Aug
13

MMA Diet: Caffeine

Does caffeine impact sports performance? Absolutely.

“Most of us know caffeine as the stuff in coffee that gives us a morning boost. It’s estimated that 80% of us drink coffee regularly. But according to the National Strength & Conditioning Association (NSCA) caffeine is the world’s most commonly used drug, according to Vanderbilt University it is the “most inexpensive and readily available drug known to man,” many nutrition sites list coffee as the world’s most powerful and ingested antioxidant beverage and according to many athletic improvement sites it is considered the most widely studied aid to enhance physical performance.

“Athletes at all levels – including the Olympics – can be banned and even have their medals taken from them due to caffeine levels over the sport’s testing limit. Yes, caffeine, a substance most of us drink every morning, is on the list of banned “supplements” just like steroids and cocaine – but only if the urine test comes back at 12mg/L (basically 8 cups of traditional coffee, depending on body size). A “moderate” amount is generally considered 250mg/day. Positive correlations between caffeine and focus/athletic performance have been found ranging from 150mg-600mg/day, but after this amount the effect doesn’t increase much and may even turn negative. If caffeine is the world’s most commonly used drug, then it’s also the world’s most commonly used performance enhancer. It’s certainly worth exploring the effects of caffeine on MMA performance. As we know, MMA is as much mental as it is physical, so let’s look at how caffeine could effect both. Note: Caffeine’s effect varies not just among individuals, but also quite significantly between individual users (those who have developed a tolerance) and non-users.”

A Brief Mental Primer

Caffeine directly stimulates the Central Nervous System – think medulla and cortex – and can do so to the point where it allows people to be more alert and more focused for a few hours. We all know this, but many of us know this as it relates to getting up in the morning for work or swigging down an espresso so we can finish the drive home. In terms of MMA performance, the ability to focus is paramount. Essentially, MMA is high-speed physical chess. The moves are so technical – each one creating a potential opening for a counter – that a slight lapse in concentration could be the difference between turning your head a few degrees the wrong way while caught in a triangle…or escaping the triangle and moving to side control. Huge difference. And it all can happen in less than a second. Lastly, as we will also see below, caffeine can alter our perception of pain – meaning we may be able to endure more of it.

The Physical Side

Like most other supplements, caffeine was originally tested in athletes competing in endurance sports like running, cycling and swimming, so it is there where we have the most robust and tested studies. The effects of many studies were significant – not only did athletes who took caffeine have higher total work outputs (more revolutions on the ergometer in 75 minutes, for example) than those who received the placebo, but several studies showed that caffeine allowed the athletes body to first (and more efficiently) burn fat. This means that as the placebo endurance athlete blew their glycogen load and began to fatigue, one of two things (or even both) were taking place in the caffeinated athlete: Their body had reserves of glycogen left because fat was burned first and/or their energy systems had an easier time tapping into fat stores to fuel the final leg of their performance. Regardless of the reason, caffeinated athletes often performed at a minimum of 5% better. Lastly, last year I attended a presentation on caffeine and athletic performance at the NSCA’s annual conference in Las Vegas. They were reporting that caffeine had a numbing effect on the “burn” associated with muscular fatigue. This means that when your shoulders are so on fire that you can’t throw another punch, caffeine may help increase your endurance by allowing you to throw a few more combinations. Who knows, that last combination might include the final left hook that brings the bout to an end.

Some conditioning coaches say MMA is 75% anaerobic and 25% aerobic – or other similar figures. But MMA isn’t like other games. Lebron James runs up and down the court for two hours with intermittent bursts of explosiveness. Soccer players, depending on their position, need to be more explosive or more aerobic. MMA varies even more drastically. A fight can be a test of absolute bouts of explosions with short rests or a super-high and super-consistent aerobic output like a Jon Fitch grinding decision victory. Or it could end in fifteen seconds. Of course, MMA athletes need to be as explosive as possible, but even just the basic nerves and focus prior to a fight can raise the heart rate of a fighter sitting in a chair to a level judged to be “aerobic.” Regardless of the breakdown percentages provided, MMA is always both anaerobic and aerobic and there will never be a way to put specific numbers on either.

