MMA Diet on a Budget ($50/Week MMA Meal Plan)

Are you looking for an MMA diet on a budget in order to take your MMA training or career to the next level?

In this article, we’ll look at the best and cleanest foods for an MMA diet on a budget that works for MMA hobbyists, those seeking a career, and even MMA(UFC) professionals.

MMA Diet on a Budget

With inflation soaring across the world in 2021 and beyond, an MMA diet on a budget to keep food costs down while achieving excellent nutrition is more important than ever. 

Especially for MMA fighters early in their career and struggling for money, but also for hobbyists who feel their training is hindered by an inability to afford expensive foods.

A quality MMA diet helps an MMA fighter decrease recovery time, repair and grow muscle, strengthen the immune system, prevent injury, boost energy and mental well-being, and fight inflammation.

And while an MMA diet is made to seem complicated and expensive, let’s take a look at the cheapest clean foods for an MMA diet on a budget.

Cheap Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are especially important for those training in MMA, as they’re the body’s main source of energy. Clean carbohydrates push and sustain you through an entire MMA workout, whether it be skills training, cardiovascular, or weightlifting.

Here are the best cheap carbohydrates for an MMA diet on a budget.

Oats are cheap, quick to cook, and provide amazing nutrition: vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, complex carbohydrates, and protein. 100g of oats provide 320 to 390 calories, roughly 56g carbs, 14g protein, and 5g fat (325 calories).

A 1kg bag of oats is around $1.50 to $3 depending on location, and this gives 10 big 100g portions. That’s 15 to 30 cents per meal for breakfast.

Oats can be eaten with water (free) or with milk: cow, almond, oat, or soy, which is also cheap and adds 15 to 30 cents for each breakfast. Also good to add is a cheap flavoring such as honey or zero-calorie syrup.

Rice (brown or white)
Brown rice is generally more nutritious, but both are complex carbohydrates and provide excellent fiber, magnesium, antioxidants, iron, and slow-release energy.

100g of uncooked rice provides 350 to 390 calories, roughly 78g carbs, 9g protein, and zero fats (354 calories).

1kg of rice costs between $1.20 to $4, which provides a 100g portion of clean carbohydrates for 12 to 40 cents per meal.

Potatoes (sweet or white)
Potatoes are a complex carbohydrate providing amazing energy, antioxidants, fiber, and various vitamins and minerals such as potassium and vitamin C/A.

100g of uncooked potatoes provide 75 to 90 calories, roughly 17.5g carbs, 2g protein, and zero fat (75 calories).

1kg of potatoes costs between $1 to $3.70, which provides roughly 3 meals (333g/11.7 oz per meal) at a price of 33 cents to $1.23 per meal.

Other great sources of quality cheap carbohydrates for an MMA diet on a budget:

  • Pasta (white or whole-wheat)
  • Yogurt (greek or natural is best)
  • Whole-wheat bread (not white as it’s too processed)
  • Quinoa
  • Fruits: bananas, oranges, apples, grapes, pineapples, frozen berries
  • Vegetables: cabbage, carrots, sweetcorn, broccoli, legumes, leafy greens (buy frozen mixed vegetables as they’re cheaper)

Overall, the four essential carbohydrates for an MMA diet on a budget are oats, rice, potatoes, and pasta. They’re all cheap, provide long-lasting energy, are exceptionally nutritious, and can be used in an extensive variety of meals.

Fruits and vegetables are inexpensive and are essential carbohydrates for MMA diets as they’re packed with vitamins and minerals, and they keep a fighter full for long periods with very low amounts of calories – which is essential for weight cutting. 

Keep fruits and vegetables simple by buying cheap and what mixes best with the meals you make.

Cheap Proteins

Protein is essential for an MMA diet as it repairs cells and builds new ones in the body; especially important for the high muscle mass MMA fighters have. The average MMA fighter should have 0.8g of protein per lb of body weight per day and 1g per day when cutting weight.

Some of the best proteins for an MMA diet on a budget are as follows.

Eggs provide iron, carotenoids, minerals, vitamins, protein, healthy fats, and nutrients like zeaxanthin and lutein. 1 egg provides 60 to 90 calories depending on the size. On average, eggs provide 75 calories, 7g protein, 5g fat, and 1g carbs.

Although eggs have soared in price for various reasons (bird flu), they’re still cheap for the protein and nutrition they provide. A dozen eggs (12) cost between $2 to $5, so if you have 4 per meal, that’s 66 cents to $1.66 per meal for 300 calories and 28g protein.

Chicken (breast has the most protein for the price)
Chicken is high in protein, vitamins (especially B6 and B12), potassium, magnesium, and zinc. 

1kg of chicken breast costs between $5 to $8. Therefore, a 200g serving per meal costs $1 to $1.60 for 62g protein and 328 calories.

Canned tuna
Tuna is a great source of tasty protein, mixes well with many dishes, and contains many vitamins and minerals such as iron, vitamins A and D, selenium, and omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA.

1 tin of tuna provides roughly 125 calories, 26g protein, 1.5 g fat, and 0g of carbs depending on the size, brand, and what the tuna is packed in (brine, oil, water).

On average, a tin of tuna costs around $1 so it makes it a very affordable protein source for an MMA diet on a budget.

