Over the past two weeks preparing for my upcoming fight, I’ve learned a lot about my body.
Hello, MMA world. I’m Rachel Greenwood, an amateur fighter from Toronto, Canada.
Through trial and error, I’ve discovered some very important rules to live by to keep my body thinner, leaner, and stronger. To be able to reach my goals and to get on weight, I had to play around with my food for a while to find out the best time to eat, what to eat and how to keep my body strong.
Let’s start with my diet.
In order to achieve my goal, I had to get myself into a caloric deficit (eating less calories than activity output.) I found both intermittent fasting and counting my calories to be successful methods.
I also made sure my diet consisted of foods that were high in protein and fibre, as well as also including low calorie citric fruits and berries.
Each of these food groups served a purpose. Because I work out a lot, protein has been great for my energy level. On my more extreme workout days, I usually would double-up on my protein. However, one cannot forget how important fibre is.
There was a week where I was only having protein and no fibre in my diet. That was the week where I made no weight loss goals and felt bloated. That awakened me to the importance of having fibre in my diet. Citric fruits like grapefruit are low calorie, very filling, and act like a great dessert after a meal. Berries are also low calorie and make a great snack in between meals. I sometimes would eat it with a scoop of western cottage cheese, which is high in Casein protein (a slow-digesting protein), making it a filling meal.
Since I’m trying to keep my body in a calorie deficit, working out all the time meant I had to be strategic about when I ate, to make sure I had enough energy before and after my workouts.
When I tell people here how much I’m eating, they get nervous and ask, “Aren’t you hungry?” The truth is, no. I’m eating the exact amount I need to get through my daily activities. What is hard though is avoiding the temptation to eat when I’m not hungry. To eat for the pleasure rather than for fuel. It’s not just keeping away from the good stuff like cookies, pizza, and burgers, but holding myself back from eating out of sheer boredom or because I’m just hanging out with friends.
But hungry? No. I feel the opposite.
I feel full, satisfied and content. And it’s not like I’m not enjoying the foods that I eat. In fact, I enjoy my meals more now that I don’t overly consume it. To help me out in social settings, I started to drink a lot of water and tea. It’s a great survivor’s tactic, giving me the illusion that I was eating. It’s amazing how excited I will get from a good cup of tea when my friend is eating her fried food.
Weightlifting has really changed my game.
I primarily train out of the Tanuki Martial Arts Gym in Toronto. When I first started martial arts, all I cared about was learning techniques. Of course, I got a work out in, from hitting the bag, skipping rope, and body workouts to explosive dynamic exercise. But everything was always designed to make me better technically and more explosive for my game. I’m so glad that I did because my skill level has risen.
Now, I can focus on getting my body fit and under control. I studied bodybuilders and learned the best way to go about it. One important lesson that I’ve learned from body builders was “walking” a lot of walking. Walking helps you stay in a caloric deficit. It helps you burn a lot of calories without losing a lot of energy to have to fuel up again with food. I’ve started walking 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes at night. And my walks have been great not only for weight loss, but recovery from my workouts as well. I find it heal me physically and mentally.
Learning about fat and muscle has really helped me to understand that the more muscles you have, the easier it is to burn the stubborn fats. So when lifting weights, I target those areas. This in turn has made me stronger in my martial arts and because I focused on the skillset first, my muscle memory kicks in and I’m just all the more stronger. It feels neat when my punches land more exact. Even jumping, I go higher. Don’t let people say weightlifting is bad for martial arts. However, what you do have to remember is to throw in dynamic workouts to help keep you loose.
When I first started out my weight cutting, I was eating about 1,300 calories a day to keep my body strong in my workouts. (I am 5-0, if you are taller, you’d be eating more). Now that I’m two weeks out from my fight, I’m eating about 600 calories and doing more walking and less high intensity workout. I’m cutting out the carbs completely, sticking to clean high protein and fibre foods. I’ve built up my body and the muscles, now the focus is getting rid of those last few pounds of fat. In my last week I plan to water load to help lose the water weight before weigh-ins.
The hope is that the water weight should come off easily now that my fat percentage is low and water percentage is high.
When I look back on my fitness journey, through the various trials and experiments, I can see the benefits of understanding my body and the science behind nutrition and fitness itself. It has helped me achieve my goals in a sustainable and healthy way. I don’t view any of my pitfalls as actual failure as I found that with each step I took help me to get closer to truly cracking the code to my personal health.
I’m still looking for my first win inside the cage. This will be my third fight, so that makes me 0-2-0. Yes, it sucks on paper to be winless, but I feel I’ve learned a lot about myself in those fights. I think about GSP when he lost the belt to Matt Serra, and what he had to go through to win it back. Those girls were more experienced and I admire them for that.
Saturday, I will face Ridley Miley (0-0-0), 21, a BJJ brown belt and high level grappler, in Pennsylvania at strawweight. She beat former Invicta FC atomweight champion Alesha Zapittella in a grappling match earlier this year, so I know I’m in for a challenge. I currently weigh 124 pounds and hopefully, by the time you’re reading this, I’ll be slightly less as I plan on water loading this week.
I admire Riley. She’s accomplished so much at a young age. I’m going to stick more closely to the game plan, use more of my boxing, and focus on doing the things I need to do get my hand raised Saturday.
I’m going after it.