As more studies confirmed caffeine’s positive effects on endurance performance, more anaerobic sports were tested. Findings were again in favor of caffeine – showing that even athletes in absolute burst sports like powerlifting could achieve more powerful muscular contractions. What could this mean? It could be the difference between having a takedown stuffed or plowing through your opponent.

The Side Effects

My note about variability matters greatly. Just as athletes need to practice their weight cut, so do they need to practice and experiment with how caffeine effects their performance. For some, having a cup or two of coffee before entering the cage may give them an edge, for others it may simply increase nervous jitters, increase heart rate and thus lead to the athlete fatiguing more quickly. Athletes who do not ingest caffeine regularly will urinate more. Coffee does not dehydrate those who frequently drink it – the tolerance levels in the body treat it as any other liquid. But for those unaccustomed to drinking coffee or taking caffeine, it may take a few weeks for the body to begin excreting less urine. Other athletes may use caffeine to compensate for a lack of sleep and this can lead to a host of problems, including overtraining and even depression. Other athletes still may get an upset stomach or worse because of coffee’s acidity. The adrenal glands produce the hormones we need to handle stress, and some studies are showing that caffeine can lead to adrenal burnout which can lead to a decreased ability to cope with stress, increased nervousness, anxiety, etc. Lastly, as most of us get caffeine via coffee, it’s important to be aware of what you put in your coffee. I drink black, always. Adding artificial creamers and flavors only adds meaningless calories and some studies show it actually impedes some of coffee’s health effects (including the impact of caffeine). Of course, if you choose to experiment with caffeine as a performance-enhancing supplement, do so moderately and smartly. Document each experience in writing so you can compare it not only to your memory but to something more tangible.

To join my team, support my work or to ask me any health-related questions, please feel free to visit my Facebook Page. There I will answer questions daily, and if I can’t comfortably answer your question I will direct you to those who can.

This article was originally published on Sherdog.com.

Aug
05

MMA Diet: Supplements

The supplement industry is catering to the demands of MMA fighters. This isn’t necessarily a good thing. Which supplements are worth taking or worth waiting on?

Many nutritionists I’ve met instruct their clients to avoid supplements or say that supplements aren’t needed. The reality is that supplements, while they may not be absolutely essential, will be taken. The reality is that many nutritionists are amazingly knowledgeable about nutritional concepts and food choices, but severely lacking in knowledge about modern-day sport supplements. The result is that the nutritionist tries to avoid wading into waters where they may feel uncomfortable. This is at once noble (because they are not going beyond their scope of practice) and unfortunate (because fighters are going to get supplement information somewhere and it’s better to come from a studied nutritionist rather than a supplement company or buddy at the gym).

Here’s the short of it: Supplements can and do change to bodies in miraculous ways. Bodybuilders incorporate fat burners during the final six weeks before a show and they are able to get absolutely shredded before they hit the stage. As we’ve seen in baseball, players are able to hit more homeruns when they are “juicing.” However, while we know that many supplements do work, what we don’t know precisely is what else they may be doing to our bodies. Many researchers suggest that steroids can cause muscles to grow stronger than what the tendons and ligaments can support and stabilize and that this leads to injuries. Others assert that steroids can lead to heart disease and hormone deregulation – this opens the door for basically every known human health problem.

We know that protein shakes can help athletes recover from strenuous workouts.

We know that energy drinks can provide a burst of energy, but that the body responds in two ways: It usually crashes when the energy supplement wears off, or it responds to the supplement well for a few weeks and then adapts to it and no longer feels its effects – the latter can cause fighters to “megadose” and take more than the recommended dosage.

We know that supplements are often so refined and processed that they’ve lost many of the important properties contained within whole foods. Mark Haub, nutrition professor at Kansas State University, recently made news because he lost 27 pounds in two months while eating only Twinkies, Oreo cookies, powdered donuts and other sweets. He ate 1800 calories per day. He proved his premise: In weight loss, pure calorie counting is what matters most – not the food’s nutritional value.

However, because the media is infatuated with “weight,” it’s only given a short period of time to convey a large piece of information and, through no fault of their own, are a bit ignorant regarding nutrition, they dropped the ball on how they presented this “diet.” By relying on refined junk foods, Mark Haub was robbing his body of the important chemical compounds in real foods. Here is a list of antioxidants in just one sprig of thyme: 4-Terpineol, alanine, anethole, apigenin, ascorbic acid, beta carotene, caffeic acid, camphene, carvacrol, chlorogenic acid, chrysoeriol, eriodictyol, eugenol, ferulic acid, gallic acid, gamma-terpinene isocholorgenic acid, isoeugenol, isothymonin, kaempferol, labiatic acid, lauric acid, linalyl acetate, luteolin, methionine, myrcene, myristic acid, naringenin, oleanolic acid, p-coumoric acid, p-hydroxy-benzoic acid, palmitic acid, rosmarinic acid, selenium, tannin, thymol, tryptophan, ursolic acid, vanillic acid.

However, many of the media who presented the study called it the “Twinkie Diet” despite the fact that Mark Haub also took a multivitamin pill and drank a protein shake daily. And he ate vegetables, typically a can of green beans or three to four celery stalks. The media conveniently withheld this information because it wouldn’t be as big of a hit.

(1) A safe recommendation regarding supplements is to use what is regarded as the safest of the supplements – protein shakes – when you’re in a hurry. Try to use your own powder rather than a ready-to-drink shake. Powders will often contain less preservatives and contain fewer filler ingredients. Look for: Micellar Casein, Casein, Whey and/or Egg as the first ingredient.

(2) Be wary of other supplements – including those claiming to boost energy or burn fat. While protein shakes have been proven relatively safe, many other products on the market can increase your heart rate at rest and cause the body’s hormones to respond differently. This may or may not have long-term health risks, and it’s generally not worth the money, especially when a rich cup of organic coffee can give you the same boost and contains many other health benefits as well.

(3) A multivitamin might not hurt or hurt much, but it might not help or help much either. Eat a variety of colorful foods and your body will pull from those foods what it needs.

(4) Fish oil is a supplement worth taking.

(5) Vitamin D is a supplement worth taking.

There’s the crash course on supplements.

This article was originally published on Sherdog.com.

Aug
05

MMA Diet: Pre-Workout

How do MMA fighters fuel their bodies for a grueling workout? What are some of best foods to eat before our workouts?

The term “pre-workout” is a common phrase, but far too vague to adequately describe the complexity. We hear of pre-workout drinks and pre-workout meals, pre-workout bars, and pre-workout supplements. What we don’t hear much about is, well, what type of workout? The type of workout influences the type of pre-workout nutritional demands.

For example, a BJJ player about to drill stack defense from the spider guard for two hours will not want a large meal. The food will get pushed around and the athlete may eventually vomit, or, at the least, the discomfort will result in the focus not being on technique. Of course, we have the athletes like Herschel Walker who can eat one meal per day and seemingly break all the established rules for nutrition and exercise. Some top MMA strength and conditioning coaches like Mike Mahler suggest doing HOC (High Octane Cardio) on an empty stomach. So, we are left with conflicting information and an endless amount of conflicting research. Where do we go from here? Enter the journal.

