Over the past month, no MMA fighter has seen their star skyrocket as much as “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey. The 25-year-old Californian wowed with her curves in ESPN The Magazine’s “The Body Issue,” candidly bantered with Conan O’Brien on his late night show, and has been the subject of an All-Access series on Showtime leading up to Saturday night’s clash with Sarah Kaufman (10 p.m. ET/PT on Showtime). The reigning Strikeforce Bantamweight champ and 2008 Olympic bronze medalist (judo) sat down with me recently to talk about her fascinating one-meal-a-day diet, coffee addiction, and how mixed martial arts helped heal past insecurities about her body.
Staples of the Rowdy One’s diet …
Rousey: It’s kind of a combination of The Paleo and The Warrior diet. I pretty much eat one meal a day – which takes place at night. I usually eat between 4 and 10 (p.m.). As far as supplements go, I don’t take anything that is made in a lab. If it was on earth 10,000 years ago then I will eat it.
There is one exception to all of this each day: I get to have coffee every morning. That’s the only thing I really fudge on. A lot of athletes try to put a bunch of chemicals in their bodies, as much as they can get away with. I try to make everything as clean as possible, you know I even use a water alkanalizing machine and I try to only drink out of glass bottles when I can (to avoid petrochemicals). I try to only drink high quality water as well.
One Meal A Day? This is Crazy!
I thought it was crazy at first. Especially since breakfast was, and still is, my favorite meal. I like having a big breakfast, a medium (sized) lunch, a tiny dinner and I would usually go to bed hungry. It took a while to get used to but I don’t really get hungry during the day anymore. I sleep a lot better than I used to and I have a lot more time because I’m not planning meals all day long.
There weren’t really hunger pains when I switched to the diet. You’re just used to eating, you’re sitting around and you’re bored … sometimes you just want to eat to keep yourself occupied. But as long as I’m busy – and I’m busy a lot these days so I’m run ragged all day long – I just pretty much need coffee and I’m cool.
He (her nutritionist) wanted to take coffee out of my diet at first; we had to have a little bit of a discussion. I was like, ‘I don’t care what I have to do, but I NEED COFFEE! So that’s why we grind up a bunch of wheatgrass, parsley, cilantro and sprouts every morning – a green shot – and I take that every morning to try and combat my addiction to coffee.
Philosophy underlying her diet:
A guy named Chad Waterbury handles my nutrition. I got it all from him. The philosophy is, when you’re digesting food then your body wants to rest. If you’re hungry then your body wants to go and get food. So you have more energy when you’re not digesting food. So I can get more out of training on an empty stomach than I would on a full stomach.
On Insecurities About Her Body:
I had terrible issues with my body when I was younger because I always had to make a certain weight on deadline all the time. So people were constantly asking me how much I weighed and criticizing what I ate – so I felt if I wasn’t exactly on weight then I was ugly. People were like, ‘Oh, you’re heavy, you’re fat, you need to lose weight.’ I would get yelled at for being heavy so I equated the number on the scale with how I felt about myself. It was a hard thing to deal with if you’re a 15- or 16-year-old girl. I had a big problem with that for many years -- I didn’t like how I looked or how much I weighed.
But once I started doing MMA and got away from that old coaching, starting to do more of it on my own, I started having a healthier self-image. Being in the ESPN “The Body Issue” is something tangible that I can hold in my hands and be like, ‘OK, I’ve overcome this and I have nothing to be ashamed of because the body that I have now is being celebrated.’
I usually eat carbs on alternating days. So it will usually be rice or potatoes or something like that.
Calories per day:
Pretty much I just eat until I’m full. Since I don’t eat all day my stomach has shrunk so I get full fast. So I don’t count calories at all.
On Red Meat and Chicken:
If I have red meat it must be ‘Grass-Finished beef’ not ‘Grass Fed.’ Grass Fed could be that they fed the cow grass ONE DAY and then fed it corn for the rest of its life – and that qualifies it to be ‘Grass Fed’. Grass-Finished means it has to eat grass for at least 80 percent of its lifetime … so it has to be very high quality. I also try to eat everything organic, even when I eat dairy.
Competed in Olympics (154-pound category). Fought MMA at 145 and now 135 pounds.
When I did judo I was tiny for the division. When I started MMA I walked around at 145 pounds so I fought there but I thought I could capitalize more fighting at 135 pounds and get more attention because it’s a deeper division. But I hadn’t been that light since I was like 15 years old so I went and got help for that. It’s been one of the easiest weight cuts I’ve ever done.
On being punched in her ‘MoneyMaker’:
I have a deviated septum, I have cauliflower ears, and my toes are all broken to hell. That’s just the way I look and I’m happy with how I look. So if people think an extra scar on my face would make me not movie-worthy … so I would just be a director or something like that. I can’t walk into a fight thinking, ‘Oh I need to save my moneymaker.’ I don’t care if I cut my face all to hell; I’m in there to win. You can’t walk in there scared of what might happen to you. I walk in there focused on what I have to do. If I wind up with a cut on my face, so what, whatever.
The Ronda Rousey Diet
Read on for the latest installment in UFC.com's weekly series of articles on proper nutrition from the biggest names in mixed martial arts...this week, Strikeforce bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey