than 80 grams of protein a day then you are fine. The body can’t even process more than that, your liver can’t process more than that. If you give your body too much protein then it’s either going to turn it into energy or to fat. And your liver has to do all that.”

According to the American Dietetic Association, a vegetarian lifestyle brings many benefits, including guarding against these illnesses:

  • Heart disease
  • Colorectal, ovarian, and breast cancers
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)

A typical menu for Jake Shields, according to jakeshields.com

Breakfast: Oatmeal with fruit or sweet maple syrup. His favorite fruits are blueberries, strawberries, oranges, dried fruits and cantaloupes.
Mid-morning snack: Nuts and various fruits.
Lunch: A stir-fry dish with brown rice and vegetables. Shields will load up on whatever catches his attention in the supermarket, could be spinach, broccoli or any other green veggie.
Post-workout: A protein shake with whey or soy-based protein most of the time. He usually uses whatever his sponsors send.
Dinner: A few eggs, vegetables, either a tortilla or piece of toast, and either potatoes or sweet potatoes.
Late night: A snack of cereal with almond milk.