Only after we begin to track how we feel, what type of workout we are doing and what our results are will we begin to piece together all of this information. We’ve got some research that says never to workout on an empty stomach, we have other research that says there are certainly positives. Now that we are armed with options, we must get inside ourselves and come up with an individualized approach. Whether fitness is part of your career or is simply a part of your lifestyle, checking in with yourself and recognizing what works will help you sustain a longer-term (and smarter) commitment to your body. Some questions to begin asking:

(1) How do I feel (during and after) when doing light/medium/intense cardio on an empty stomach? Do I feel exhilarated? Do I feel rundown and weak? After a few months do I notice my body is getting leaner or storing extra fat?

(2) What time can I / do I workout? Can this schedule change? If I could choose the optimal time for me what would it be?

(3) What pre-cardio meals seem to sit best with me? What pre-MMA-training meal? What pre-lifting meal?

(4) Does coffee or tea provide a good pre-exercise boost for me? (Studies are showing that caffeine, aside from the stimulant aspect, can actually lessen the “burn” feeling that comes from higher rep exercise.)

(5) Am I functionally fixed? Is it a mental battle to have breakfast or not? Am I making decisions based on mental comfort or based on bodily comfort?

(6) If I workout in the morning, what time do I go to bed and what time is my last meal? (I don’t recommend fasting for more than eight hours and then working out without a small meal.)

Scottie Pippen of the Chicago Bulls liked to have steak and potatoes before games. Cyclists and marathon runners “carb-up” days ahead of time by piling massive amounts of complex grains into their systems in order to have steady fuel for their performance. How do you train? Was it that you need?

Men’s Health has several links, including this one, that will allow you to make healthy and healthier breakfast choices: http://www.menshealth.com/jumpstartyourday/breakfast-slideshow.php

Also, the Mayo Clinic has consistently solid advice regarding breakfast and every other meal during the day: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/food-and-nutrition/NU00197

As Ben Franklin said, “It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority.” This can be applied to other, but also to ourselves. We are our own authority. Question and critique and analyze your workouts and the foods you eat beforehand. It’s quite the holistic approach, but it’ll get you in the right direction.

Post-workout nutrition is an area where we can be more specific. We don’t need to worry as much about upset stomachs, workout types, whether to eat or not, etc. Stay tuned for that article.

This article was originally published at Sherdog.com.

Aug
05

MMA Diet: Post-Workout

How do MMA athletes recover from their brutal training? How could I use this knowledge for my own training?

A concern for all serious athletes is, “What should I eat and drink after my workout?” Unfortunately, many of those writing about post-workout nutrition are using one of three tools:

(1) Antiquated studies that were done on long-distance endurance athletes

(2) Bodybuilding folklore and hearsay

(3) Studies that were conducted by supplement companies and/or scientists in cahoots with supplement companies

As a result, some major myths have been deeply engrained in our exercise culture.

Things like:

“Your workout is wasted if you don’t take in the perfect foods immediately after.” “You have a one hour window to eat after your workout!”

I’ve even heard more than one person say that if you flex one bicep while drinking milk at the same time that your muscle will grow faster.

Okay, so let’s cut through the clutter.

First, if your diet is poor to begin with, putting all your emphasis on some miracle post-workout concoction isn’t going to cure your woes. What you eat throughout the entire day, including your breakfast and even the meal you had the night before, can be considered a post-workout meal. Just because you’ve swallowed the food and can no longer see it does not mean it has ceased churning and dispersing amino acids and nutrients throughout your system.

Second, our focus here is the MMA athlete. Bodybuilders looking to pack on slabs of aesthetically pleasing muscle will benefit from post-lifting whey hydrolysate/amino acid blend shakes. The MMA athlete can see benefits here as well. However, more and more MMA athletes are turning to real food nutrition. There are now MMA nutritional consultants like Rudog Nutrition who specialize in helping MMA fighters consume real food throughout all phases of their training regimen – from the beginning of a training camp to the post weigh-in meal. More and more supplement companies are coming under scrutiny for shady practices – from the Sean Sherk situation to Consumer Reports articles stating that popular protein drinks like Muscle Milk contain arsenic and lead.

