What Supplements Do UFC/MMA Fighters Take? (10 Essentials)

Are you wondering what supplements UFC fighters take?

In this article, we’ll examine the supplements UFC fighters take, their benefits, when they’re taken, and the supplements UFC fighters take for cutting weight and after making weight.

What Supplements Do UFC (MMA) Fighters Take?

The most common supplements UFC fighters take are creatine, protein powder, pre-workout, caffeine, electrolytes, BCAA’s, beta-alanine, maltodextrin, fish oils, zma, and various health supplements such as glucosamine, and multivitamins.

Let’s look at the supplements UFC fighters take, in order of effectiveness and the percentage of UFC/MMA fighters taking them.

1. Creatine Monohydrate

>When taken: Year-round except for 2 to 3 weeks before a fight as it causes water retention and fighters are trying to expel water during a weight cut

>Main purpose served: Increased strength, energy, muscle mass, muscular endurance, and muscle recovery time

>Dose: 5g daily taken before or after a workout

Creatine is naturally produced by the body in low amounts. Supplemented with 3 to 5 grams per day, creatine can increase strength, energy (higher work output), muscle mass, muscular endurance, and muscle recovery time – all useful improvements for both training and fighting.

It can also improve efficiency during short-duration high-intensity exercises (alactic energy) – especially useful for explosive grappling: throwing, tripping, and escaping disadvantageous positions – as well as produce more force for longer periods of time.

UFC fighters take creatine throughout the year to aid their training regimen as it allows them to lift more weight, get stronger and build muscle, and do more work as their muscular endurance is improved and their recovery time decreases.

Creatine works by providing an increased supply of stored energy to muscles, known as phosphocreatine, which the body uses to create more adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the body’s key energy source for high-intensity movements and lifting.

Creatine can also lower blood sugar levels and some studies have concluded creatine may improve cognitive function.

This is especially important for the best UFC fighters where fights become more of a thinking chess match and decision-making and fight intelligence are most influential.

Other studies have found creatine can increase resilience to and help treat traumatic brain injury; which is a common concern among UFC fighters and something which can help them fight more often.

Overall, the benefits of creatine are numerous. An excellent option is Nutricost Creatine Monohydrate as it has thousands of positive reviews and both quality and price in mind ($1.27 per ounce).

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2. Protein Powder (Whey/Casein)

>When taken: Year-round

>Main purpose served: Tasty, cheap, and convenient way to get the daily required protein

>Dose: As much as needed – usually 2 scoops daily for 40+ grams of protein

Protein powder is another supplement UFC fighters take year-round. However, if the product contains creatine they’ll stop taking it 2 to 3 weeks before a fight.

Protein powder is used by UFC fighters to get their daily required protein, which is 0.7g per pound of body weight.

This is increased to 1g per pound of bodyweight when cutting weight as UFC fighters are in a calorie deficit and this helps them maintain their muscle mass and lose body fat instead.

Adequate levels of protein are important for UFC fighters as it helps them build muscle and increase strength during a bulking phase. It also decreases muscle soreness and repairs muscle tissue quicker so they can train again sooner and with optimal performance.

As UFC fighters are training two or three times per day, 5 or 6 days per week, drinking protein supplements after workouts is a tasty and convenient way for them to provide their muscles with much-needed protein and calories they’ve just burned. 

They’re also easily digested, work quickly (whey), and can be consumed any time of day.

Protein supplements become more useful for UFC fighters when they’re cutting weight.

This is because the sweet taste reduces their sugar cravings so they can stay disciplined with their diet, and they also require more protein during this time (1g per pound of body weight minimum) to maintain muscle mass.

Furthermore, of the three macronutrients, protein has the highest thermic effect, which means the body uses more calories to digest and metabolize the food.

Paired with how protein is also the most filling per calories consumed, protein supplements are great for staying lean and avoiding unnecessary weight gain among UFC fighters.

A protein powder supplement becomes almost imperative for vegan UFC fighters because they can lack adequate protein depending on the meals they’re eating each day. Orgain Orgain Vegan Protein Powder is an excellent option.

Lastly, if picked wisely, protein supplements can be cheaper than protein from foods such as meat and fish. This makes protein supplements a no-brainer for all UFC fighters.

A great option is MuscleTech Phase8 Protein Powder, as it uses quality ingredients, contains 5.6g BCAA’s per serving, and costs only $10.80 per lb.

