UFC lightweight fighter Mac Danzig sat down with ufc.ca and spoke about his Vegan diet, something that is greatly misunderstood in the Fitness & Nutrition world:
“Yeah! Over the last few years there have been a lot of changes in perception. When people first start realizing that I was Vegan, I was the odd man out. I was the only person in combat sports doing it. You know, there was one other random professional boxer who happened to be vegetarian, but his diet was filled up with cheese and whey protein, so that doesn’t really count. So I was the only guy. It didn’t matter how many fights I won, whenever I’d lose people would always criticize my diet. ‘Oh he doesn’t get enough meat and protein in his diet, that’s why he lost!’
But now you have fighters turning to similar diets for health reasons – guys like Jon Fitch, who use those diets for their training camps but not necessarily for moral or ethical reasons. So people see him doing well and they think, ‘Ok.’
Jake Shields has been a longtime vegetarian and he eliminates dairy and goes Vegan and people go, ‘Oh .’ And more and more people started doing it, so I don’t find myself getting criticized as much. I’ve been getting more and more positive feedback. People do seem more curious about the diet and more accepting.
‘Well what do you eat?’ ‘Where do you get your protein?’ I get that all the time.
The truth of the matter is that protein requirements are blown all out of proportion. We are led to believe that we need huge of amounts of protein for physical activity. People have been saying that for so long. The fact of the matter is, even if I did eat meat I wouldn’t be so focused on my protein intake. I wouldn’t worry that much about it because you get enough protein if you have a balanced diet. But so much of our society is based on what is printed in magazines and publications. All of that knowledge was handed down, literally, by the Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno days … people who looked at bodybuilding as the ultimate way for Joe Schmoe to get in shape and be five percent closer to looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger. And that’s been going on for a long time. It goes hand in hand with this whole fitness mindset that has been going on for decades.
You don’t need one gram of protein per pound of body weight. You don’t need that at all. If you are regularly active and at a good weight, if you get more than 80 grams of protein a day then you are fine. The body can’t even process more than that, your liver can’t process more than that. If you give your body too much protein then it’s either going to turn it into energy or to fat. And your liver has to do all that.
I’ve been researching nutrition for years and years, and not just being vegan, but nutrition in general. I’ve asked a lot of questions from knowledgeable people over the years, read books, read medical journals and stuff like that online. So I’ve been educating myself as much as possible for years and then using trial and error.
For years I didn’t do the Vegan diet even though personally, morally and ethically I wanted to. But I believed in what everyone else was saying, ‘You need meat! You need some kind of animal product, fish or chicken … to maintain your strength and muscle mass. As an athlete you need that.’ And I believed all of that.
Then I saw some examples of athletes that were Vegan and were getting good results and I thought, ‘You know what, I’m going to try it.’
At the very beginning for me it was moral and ethical. In this day and age, buying animal and dairy products causes way more suffering and harm than it does good. Don’t get me wrong, yes, I love animals … but if we were in a different day and age like 100 or 200 years ago then, sure, I would do whatever I had to do to live. If I had to be a hunter-gatherer then I would. I might feel bad about it, but I would respect the animals that I killed and I would eat meat. But things are different. We don’t live in that day and age anymore. Today you have processed meats and a lot of animals suffering unnecessarily for it. Now, some people just blow that off and don’t have a conscience about it or they just don’t care. They wouldn’t eat their dog but they feel that way about other animals. But for me, I just decided to stop eating meat. I didn’t want to contribute to all of that. I’m not trying to change the world or wear that on my sleeve or make a political statement, because that just turns people away. I only have control over one person and that’s myself. And I feel good about it.
It depends whether I’m in hard training. When I’m in hard training, like right now, I wake up in the morning, get some stuff done and I go train. I skip breakfast and the reason I do that is because if you train before you eat you will burn off the glycogen stores and the immediate fat sources that you have accumulated a lot quicker. So if you eat breakfast before you workout, then you are burning off some of what you just ate. I like to start with a clean slate for weight-cutting purposes.
So I go work out. After I work out I have a Vegan protein shake and mix that in a blender with mangoes, banana, coconut for the good fats, and some cashews. Then a little bit later I will have some sort of carbs … usually quinoa, because it has complex carbs and a lot of protein. I’ll add steamed vegetables and some kind of fruit. I snack throughout the day with fresh fruit. I try to only eat organic fruit and that’s where I get my sugar intake from. I stay as far away as possible from refined and processed sugars.
I go train and then when I’m done I’ll have a salad, usually with spinach and kale, with beans and legumes as the main source of protein. Sometimes I might eat Tofu or Tempeh. Tempeh is a little better because the processing and fermentation process that the soybean goes through is not as intense. Or I might add lima beans to my salad.
Later on at night I eat more fresh fruit, as always.”