Of course, real food can certainly contain some unsafe ingredients – from pesticide residues to bacteria in leafy greens caused by farming corporation waste runoff.

More MMA athletes are realizing that their bodies function better when taking in quality food without artificialities (hint: no cheese is naturally the color orange). They are also realizing that their food choices (purchases) have benefits far beyond themselves. The more food purchased from local, ethical, sustainable farmers and growers (places like Polyface Farms in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley) the less that is purchased from the environmentally destructive, corn-fed, slaughterhouse ag-corporations.

After a workout, try to get what you get with any other meal – healthy carbs and fats and a protein source. If you look at the majority of elite athlete diets (including post-workout) in sports ranging from cycling to bodybuilding, you’ll find some of the same basic foods appearing again and again:

Nuts, berries, yogurt, EVOO, fish, seeds, chicken, whole grains, water, cottage cheese

Not: MSG, FD&C Yellow #6, high fructose corn syrup, Sodium nitrite

To review:

(1) Don’t get too caught up in the craze and be wary of “studies.”

(2) Know that even food purchases made for personal reasons can create widespread positive changes in the world.

(3) Eat after your workout. You’re a mixed martial artist; eat a mixed balanced diet.

This article was originally published at Sherdog.com.

Aug
05

MMA Diet: Fiber

What is fiber? How does it benefit the MMA athlete?

Fiber is being made sexy. Most nutritional product commercials to the masses often involve fiber – we’ve got Fiber One® cereal and even flavorless fiber powders like Benefiber®. The commercials usually present the health information as singular and already understood, that is, that having more fiber will help you spend less time on the toilet, and more time, as commercials seem to insinuate, either out golfing with the guys or being sexily shaped like the actual curvilicious container. Disclaimer One: I promise not to use that word again in future articles.

Disclaimer Two: Fiber supplements should only be used if one simply cannot acquire enough fiber from real food. As these products are often highly processed, some people may experience excessive laxative effects, stomach bloating or even interference with the body’s natural process of breaking down food and absorbing nutrients.

What is fiber? Put simply, fiber is a carbohydrate that the body can’t digest. What can it do besides relieve constipation? Ingesting an adequate amount of fiber has been found to lower the risk of our country’s two most pressing heath concerns: heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

One reason of many why I am adamant about eating whole fruit over drinking fruit juice is because the whole fruit provides fiber. If you’re drinking that morning cup of orange juice, try to replace it with an actual orange.

Same goes for whole grain foods. Often the whole grains have more fiber than the “enriched” A.K.A. the “processed” kind. Reminder: Grains advertised as “Enriched” or “Enhanced” or even “Fortified” often really mean, if grains could talk:

“We’ve been made with cheap white flour which has been stripped of most nutritional value. However, people have added ‘nutrients’ back into us synthetically and now we get an awesome title like ‘Enriched’ on our boxes.’”

It’s similar to how fat-free cow’s milk has been “Fortified” with Vitamin A, although the Vitamin A was already naturally present, taken out, then added back to it (as the fat content is stripped from the milk, so is the fat-soluble Vitamin A). Of course, the National Pasta Association will release statements like: “With so many talking heads vilifying ‘white carbs,’ it’s easy to be confused.” But they are no different than the coal associations denying that coal has dangers to human or environmental health, or the corn associations fighting on behalf of the wonderfulness of high-fructose corn syrup. It’s their livelihood; I guess you can’t blame them for putting their livelihood ahead of the livelihood of others, right? After all, “I” is always more important than “them.”

So, what does this all mean specifically for the MMA fighter? First, becoming more aware of food labels and company intentions will only result in a healthier, more mindful diet. Second, becoming more “regular” will mean your body is adequately removing waste product rather than storing it. This could make weigh-ins easier and even allow one athlete to carry more muscle on their frame than another athlete with a similar weight and body fat percentage. If two athletes weigh 180lbs, but one is storing several pounds more solid waste product than the other.

