A look at vegetarian fighters' diets

A trip to Whole Foods is as much a part of Jake Shields' routine as a trip to the gym

Jake Shields is 10 weeks away from his fight with Georges St. Pierre, the apex of his career and the main event on the biggest MMA stage ever in North America.

Shields starts to watch his diet around the eight-week mark before a fight, when the training intensifies. Until then, he's fairly liberal with what he eats.

"I eat based on how I'm feeling," Shields said. "If I'm hungry, I eat. Right now my weight is where I need it to be. When I was going to fight at 185 [pounds], I had to eat six, seven or eight times every day, and force myself to constantly eat. As a vegetarian trying to gain weight, you have to eat more than you want to."

Here's a sample of the Shields Diet:

Day 1

  • Breakfast: Oatmeal with fruit or sweet maple syrup. His favorite fruits are blueberries, strawberries, oranges, dried fruits and cantaloupes.

  • Mid-morning snack: Nuts and various fruits.

  • Lunch: A stir-fry dish with brown rice and vegetables. Shields will load up on whatever catches his attention in the supermarket, could be spinach, broccoli or any other green veggie.

  • Post-workout: A protein shake with whey or soy-based protein most of the time. He usually uses whatever his sponsors send.

  • Dinner: A few eggs, vegetables, either a tortilla or piece of toast, and either potatoes or sweet potatoes.

  • Late night: A snack of cereal with almond milk.

"I shoot for six meals a day," Shields said. "Some days end up being a little more. Some days may be a little less. I don't like to go very long without eating."

Day 2

  • Breakfast: Three to four scrambled eggs with vegetables, followed by a workout.

  • Post-workout: A sandwich with avocados and a vegetarian patty. Later, followed by a protein shake.

  • Dinner: Burrito with beans, avocados and rice.

  • Night-time snack: Yogurt and cottage cheese.

  • Before bed: Another snack with dried fruit, nuts or cereal.

Shields doesn't like soda and will drink coconut water or 100 percent juice drinks throughout the day.

Day 3

  • Breakfast: Oatmeal or eggs. If in a hurry, may grab a bagel with peanut butter and jelly instead.

  • Lunch: Eating out, maybe Thai food with tofu, but will cut this out of the diet when his training for the St. Pierre fight gets serious.

  • Post-lunch: Veggie burger or a veggie sandwich from Subway.

  • From time to time, Shields will go to Whole Foods and get soy chicken or soy steak. He doesn't like to do that often because it's processed. But for a change of pace, he'll put it on a sandwich with avocados and vegetables.

  • Dinner: Quinoa, a whole grain, mixed with vegetables or eggs.

  • Late snack: Crackers and hummus, followed later by another snack of scrambled eggs and hash brown potatoes.

Shields tries to focus on eating small meals before training. Carb-based meals, but not greasy foods like Thai takeout, usually make the cut.

"I cook my own food. Sometimes my brother cooks my food," Shields said. "I've thought about hiring a chef for before a fight. I'm thinking about getting a vegan chef and trying it out."

On weekends, when he's going out to clubs with friends, there aren't a ton of late-night eating options. He'll get pizza or Mexican food, but such snacks will be cut out around the eight-week mark before the fight.

Fitch's average day

Jon Fitch's wife Michele, whose own change in diet was the impetus of Fitch’s current routine, does most of the family's cooking and food shopping.

She noted two key challenges. The first is getting food with no preservatives, which means constant shopping, since most of the food purchased is going to be good for about only three days. She checks the Internet to find food in her area.

The second challenge is to get Jon enough calories, because as a hard-training professional fighter, he burns a lot of energy, particularly now that he’s in the home stretch of his preparation for his fight with B.J. Penn, and has to maintain his weight and strength levels.

"He eats nonstop," she notes. "I wake up in the morning and the snack tray is empty."

Michele Fitch said Jon’s typical day will start with two glasses of water, and a big bowl of oatmeal with raw honey or hazelnuts. Fitch also will have a protein shake, using plant-based protein.

After his first workout of the day, he’ll eat sandwiches with organic vegetables, and a vegetarian dish like tofu.

Before his evening workout, Fitch will have a meal with brown rice, Quinoa, a high-protein green, with almond butter, blueberry jam with bread, grapes, Brazilian nuts and raw cashews.

After his evening workout, he will have what Michele Fitch calls his "Popeye meal," a noodle dish with spinach, zucchini, garlic, onions, olive oil and sometimes mushrooms.

All meals also contain a variety of fruits, as the goal is a three-to-one ratio between fruit and protein. Fitch aims for 90 grams of protein per day.

For the rest of the night, he will continue to snack on whatever organic foods are in the house, finishing with a light meal before bedtime.