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, former UFC light heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz
A UFC headliner for much of his career, Tito Ortiz typically fights between the hours of 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. at night, making him notoriously and necessarily a nocturnal creature. The Huntington Beach, Calif., native goes to bed around 3 a.m. most nights and rises the following afternoon. So a midnight interview about his diet is pretty much child’s play to the Huntington Beach, Calif., native. Fresh off a 3-mile run in Big Bear, Calif., and a late-night dinner, the 15-year vet graciously shared his views on nutrition and talked briefly about his looming retirement bout against Forrest Griffin at UFC 148.
Curreri: A day in the eating life of the Tito Ortiz … what is that look like?
Ortiz: I wake up and have a protein shake about 9:30 in the morning. I’ll also have a little small meal with carbs. Then I go back to sleep and wake up about 12 O’clock and start my training. Then after training I’ll have another meal with high carbs and protein. I don’t eat fried foods, I don’t drink sodas, no fast food at all, no ice cream. I eat a lot of greens. I do a lot of juicing – about three times a day.
I don’t eat as much as I want, I don’t stuff myself, but I eat until I’m full. I eat whenever I’m hungry. My problem is that sometimes I don’t feel hungry and I won’t eat. So I have to force myself because I’m burning so many calories a day. I have to eat at least 4,000 a calories just to keep my weight on. Especially up here at Big Bear, which is 7,000 feet altitude. You can dehydrate really quick, when you’re at altitude you burn calories really fast, so I have to make sure I drink a lot of water.
If I want dessert I’ll eat a protein shake and throw some peanut butter in there. My company, Punishment Athletics, has a supplement line so I use that protein since it has virtually no sugar at all.
(Side note: Ortiz said that for this particular camp he practices wrestling five days a week; a lot more than usual).
Curreri: You’ve been in the game a long time. When did eating clean become a big deal to you?
Ortiz: It started when I was a high school wrestler cutting weight. My mom would make rice, cheese and beans … so I started making my own food: White rice, brown rice, broiled chicken … nothing fried at all. My mom was like, ‘What are you doing weirdo.’ I’m like, ‘I gotta cut weight.’
It’s just been a lot of trial and error to find out what your body burns and what works for you. I’ve read books, watched television, during college and researched it on the Internet. To me, sushi is the best energy food on the market. I also learned that a lot of good energy comes from juicing. I use the Jack Lalanne juicer and mix spinach, carrots, celery, garlic, ginger, apple and lemon. I drink 32 ounces, three times a day. It burns all of the fat out of my body and I lean out really quick. I think people will notice a difference in this fight, versus my last three fights, as to how lean I will be. That’s because I haven’t trained at Big Bear (during the prior) 18 months … I was training at home. But here in Big Bear I’m a lot more focused. I live what I’m doing. I get up, I train, I eat and I rest. Train, eat, rest. Train, eat, rest. That’s all I do.
Curreri: Does it matter to you whether your food is organic or not?
Ortiz: No. Some people are worried about that and they can’t handle some of the pesticides on the vegetables. But my immune system is very strong and I’ve built a tolerance to a lot of things. As long as I’m using the juicer, I don’t get sick. The last time I was sick was 14 months ago. I just eat so clean and the juicing really cleans your system.
I’ve watched a lot of cooking shows on television, how they would cook things. I learned from Jack Lalanne the importance of juicing and, why overcook foods and not put the nutrients in your body that it needs? My metabolism doesn’t work as fast as it used to, being 37 years old, so I’ve made sure to watch what I eat.
It really comes to America: In America we live on fast food. Now, you can go to fast food restaurants but you have to eat clean. Don’t eat fried foods. Don’t eat cheese or white bread. Don’t drink sodas. Instead of sodas or lemonade, drink water. After 8 p.m. I don’t eat any carbs. My philosophy is, ‘The greener the food, the better.’ And I don’t overcook my food.
Even with my kids – candy for them is fruit. I’ll give them mango, strawberry, pineapple. That’s candy to them.
Curreri: What weight do you normally walk at?
Ortiz: Normally 236. But last year I got up to 247 and that’s the heaviest I’d ever been. Maybe it was a mixture of being a little lazy, having surgeries and not doing all the road work I normally do. I used to run four miles a day. But now I’m eating very clean and running three miles a day. This fight against Forrest is very serious to me. So I’m doing the road work again, training at Big Bear, and I walk around right now at 225. I’m strong – my abs are back! I’ll be shredded. I might even be 205 on the scales, which is a little light for me. When I fought (Antonio Rogerio “Little Nog”) Nogueira, I dropped from 232 to 206 in two days and I thought I was going to die. I was unprepared for the fight and I won’t let that happen again. I just got too comfortable at home with my family and my kids. But when I keep my mind focused like I’m doing now, it shows when I fight. That’s why I came back to Big Bear for this fight. All I do is watch Forrest’s (fight) tapes, watch every little move he makes. I eat the right things and I train. I want to make sure that after 15 years I get my hand raised and walk away a winner.
Curreri: Do you cook much?
Ortiz: I prepare my meals myself. I’m big into cooking. I grew up cooking for myself. When I was 18 I got put out on my own. My stepfather gave me $800 and said, ‘Here, it’s time to be a man.’ I lived on Top Ramen and water for the first three years, I think. But I learned how to cook. Watching “The Cooking Channel” helped out a lot. I still watch it all the time and I love it. Chef Gordon Ramsey – I’m a huge, huge fan of his. He’s an amazing cook. I’ve met him on a couple of occasions and he’s a great guy and a really, really good cook. I pay attention (to his recipes) for pastas, spaghettis, enchiladas, which are really clean and flavorful. My girlfriend, Jenna (Jameson), she loves when I cook. Just reach into the refrigerator and give me four things and I’ll make something out of it.
Curreri: What is your go-to meal?
Ortiz: If I’m in training, I’ll probably go with some cod with brown rice, asparagus and I use light salt. I will use real butter, a little garlic salt, a little lime and cayenne pepper.
If I’m not training, I also make the most amazing root beer barbeque chicken … I have a recipe for that but I’m not going to tell you because then everyone will know.
Curreri: So we might look on grocery shelves some day and next to the Paul Newman line … see Tito Ortiz’s secret barbeque sauce?
Ortiz: Listen, this retirement for me, I’m just graduating with a masters in marketing, a masters in promotion and a masters in kicking a--. Now it’s time to move onto something new. I’ve always been big into charity and I’ve worked with the Wounded Warriors Foundation … so I plan on giving back. I’ve been to Iraq a number of times and I plan on visiting a bunch of Army bases, too.
Curreri: Last question: What will be the last supper of Tito Ortiz’s UFC career on Saturday, July 7?
Ortiz: It will be the same as it always is: I’m going to hit my favorite sushi spot and eat as much salmon and sushi and white rice as I possibly can. White rice just because it’s high in starch and energy and my body burns it really fast.