With the latest Strikeforce event a mere 24 hours or so away, the media frenzy surrounding Ronda Rousey is fast approaching a fever pitch. Yesterday, one of the many articles that was posted caught my eye. Ronda's changed her diet plan to an extreme hybrid of the Paleo Diet and the Warrior Diet. She eats only one meal a day, alternates the days she eats carbs and subsidizes that with her beloved coffee. Her nutritionist, Chad Waterbury, is spearheading her dietary regimen, and she seems to have found success under his guidance, as he has been with her for quite some time, and advised her during her March training camp, when she was preparing to fight Miesha Tate. The main question that burned in my mind, however, is just how safe is a diet like this for an athlete competing in a full contact sport. I reached out to MMA diet guru, Mike Dolce, to get his opinion on Ronda's nutritional program.
Stephie Daniels: What's your overall opinion on this diet plan that Ronda has adopted?
Mike Dolce: It may work for Ronda, and if she believes in it, and says it does, then it certainly is working well for her at the moment. It's not something that's easily sustainable for the general population for an extended period of time. She mentioned the Warrior Diet and the Paleo Diet, which, in essence, is a throwback to early man, but unfortunately, early man didn't have technology and statistical analysis to gauge human performance.
The food groups seem to be ok, and I also recommend earth grown nutrients with my own food program. High level athletes, athletes that are constantly tearing down their bodies, need to eat more often. We need to look at blood sugar stabilization and insulin regulation and things such as that. Those things are best maintained through multiple, daily feedings at even intervals.
What Ronda is doing, like I said, works very well for her right now, but she became an Olympian, the highest level an athlete can achieve, doing something different, and as far as I know, very few Olympians in 2012 competed on that type of diet. Id say almost none. I'm certainly not bashing the diet, but it's just a very fringe approach to an overall healthy eating regimen.
Stephie Daniels: Do you feel that the level of safety might be compromised going into this fight, based on this diet?
Mike Dolce: Without being part of Ronda's camp, and without knowing what she's doing, I wouldn't really be able to say, but I can speak for my own camps, where I work with some of the best athletes on the planet, and my athletes typically eat eight times a day, and perform consistently at world class levels, with single digit body fat percentages. By comparison, I endorse a multi-meal program, which works extremely well. While Ronda's approach is definitely in the minority, and I don't want to say it's not effective for her, because she seems to be loving it, and she's an elite level athlete, and we have to trust her judgement here.
Stephie Daniels: I noticed Ronda's affinity for coffee, and her nutritionist wanting to cut it from her diet. What are your thoughts on coffee?
Mike Dolce: You know, I'm a fan of coffee, personally. I only go for organic beans, and as far as additives go, I use coconut, hemp or almond milk, and maybe a touch of agave as a sweetener, but most of the time when I have coffee, it's black. You have to take your health history into consideration. Before you even drink coffee, you should speak with your doctor, and maybe even a cardiologist to make sure that you can handle that type of stimulant. Caffeine has a wide variety of healthy attributes, one of which is being a natural diuretic. It does speed up your metabolism, which is good for burning off excess body fat and giving extra energy. It increases focus and cognitive function. It can also add undue stress and strain on your heart. You have to be careful when you choose caffeine, but for the large majority of people out there, caffeine has been proven to be safe.
Stephie Daniels: Is alternating the days of carbohydrate intake a good practice?
Mike Dolce: There's multiple methods of playing with carb intake. You can zigzag them, and some people do it within a given day, where they'll only eat their carbs right after a workout. With Ronda, it sounds like she has a high carb day, and then a low carb or no carb day. Other people just take in a minimal or moderate amount daily, and focus on their energy output.
With Ronda, she only eats one meal a day, but she says she eats until she gets full, which is an interesting concept. How many calories is that in a given day, and what does that do to the body's performance, digestion, insulin level regulation? It opens up a few other questions. Is the body absorbing all those nutrients? Is she passing off quantities of those nutrients? Is she in a nutrient deficit? Without being a part of her camp, it would be hard to say, but those are the things the average person might want to consider before they start such a program.
Stephie Daniels: How do you think a diet like this affect recovery time?
Mike Dolce: I think for a high level athlete like Ronda Rousey or any elite mixed martial arts practitioner that's training twice a day, in my opinion, it's impossible to sustain the level of performance in training necessary on just one meal a day. There's overwhelming scientific data and practical data that supports this. Athletes int he gym need to replenish glycogen delivery and restore insulin levels immediately prior to training. If you're training twice a day, but only eating once a day, you're at a deficit. An elite athlete like Ronda Rousey genetically and through her work effort might be able to outpace some of those issues, but eventually, it will catch up. It always does.
The Warrior Diet has been around forever, for thousands of years. The author made it sexy again, a few years back, because he wrote a great book, which I read and enjoyed. He kind of brought it back to the modern era, but not many athletes have adopted for a long period of time. That doesn't mean it's bad, but when you're an elite athlete, and you're training twice a day, five days a week, you need to recover from that, and if you're only eating once a day, you're not recovering satisfactorily. That will, in time, catch up to you, and create a performance deficit.
You can follow Mike via his Twitter account, @TheDolceDiet