Also, an MMA athlete eating a diet naturally high in fiber will generally have a healthier diet. Foods naturally packed with fiber are generally healthy foods. For example, all plants that are eaten for food contain fiber. This includes fruits and vegetables, but also legumes and grains.

Current recommendations are to get twenty grams of fiber (from food not supplements) each day. Of course, this is based on caloric intake. So, the more calories you are taking in, the more your fiber needs will need to increase. The average American consumes far more calories than the 2,000 that most assessments are based on, yet they only get fifteen grams of fiber per day.

Another tip: As fiber is increased in your diet, so too should water intake. Fiber absorbs water. This ends up providing a great one-two punch for greater health.

Fiber is talked about and studied in two categories: Soluble and Insoluble. According to studies, both have their benefits in the diet and both have positive, but differing impacts on human health. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, here are some foods grouped by which type of fiber they possess. Note: It’s not ironic that all the foods listed below are foods that should be incorporated into an MMA fighter’s diet.

Soluble Fiber

  • Oatmeal, oatbran
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Legumes
  • Beans
  • Dried peas
  • Lentils
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries

Insoluble Fiber

  • Whole wheat bread
  • Barley
  • Couscous
  • Brown rice
  • Bulgur
  • Whole grain breakfast cereals
  • Wheat bran
  • Seeds
  • Carrots
  • Cucumbers
  • Zucchini
  • Celery
  • Tomatoes

To join my team, support my work or to ask me any health-related questions, please feel free to visit my Facebook Page. There I will answer questions daily, and if I can’t comfortably answer your question I will direct you to those who can.

This article was originally published at Sherdog.com.

Aug
04

MMA Diet: Paleo

The Paleo Diet is certainly the hottest trend in MMA nutrition right now. But what is it? What are its strengths and weaknesses?

Whether you call it the Caveman Diet, the hunter-gatherer diet, the Diet of our Ancestors or the Paleo Diet – one thing is for sure: It’s hot right now. Many believe the concept of this diet was first popularized sometime around 1975 by a gastroenterologist named Walter L. Voegtlin. But it’s because of the modern-day Paleo gurus like Dr. Loren Cordain and Robb Wolf, along with success stories gone viral – like that of Stephen Reeks, who recorded MMA’s fastest submission victory (seven seconds) and then gave props to the Paleo diet, that most of us MMA folk know about it. But is it effective? Is it, like an article on the National Health Service of England website suggests, just another dietary fad looking to cash in on the increasing numbers of unhealthy people who are looking to improve their lives? I don’t think so. And even if it was, I still don’t think so. Here’s a glimpse at some of the nutritionist jiu-jitsu going on between the Paleo critics and advocates. I think it’s important to know this because nutritional propaganda abounds (it’s all about the Benjamins, baby!) and it’s easy to see something as either amazing and perfect or unnecessary and worthless.

Critics of the diet – a group that includes legitimate nutrition specialists and researchers – are quick to point out that the Paleo diet is only the “presumed” diet from the Paleolithic era of about 10,000 years ago. They’ve got a point. As much as we may think we know about what in the world people were consistently eating 10,000 years ago, there’s still going to be variables we will never know. Paleo advocates point out that our genetics haven’t changed much from 10,000 years ago and because the Paleolithic era is reported to have been some 2.5 million years long, it’s safe to say we can learn something positive from those who came before us. They’ve got a point, too. The critics say people didn’t have specific diseases back then probably because they were more active and took in fewer calories – this is likely true as well. Research suggests that the fewer calories we take in the longer we live (even if those calories come from healthy, natural foods). The advocates fire back with their own research about the negatives of too many refined carbs and processed oils (they too have a point).

