They say if you do what you love, you'll never work a day in your life. I'm so grateful to be in a position to not only be surrounded by my best of friends, but to also be a part of their success. I must admit when I first learned both Zak Cummings and James Krause would be fighting on the same card, I was a little nervous. It's challenging enough to get one fighter down to weight, but another thing entirely to focus on two fighters, both known for being large in their weight classes. I knew it would be challenging, but my job is to accept challenges with a smile and a solution!
When camp began, both James and Zak had a lot going on. Due to an injury that prevented an elevated heart rate, Zak was a bit heavier than normal and also had new responsibilities as the head instructor at Glory MMA's second location. James, now an owner of 3 business including the new Glory MMA location had also just become a father! Ideally we want our fighters walking light, sleeping heavy, and living as stress free as possible... Sometimes life gives you lemons and sometimes you must grow them!
My first priority was to get these guys eating right. Fortunately, both James and Zak are veterans of the game and will do what it takes for victory. We immediately got both fighters eating whole foods, and focusing the right nutrients at the right times. To the surprise of many, we don't support or even believe in low carb dieting for the active or athletes. Our athletes work hard and earn their carbohydrates. It's not uncommon for our fighters to claim they can't even eat all the recommended food!
Our next priority was to get our boys sleeping right. Enough isn't enough- We need the right kind of sleep. Pitch black room, sans electronics an hour before bed is the anecdote here. If the body isn't recovering properly it will work against us rather than for us. We like to think of sleep not as the end of the day, but rather as the start of your day and a method of charging your batteries for the activities to come!
After a couple months preparation, we finally reached fight week. Upon fighter arrivals, each fighter still had 20-30 lb to cut. While many would freak out at the thought of losing this much weight in a matter of 3 days, it's important to understand that our fighters arrive fully hydrated, fully fed, and relaxed. After a week of regular meals, hydration, rest, and daily clothes shopping trips to keep James happy, it was time to make the final cut.
During this process we know that if our guys body's are fully rested and recovered they will do what we ask of them. After a short cutting session and dinner, both James and Zak went to bed only a few pounds from their required weights. After losing some weight during the night and some more time cutting, both fighters were on weight, with James even able to consume a bottle of water before stepping on the scale.
After successfully making weight, we began focusing immediately on the equally important task of rehydrating. Many would think this process is as simple as drinking and eating as much as possible, but they would be very and dangerously wrong. The rehydration phase is a very scientific process of preparing the body's various levels of digestion to utilize the water and nutrients we are about to consume. After a weight cut, if the rehydration process isn't given its due respect, fighters will suffer wonky insulin levels and will be heavy and bloated from undigested food. Digestion requires energy and a body that's digesting is a body not using all of its available energy for the hurt game!
My work as performance nutrition coach is over when the fighter enters the cage. When the responsibility of getting my fighters down to weight is over, the overwhelming sense of gratitude and friendship always kick in. I not only work for these guys- I love them as if they were my own brothers. Being closely involved with both fighters lives and camps, I understand the importance of the moment. James and Zak are competitors and veterans of this brutal game. When you see guys who have worked hard enter the cage gambling for victory, you quickly realize the importance of preparing them for victory.
After both fighters received victories only minutes into battle, my heart was ready to explode. I'm an emotional guy and would often find it easier to fly than to hold back my tears of joy. Not only did I get to witness two of my best friends earn victories first hand, but I got to be a part of their success. If this is work, I hope and pray I work until the day I die...