The role of sleep and recovery for combat athletes (1 of 3 blogs)


So, you want to be an ultimate fighter? An infamous statement by Mike Goldberg (Former UFC commentator). So, what does it take to be a professional or amateur fighter in the world of mixed martial arts (MMA), boxing, grappling or any combat sport? The answer to that question is multi-folded.

In the upcoming blog posts, we will answer, how to structure your fight or training camp for optimal sleep and recovery and how to take advantage of circadian biology. For this article and subsequent articles, I will refer to the time of competition as the “fight”.

The first thing we must consider is when is the fight. What time is the fight happening at? If your fight is scheduled to be at 22:00, but you are normally in bed now then this may hinder your performance on fight night. As you step into the cage you may be feeling snoozy and not prepared for the fight.

Replication of your fight conditions and fight time at least three weeks out from a scheduled fight. This will allow your body and mind to get used to staying awake at the time of the fight and more importantly being active during this time. You don’t have to spar hard during this period but you should be drilling, moving or doing some light sparring. As Coach John Kavanagh says “Updating the software without damaging the hardware”. Notable fighter who employ this strategy include: Conor McGregor, Michael Bisping, Nick and Nate Diaz

Assessment of your normal chronotype should be considered. Most people fall into three different categories; owl, neither, lark chronotype. Check out this 3-minute clip from ASAP Science . As the names suggests, owls like to go to bed and get up late, neither can switch easily depending on social and environmental factors and larks like to go to bed early and get up early. So, whilst you may be forced into a lark chronotype depending on your training regime, you may, in fact, be more of an owl. So, if you’re an owl and your fight is at night, great. If you neither, you can adjust with not many issues and if you are a lark, you are going to have to make some considerable changes.

So how can I change my chronotype for a fight? Let’s look at lark to owl. To change from owl to lark you will need to increase the sleep opportunity in the morning. If you are aged 17-25 this should not be much of a problem as younger adults generally like to sleep in due to delayed sleep phase syndrome. If you do wake early in the morning, try to stay in bed. If you are hungry have a small snack and return to bed. It is advised not to get out of bed until 08:00. You may wish to consider blocking natural light in your bedroom and using cooling with a fan or air conditioning. Staying in bed until this time of day may take several days or weeks to adapt to.

In the next blog posts, we will discuss balancing full-time or part-time work with training, pre-workout and supplements and the effect on performance and sleep, further recovery modalities.

Sleep Well…Train Well !!!!


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