Protein powder
There are many different types of protein powder such as whey, hemp, soy, pea, and casein. They’re all viable options for an MMA diet on a budget but whey protein powder is by far the cheapest per gram of protein while also providing a time-saving way to meet protein requirements.

With inflation soaring, whey protein has gone up in price, so buy from a reputable brand with the cheapest price as they’re all more or less the same product with different packaging. Aim for between $10-16 per 1kg (2.2 lbs) of whey protein.

For example, the Body Fortress Whey Protein product has over 15,000 4.6 ratings, is from a reputable brand, and sells for an affordable price of $16 per lb of whey protein ($0.50 per ounce).

Other great sources of quality cheap proteins for an MMA diet on a budget:

  • Canned sardines, anchovies, and salmon (tuna alternatives)
  • Beans (great to add to lunch and dinners)
  • Yogurt (greek or natural is best)
  • Cottage cheese
  • Ground turkey, ground beef
  • Tofu
  • Lentils

Cheap Fats

Fats are the easiest macronutrient for an MMA diet on a budget. This is because a significant portion of the necessary fats for MMA fighters is consumed when eating meats and fish for protein. 

However, these are unhealthy fats and MMA fighters need to consume polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats for optimal performance and overall health. Healthy fats support cell function, protect organs (important during weight cuts) reduce inflammation, and produce essential hormones.

With this in mind, here are the best healthy and affordable fats for an MMA diet on a budget.

Olive oil
Olive oil has 75% monounsaturated fats and 13% polyunsaturated fats, promotes good heart health, has antioxidant properties (aided by vitamins E and K), and lowers inflammation in the body.

1 tablespoon of olive oil (15ml) contains 13.5g fat, 0g protein, 0g carbs, and 119 calories. A 1L (33 oz) bottle costs less than $10 and lasts for months of cooking.

Almonds, walnuts, pistachios, cashews, peanuts, hazelnuts, pecans, and macadamia nuts are all great options. All of these nuts have plenty of polyunsaturated fats (healthy), omega-3 fatty acids, protein, fiber, and many other vitamins and minerals.

A bag of nuts is inexpensive and made even cheaper because an MMA diet requires only a handful per day to meet the needed fats for a balanced diet, optimal training, and fight performance. Simply pick the cheapest nuts in your location and snack on them throughout the day.

Other great sources of quality cheap fats for an MMA diet on a budget:

  • Eggs (excellent protein too)
  • Yogurt: greek, natural (excellent protein but has saturated fats too)
  • Seeds: Chia, flax, pumpkin, hemp, sesame, pumpkin, sunflower (seeds are cheap so take your pick depending on flavor/cost)
  • Avocado (not the cheapest but very healthy)
  • Peanut butter

Despite being very healthy, MMA diets go easy on the fats because they’re very high calorie (9 calories per gram) and not the most filling. Plus, a fighter gets many of their fats when eating protein.

However, when a fighter isn’t cutting weight for an upcoming fight they have more leeway to eat fats, but they’ll still eat more carbohydrates because they provide better energy.

MMA Diet on a Budget: Meal Plan Example ($50/Week)

Here’s a 2500 daily calorie meal plan example for an MMA diet on a budget.

Breakfast: Oats15g80g5g425Total: $1.30 max
Oats (100g)14g56g5g325$.015-0.30
Fruits of choice: banana/blueberries/other1g24g0g100$0.50
Water/milk: percentage of choiceN/AN/AN/AN/AFree to $0.50
Lunch: Tuna Pasta41.2g161.3g12.8g957Total: $3 max
Pasta (200g)15g150g3g700$0.40-0.50
Tin of tuna26g0g1.5g125$1
Light mayonnaise (60g)0.2g2.8g6.6g75$0.50–0.70
Sweetcorn (150g)/vegetable of choice0g8.5g1.7g57$0.50–0.70
Dinner: Chicken + Rice dish84108.412.6882Total: $4.40 max
Rice (200g)9g78g0g354$0.25-0.80
Chicken breast (200g)62g0g7.2g328$1-$1.60
Spinach/veg of choice12g15.4g1.4g100$0.50-$1
Sauces/Condiments of choice1g15g4g100$0.50-$1
Daily snacks: 29g6g12g230Total: $1 max
Whey protein scoop (30g)25g2g3g130$0.60-0.80
Daily Totals170g355.7g37.42,494$8.70
Daily meal example for an MMA diet on a budget

Note: The cost for this daily meal example is $61 per week based on the maximum prices available, but if the foods are bought in bulk it’ll come to less than $50 or less per week.

Simply swap out foods from the table with other cheap nutritious foods mentioned above to create your own MMA diet on a budget ($50 per week or less). 

If more than 2500 calories are needed, add more carbohydrates as they’re the cheapest and provide great energy for training, but also make sure to get 0.8g of protein per lb of body weight per day.

The Bottom Line

As can be seen, making and sticking to an MMA diet on a budget is entirely possible and even ideal.

A budget MMA diet allows fighters to save money while eating a nutritious and balanced diet, eat the macronutrients they need (high protein, high carbs, some healthy fats) for optimal training and recovery, and keep their diet simple so they can focus on training and keep their gut healthy.

If you want a more detailed insight into the diet of UFC fighters, including what they eat, when they eat, how their diet changes depending on whether they’re in fight camp, off-season, fight week, fight day, or post-weigh-ins, plus what supplements they take, you can find that here.

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