MMA Nutrition: The Value of Micronutrients in Recovery


This is a guest post by P.R. Cole, MS, RD and owner and director of Fuel The Fighter. Follow P.R. Cole on Twitter.

Strikeforce fighters and Special Forces officer Tim Kennedy may love spinach more than other client I've worked with. He once told me "Popeye ate it all the time, and look how well it worked out for him!" Even when he's not in camp Tim adds spinach to egg white omelets, grilled sandwiches and mixed green salads. Dark leafy greens are a weight class athlete's best friend. They're very low in calories and nutrient dense. They'll fill you up without sabotaging your weight loss efforts.

When it comes to recovering from workouts, most people place all their focus on macronutrients like protein and carbohydrates. While it's important to make sure you get quality protein and carbs at the right times to promote repairs, it's also just as important to eat a diet rich in micronutrients. Those vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals are most potent when you eat them through real food, and spread them out through the course of a day. Your body will thank you for making things like spinach, kale, collard greens, turnip greens and mustard greens a staple of your diet since they benefit recovery and long-term health.

Here are a few of the key power players you'll find in leafy greens.


  • Helps the body create new red blood cells that carry oxygen
  • Aids in the process of new tissue growth like lean muscle
  • Improves mood possibly by a role in the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin
  • Boosts memory
  • Lowers levels of homocysteine, a compound that's linked to heart disease risk

Vitamin K

  • Plays a vital role in the formation of osteocalcin, a protein found only in bone tissue
  • Promotes normal blood coagulation from cuts/wounds
  • High blood levels of vitamin K are correlated with high bone density


  • Regulates blood pressure
  • Maintains internal fluid balance
  • Maintains the pH of the body
  • Facilitates muscle contractions


  • Strengthens bones
  • Works to help regulate metabolism
  • Promotes wound healing due to its role in the formation of collagen


  • Supports a healthy immune system
  • Helps muscles contract
  • Promotes bone health
  • Involved in the body's production of proteins
Recipes for baked ranch kale chips and turkey chili after the jump.

If you're new to kale, try my baked Ranch kale chips recipe.


1 bunch kale leaves
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons low sodium powdered Ranch seasoning mix


Separate the kale leaves from the thick stems before washing and drying them. Cut them into small pieces then place them in a large bowl. Add the olive oil and mix well before adding the Ranch seasoning. Make sure leaves are evenly coated then place them on a tinfoil covered baking sheet. Bake in the oven at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes until the edges of the leaves turn a crispy golden brown color. Just be careful not to burn them.

If raw spinach doesn't thrill you, you can sneak chopped spinach into your next bath of turkey chili


1 1/4 pounds turkey, lean ground, at least 90% lean
12 ounces can of crushed tomatoes
1 ½ cups water
1 large chopped onion
2 bunches finely chopped spinach
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoons black pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
2 teaspoons flour, all-purpose
1 can red kidney beans
2 teaspoons all purpose flour


In a large skillet brown the ground turkey over medium heat then drain any excess fat. Add the tomatoes, water,
 onions, spinach, and seasonings then mix thoroughly. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally for about 20 minutes.
Stir in the flour and beans, stirring for 1 minute. Cook uncovered for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally.

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