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3. Pre-workouts and Caffeine

>When taken: Before any training session (weight lifting, martial arts, cardio)

>Main purpose served: Increased energy, focus, calories burned, and overall exercise performance

>Dose: Athlete dependent but usually a cup of coffee, pre-workout scoop, or roughly 200 to 400 mg of caffeine

The main beneficial ingredient in pre-workouts is caffeine, which is taken by UFC fighters before weight lifting, martial arts training, and fights because it provides a boost in exercise performance and focus.

Caffeine can also increase muscular endurance by saving glycogen and inducing adrenaline production, most effective for the high-intensity actions performed by UFC fighters such as explosive wrestling and powerful strikes.

Caffeine, along with increasing adrenaline, can block the perception of pain or fatigue – which is very useful for UFC fighters in training and when fighting. Studies have shown caffeine use among taekwondo athletes increases their reaction time, attention, agility, power, and speed.

Other benefits of caffeine for UFC fighters include increased calorie burning and therefore fat burning, through an increase in body temperature and increased exercise performance.

Combined with how caffeine acts as an appetite suppressant, it makes it a great tool for UFC fighters when cutting weight.

Overall, the benefits of caffeine for UFC (MMA) fighters are numerous, which is why it’s on the 2023 WADA monitoring program.

Aside from pre-workout supplements, UFC fighters get caffeine by drinking coffee or taking caffeine pill supplements. These provide much cleaner boosts of energy and are therefore more suitable before a fight.

While UFC fighters can enjoy a cup of coffee or tea pre-workout to get their caffeine boost, many UFC fighters buy a caffeine pill supplement because they’re very cheap, extremely convenient, and time-saving.

They simply keep the tub at the gym or in a gym bag and it’s available to quickly consume at all times.

Note: UFC fighters should be wary not to consume caffeine within 8 hours of sleeping because it can prevent them from falling asleep and it can also disrupt the quality of their sleep.

An excellent pre-workout product is BSN’s N.O.-EXPLODE. It has multiple flavors, 275mg caffeine per serving, 1.8g beta-alanine, 3g creatine, and dozens of vitamins, and costs only $1 per dose.

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4. Electrolyte Supplements

>When taken: During and after workouts and immediately after UFC weigh-ins

>Main purpose served: Replenish lost electrolytes (minerals) lost via sweating

>Dose: Product dependent but usually 1 sachet, 1 drink, or 5g powder

Electrolyte supplements are used by UFC fighters to replace the lost electrically conducting minerals via sweating.

Those electrolytes are calcium, chlorides, potassium, magnesium, and sodium, which are responsible for powering the body and the effective communication between cells.

Without replacing these minerals, fighters lose the electrical power of their nerves, muscles, and cells, and can experience muscle cramping/twitching, muscle weakness, fatigue, dizziness, increased pulse rate, heart palpitations, headaches, dehydration, and more.

Therefore, UFC fighters use electrolyte supplements to restore the electrolytes they lose between training sessions.

After a morning training session, a UFC fighter can recover faster and more efficiently before their second session by consuming electrolytes as soon as possible.

UFC fighters also need to replace lost electrolytes after cutting weight.

Since they only have 36 hours between the Friday morning weigh-ins and the fight the next night, it’s imperative they immediately consume electrolytes after weighing in to kickstart their rehydration and recovery process.

Electrolytes are also important for UFC fighters who follow intermittent fasting, as they’re not getting the needed electrolytes for a workout food usually provides.

Many UFC fighters have a morning training session in a fasted state when cutting weight, which makes an electrolyte supplement necessary.

Optionally, UFC fighters opt to replace lost electrolytes with coconut water, which brings us to another benefit of electrolyte supplements, convenience.

UFC fighters can store electrolyte drinks or packets in their gym bag and consume them whenever they need to – even while traveling.

By far the most superior electrolyte drink product on the market in terms of quality, affordability, and most positive user reviews is the BODYARMOR Super Drink specifically designed for athletes.

If powder is preferred, then the Liquid I.V. Hydration Multiplier is a popular and excellent option for UFC fighters.

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5. Branched-chain Amino Acids

>When taken: 30 minutes pre-workout or immediately post-workout

>Main purpose served: Anticatabolic and building/repairing muscles

>Dose: 5/6g pre and post-workout

Branched-chain amino acids, more commonly known as BCAA’s, refer to the three essential amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine.

BCAA’s are the building blocks of protein and are three of the nine essential amino acids that aren’t produced by the body and therefore need to be eaten via diet or supplemented.

And while sufficient amounts of BCAA’s can be achieved through a protein-rich diet, mostly found in eggs, meat, and dairy products, BCAA’s are convenient and ensure a UFC fighter is getting enough every day – especially if a fighter isn’t eating much of these foods (pescatarian) or on a particular day.

