A winning diet
Before Jake Shields had his first bout in the UFC in October of 2010 – a three round decision victory over Martin Kampmann, many regarded the Mountain Ranch, Cali., product as one of the most dangerous mixed martial artists to never compete inside the Octagon.
With a resume that boasts wins in four different nations, including victories over Yushin Okami, Carlos Condit, Paul Daley, Jason Miller and Dan Henderson, and championships at various weight classes under the Shooto, Elite XC, and Strikeforce banners, Shields hasn’t lost since late 2004, and has only been finished once in his career – nearly 11 years ago.
What is perhaps more interesting than the fact that Shields flew below the radar of the majority of mixed martial arts fans, despite his impressive body of work, for so long, is the fact that Shields has accomplished everything he has, including securing a shot at current UFC welterweight king Georges St. Pierre in late-April, without eating meat.
“I was raised a vegetarian, so I’ve never really eaten meat. I tried it, but I didn’t care for it,” offered Shields. “A lot of people think you can't be strong without meat, but I'm proof they're wrong.”
A highly respected mixed martial artist and lifelong vegetarian, Shields is a far-cry from our society’s stereotypical conception of a vegetarian, and despite preconceived ideas, the 11-year veteran shrugs off the notion that his vegetarian lifestyle puts him at a disadvantage inside the Octagon.
“I feel [not eating meat] is an advantage, so that’s not something I have to think about,” explained Shields. “I think I train better – my body feels like its efficient. I’ve had a number of training partners who have become vegetarian.”
While many professional athletes’ diets include extraordinary amounts of chicken, fish, and other animals, a typical day in the life of Shields’ diet includes oatmeal with raisins, soy milk and a protein shake for breakfast, perhaps a bean burrito with vegetables for lunch, and brown rice with vegetables and tofu for dinner, with nuts, dried fruit, and protein bars snacked on throughout.
Although reasons for becoming a vegetarian vary by the individual, be it health, moral, economic, religious, or otherwise, Shields essentially has a number of reasons for enjoying a vegetarian lifestyle.
“Personally, I just feel better, and one of the problems with meat right now is the big factory farms are run by corporations. The animals are unhealthy and treated cruelly,” explained Shields. “It’s not a ‘mom and pop’ farm like it used to be. It’s one of the reasons there’s so many problems with E. coli and salmonella.”
Although many people generally view vegetarians as perhaps weak or unhealthy, Shields is a living contradiction to that stereotype, and when he meets St. Pierre in Montreal, the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu black belt will be looking to make another statement on behalf of vegetarians everywhere.
When asked for a prediction for his upcoming bout, a confident Shields replied, “I think it'll be a tough fight, but I'll end it with submission.”