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Eat like an MMA fighter: DeVall says healthy diet is a knockout

SIOUX CITY | Tipping the scale at 140 pounds and averaging around 3-4 percent body fat, mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter John DeVall doesn’t look like a person who should be obsessed with his diet.

Yet a few weeks before he is slated to face Manny Vasquez of Elmhurst, Ill., in a bantamweight battle at WinnaVegas Casino Resort’s “King of the Cage” competition on Jan. 24, the 29-year-old Sioux City native is as focused on food as he is on fighting.


“I’ve been fighting for the past 10 years,” DeVall, owner of DeVall MMA Fitness Center, explained. “Training for past fights, I’d simply double up on the calories before starving myself the closer I’d get to fight night.”

Tiring of such yo-yo dieting, he decided to pursue a training strategy of eating nutritional foods, with an emphasis on lean meats and fresh fruits and veggies.

In order to lose weight to compete as a bantamweight, the normally 167-pound DeVall began an eating regimen that started with a breakfast of farm-fresh eggs, calcium-enriched orange juice and plenty of fruit.

“My regimen usually begins with Crossfit at 6 a.m. and won’t end until a late-night workout,” he said. “You better believe I need a healthy breakfast.”

Throughout the day, DeVall mixes cardio training and weight training with teaching upwards of 20 MMA, jujitsu or kickboxing students at his downtown fitness studio.

In between, he’ll make time for healthy lunches and dinners that will include plenty of lean chicken or different types of fish.

“Athletes in training sometime get into a rut when they eat the same things over and over again,” DeVall allowed. “That’s why I’ll eat chicken for dinner if I had fish for lunch. And when I eat fish, I’ll choose from pollock, salmon and tilapia for variety.”

Likewise, he’ll pair proteins with such heart-healthy veggies as peppers, dark leafy greens and sweet potatoes.

“I’m a newcomer when it comes to sweet potatoes because I always associated them with the yams from Thanksgiving dinner,” DeVall said. “It’s only been recently that I discovered they are also packed with healthy vitamins and potassium.”

For lunch and dinner, he will combine all of the ingredients for an impromptu stir fry, using several different spices and cooking with a variety of different oils.

“I have up to 10 different types of cooking oils,” DeVall said. “I have everything from saffron, sunflower to hemp oils. All of them have a different taste and go a long way in keeping you from getting into a rut, food-wise.”

Between meals, he will snack on protein bars and shakes in addition to nuts and blueberries, which are rich in carbohydrates and contain high levels of antioxidants such as vitamin C.

Since beginning his diet, DeVall has regularly posted photos of his meals via social media outlets like Facebook and Pinterest.

“People think I’m slaving away all day, cooking this food,” he said, shaking his head. “Instead, I’ll allow five minutes for prep time and 10 minutes for cooking time, max.”

DeVall said a majority of his recipes have come from MMA fitness trainer Mike Dolce, while others have come from his mom, Kim DeVall, a former restaurant owner.

While acknowledging that most people aren’t as active as he is, DeVall is convinced a diet high in lean protein, vitamins and minerals can be beneficial for everybody.

“It shouldn’t take any longer to prepare healthier foods nor should it be a chore to eat it,” he said. “By including a few choice ingredients, you’ll feel better and be more energetic than you’ve been in a long time.”

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