UFC fighters take BCAA’s because they increase energy for training sessions, reduce muscle soreness and fatigue, and speed up recovery time by aiding muscle repair.

Taking BCAA’s twice daily has been found to reduce muscle damage during exercise, which allows a fighter to do more.

BCAA’s also increase protein synthesis and muscle hypertrophy and prevent muscle breakdown (anticatabolic). This is useful for all UFC fighters when they’re adding strength and muscle mass during the off-season and when looking to maintain their muscle mass.

BCAA’s are great for UFC fighters when cutting weight as they help maintain muscle mass when in a calorie deficit.

They also support liver health at a time when water flushing can severely dehydrate them and cause a build-up of toxins in the blood as the liver is unable to function properly.

By far the best product on the market for UFC fighters in terms of quality and price is Nutricost BCAA Powder 2:1:1. It provides 90 servings of 6g BCAA’s for a serving cost of 25 cents.

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6. Beta-alanine

>When taken: 30 minutes before a workout/training session year-round

>Main purpose served: Increase muscular endurance

>Dose: 5-6g per day and takes 21 days to see full benefits

Beta-alanine works by reducing the hydrogen ion in muscles, which is responsible for the lactic build-up in muscles and ultimately muscle fatigue.

Muscle fatigue mostly occurs for UFC/MMA fighters when wrestling and grappling on the ground, and beta-alanine allows them to improve and increase the length of their medium to high-intensity training and outlast an opponent.

One particular study found beta-alanine to improve the performance of judo athletes after taking beta-alanine for 4 weeks.

One of the most popular beta-alanine products among MMA fighters for its affordability and premium quality is Bulk Supplements beta-alanine powder.

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7. Maltodextrin

>When taken: Pre, intra, post-workout/training session (optional)

>Main purpose served: Conveniently consume fast-absorbing carbohydrates to improve workout performance and speed up recovery

>Dose: 60g for 240g calories (60g carbs)

Maltodextrin is a carbohydrate processed into a water-soluble powder for easy mixing. Maltodextrin is very high on the glycemic index (GI) which means it enters the blood and intestine very quickly.

This makes maltodextrin beneficial to UFC fighters as they can get fast-absorbing carbohydrates immediately after a workout to instantly start the recovery process and enhance the quality of recovery before their next workout the same day.

Maltodextrin can also be consumed before and during a workout because it’s easily digested and doesn’t make a fighter feel full or bloated, and it also gives quick energy to help maintain anaerobic power (intense explosive grappling) and overall workout performance.

As well as the performance benefits, maltodextrin provides convenience as it can be kept in a gym bag, and it’s also very cheap.

The clear front-runner for the best maltodextrin supplement for UFC/MMA fighters in terms of quality, price, and positive reviews is Now Sports Carbo Gain.

It costs 22 cents per ounce (0.28 kg) and is specifically formulated for athletes – having been tested for all possible banned substances.

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8. Fish Oil

>When taken: Year-round

>Main purpose served: Overall health, cognitive function, and anti-inflammation for joint health

>Dose: A 2-3g daily mix of EPA and DHA taken any time of day

UFC fighters take fish oil supplements mainly for the omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, DHA, and EPA, which are essential in a healthy diet.

These are great for heart health, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, lowering bad cholesterol (triglycerides), and overall health for positive fight performance.

Performance-wise, omega 3s clean the arteries and increase blood circulation which can improve cardiovascular endurance, and boost memory and cognitive function which helps with fighting intelligently, making good decisions, and eye-hand coordination.

They can also aid muscle recovery, maintain joint health, and relieve symptoms of arthritis because of their anti-inflammatory properties. This is essential for UFC/MMA fighters who are impacting their joints on a daily basis.

Lastly, they increase thermogenesis which is the body’s ability to burn more calories when digesting and metabolizing food – especially helpful when weight cutting as it allows a UFC fighter to eat more calories and stay disciplined with a caloric deficit.

With both quality and price in mind, Nature Bounty’s Fish Oil 1200mg is the best product on the market for long-term use.

It has 360 capsules (6 cents per capsule) and each capsule provides 360mg of omega-3s. UFC/MMA fighters can take 3 or 4 capsules (18-24 cents) per day and their diet will cover the rest.

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9. ZMA

>When taken: Year-round but especially in the month before a fight

>Main purpose served: Aids quality of sleep and therefore boosts testosterone

>Dose: 2/3 capsules daily on an empty stomach 30-60 minutes before sleeping

ZMA is a supplement containing zinc, magnesium, and vitamin B6, nutrients many athletes around the world are deficient in. Zinc and magnesium deficiency may decrease testosterone production, cause increased inflammation, and negatively affect performance.