There’s even a back-and-forth battle about the evolutionary changes that occurred during the Paleolithic era, and even with what years should be considered “Paleo.” There’s also an interesting financial debate going on. Dr. Joanne Slavin at the University of Minnesota (she actually helped create the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans) said that grains are relatively inexpensive compared to meat sources, and that if someone wanted to go Paleo they’d need to shell out more cash in order to do so. Again, she makes a great point. Everybody is making great points. That’s what often makes my job difficult.

Lastly, because the Paleo diet has a rather heavy reliance on meat – and meat is considered a commodity that is quickly deteriorating our environment, possibly increasing the risk for certain diseases, and is no longer widely produced in the organic way that Paleo advocates call for, there’s been even more fierce debates. While all of this is surely helping nutritionists get their PhD’s and is certainly interesting, in my opinion, it doesn’t much matter. Whatever Paleo’s roots, whether its evolutionary grounding is accurate or not – little of it matters. The Paleo diet can be good a thing for many reasons. Some fringe radicals within the group are a bit too radical, but, like even the best things in life, the Paleo diet is not flawless. Keep in mind: There are various levels and methodologies of being “Paleo.” The more radical they are, the sillier they are. Some completely cut out salt except for the trace amounts found in food. Some completely cut out beans and healthy oils. Some completely go raw because they believe those in the Paleolithic era (and even us today) are not adapted to eat cooked foods. Like other parts of the MMA Diet Series, the advice here is to incorporate elements but not to get all radical. Just as Bruce Lee tried every martial art he could find so he could keep what worked and discard what did not, so we can do with our diets.

Paleo Strengths

- Just as CrossFit has become a community-based exercise routine and holistic lifestyle, so has the Paleo diet. They’ve got a growing community base, a bunch of forums where users can learn and stay motivated to not only follow the diet, but to lead healthier lives. This is a great thing, a reason I believe it will endure for some time.

- Paleo advocates know the importance of quality meat, and by this I don’t simply mean, “lean cuts of meat.” This isn’t some meat-eating-at-all-costs type of group. Most Paleo professionals I’ve talked to suggest that the way meat is currently processed is disgusting and unhealthy. While meat is a staple of their diet, they are all for organic, grass-fed, free-range, etc.

- They cut out refined sugars and processed oils. Blood sugar spikes, diabetes, obesity and a host of other cardiovascular issues are directly related to the absurd amount of refined sugars and processed oils that Americans take in.

- At its core it recommends a diet that centers on healthy choices of meat, fish, vegetables, fruits, nuts and roots. It primarily wants its users to drink water – no refined juices, no alcohol. This is all great. Our entire country would be healthier if we followed these Paleo recommendations.

Paleo Weaknesses

- The biggest weakness of the Paleo diet is that there are too many high-profile names touting it and they vary widely on the diet’s many foundational elements. Should incredibly healthy oils like extra-virgin olive oil and coconut oil be included, or should we stick to our belief? Should we cook foods, and if so, how much? Is it okay to sprinkle sea salt on our meals from time-to-time? What kinds of meats are acceptable? Anything? Or should we take a stand and demand only the grass-fed free-range kind?

- Low salt. As mentioned in previous articles, MMA athletes sweat constantly, and a diet too low in salt can cause a host of muscular and neurological problems.

- Cost. It does cost more for healthy cuts of meat that come from properly raised animals. While at an ethical level it’s worth the extra cost because each purchase of this kind of meat is a political statement that can lead to change that we as individuals make by voting with our wallets, it simply isn’t practical for most of us. It’s tough to rationalize paying double for a dozen eggs when we can barely make our mortgage payment.

Sometimes the cliché “take it or leave it” holds true. Sometimes. My advice with the Paleo diet is to both take it and leave it. Take from it the health benefits I mention above, leave the weaknesses behind.

To join my team, support my work or to ask me any health-related questions, please feel free to visit my Facebook Page. There I will answer questions daily, and if I can’t comfortably answer your question I will direct you to those who can.

This article was originally published on Sherdog.com.

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