The main benefit of taking ZMA is its ability to improve sleep, which translates into better recovery and increased testosterone. This allows a fighter to train more intensely and often, which translates into improved athletic and fight performance.

ZMA improves sleep because magnesium activates the parasympathetic nervous system which makes the body relax, and zinc is responsible for increasing sleep quality.

Researched individually, zinc and magnesium have both been shown to reduce muscle fatigue and slightly raise testosterone levels – therefore increasing athletic performance amongst UFC fighters.

ZMA is also great for immune health, which helps UFC/MMA fighters maintain good health, reduce illness, and aid in the healing of injuries. If UFC fighters can stay healthy and continue training, the more likely they are to improve and continue winning.

Furthermore, various studies have shown that ZMA supplementation can reduce symptoms of depression and elevate mood. This is good for UFC fighters post-fight as they’re known to experience symptoms of depression or post-fight blues.

Lastly, while there’s a lack of scientific case studies to support it, ZMA manufacturers and many users of ZMA claim it helps directly with muscle growth and recovery. Supported or not, these are both improved as a result of better sleep quality.

PrimaForce ZMA and Optimum Nutrition ZMA are the two best ZMA supplements on the market for UFC fighters in terms of quality ingredients, price, and positive customer reviews.

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10. Overall Health & Less Frequently Taken Supplements

UFC fighters also take the following health supplements for general well-being. If a fighter is healthy and feeling good, they’ll perform better and be able to train harder and more often, which is the purpose of the following supplements.

  • Multivitamin – Great for immune support, bone support, muscle support, and overall health
  • Vitamin C and D – Immune system boost and keeps bones healthy
  • Ashwagandha – Regulates cortisol, reduces stress and anxiety, improves brain cognition, and enhances maximum oxygen consumption (VO2 max)
  • Maca root – Regulates cortisol, reduces stress, boosts energy, and promotes strong bones
  • Turmeric – Anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, improves memory and focus, and prevents a whole host of diseases

Other supplements that can be effective for UFC fighters are:

  • Glucosamine – Reduces inflammation and promotes joint health and function
  • Hydroxymethylbutyrate (HMB) – Aids muscle growth, reduces muscle breakdown, and long-term can increase aerobic and anaerobic exercise capacity

What Supplements Do UFC (MMA) Fighters Take To Cut Weight?

The supplements UFC fighters take to specifically help with cutting weight are:

  • Protein powder (whey or casein) – Provides a convenient and tasty way to meet their daily protein requirements of at least 1g per pound of body weight. The taste can help fighters fight cravings and stick to their calorie deficit by avoiding unhealthy, sugary, and high-calorie foods.
  • Caffeine – Boosts focus, reduces fatigue, improves athletic performance, and acts as an appetite suppressant to make a calorie deficit easier to achieve.
  • BCAA’s – Prevent muscle catabolism while in a calorie deficit and therefore helps a fighter maintain muscle mass and strength while losing body fat instead.

In the last week of a weight cut, UFC fighters eat only 50 grams of carbohydrates from vegetables as they’re looking to deplete glycogen stores, remove creatine as it leads to water retention, and avoid salt/sodium as they’re aiming to expel it from the body.

What Supplements Do UFC Fighters Take After Making Weight?

The supplements UFC fighters take after making weight are:

  • Electrolytes – UFC fighters have been sweating out all of their electrolytes and need to immediately replenish them as fast as possible to kickstart the rehydration and recovery process.
  • Protein powder – Ideal meals aren’t always available to UFC fighters, depending on event location and other random factors such as traffic. For this reason, carrying protein powder with them means they have a convenient protein supply to immediately consume.
  • Maltodextrin – UFC fighters may have maltodextrin for quick absorption to kickstart the recovery process and for its easy mixability with a protein shake.
  • BCAA’s – Ideal meals aren’t always available to UFC fighters, depending on event location, so BCAA’s make sure they get the essential amino acids to help speed up recovery time, aid muscle repair, and prevent muscle breakdown during a time when they’ve been heavily restricting their calories to make weight.

The Bottom Line

The UFC is the top MMA promotion in the world where the majority of the best MMA fighters go to. For this reason, they all use many of the supplements mentioned above to help them perform better and ultimately get an advantage over their opponent.

And while supplements will never replace a healthy and balanced diet, great sleep, and the mentality to always improve and do more; they’re inexpensive if purchased with both quality and price in mind, and might be the difference between winning and losing.

If a fighter wins, the majority of UFC fighters double their pay because they’re paid half to show and half to win, and they’ll likely also pick up a $50,000 performance bonus which covers their supplement use for the next 15 years of their career.

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