8 Nutrition Tips To Improve Your Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Performance
Diet and nutrition aren’t talked enough about in the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and martial arts community.
BJJ training will always be more important than diet for getting better at BJJ, but if you’re not fueling your body with the proper nutrients, then you’re missing out on maximizing your performance, recovery time, as well as your overall health. What you eat has an enormous impact on both your performance and mindset.
If you’re eating right, you’re going to feel better, you’re going to have more energy and more confidence. Seriously, it makes a huge difference.
So without further ado, here are my top eight nutrition tips for BJJ.
1. Minimize your sugar consumption
Let me be the first to say that sugar isn’t actually that bad. It’s over demonized and in fact, consuming some sugar before an intense workout can help you perform better.
But the thing is, if you’re over-consuming sugar via processed foods that lack fiber and other nutrients, then you’re not leaving enough room to consume foods that are going to help keep you healthy. Yes, eating some sugar won’t magically make you fat, but over time you’ll get dependent on sugary foods for a quick source of energy, and this will lead to fatigue, weight gain and an increased risk of suffering from chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes.
2. Do not undereat calories
This may seem a bit counterintuitive. If you’re trying to get healthy and lose weight, shouldn’t you eat less? Isn’t eating less food going to result in more weight loss?
Yes, in the short term, undereating is going to cause rapid weight loss, and this is exactly what people do to achieve a specific weight category for a weigh-in. However, you shouldn’t be eating in a manner that you can’t sustain long-term as this leads to an unhealthy relationship with food and your weight.
Ironically, dropping your calories too low can actually make it more challenging to lose weight. As you lower your calories too much, your body will slow down its metabolism down to conserve energy. This is a survival mechanism called adaptive thermogenesis.
Feel free to drop your calories very low short term if you need to cut weight fast. However, if you’re trying to lose a significant amount of weight (over 10 pounds), then be sure to follow a diet plan that allows you to lose 1-2 pounds per week on a consistent basis. Doing so will both increase the chances you achieve your goal and ensure that you’re able to maintain your new weight.
3. Don’t fear carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are the most important macronutrient when it comes to BJJ performance. Carbs are going to give your muscles the energy they need to perform explosive movements when you’re rolling and ensure that you don’t fatigue too quickly.
There is a persistent myth in the world of nutrition and fitness that carbohydrates cause weight gain. Carbohydrates do not in and of themselves make you fat. However, if you eat too many carbs regularly, then yes, you will gain weight (and the same goes for any type of food regardless of how healthy it is).
This is why it’s essential to eat the right kind of carbohydrates. You want to consume healthy carbs that are full of fiber and nutrients, such as sweet potato, rice, fruits, and vegetables. Other forms of carbohydrates such as ice cream, candy, and soda should all be avoided or at least minimized as they are much more palatable and easy to overeat.
4. Stay hydrated
I’m talking just water. Not vitamin water, or soda, or sugar-free soda, just plain old water. The problem with “diet” drinks isn’t that they make you fat (which they don’t), the problem is that they lead to craving sugary food which will cause weight gain and an increased risk of disease.
As a BJJ practitioner, you’re going to be sweating a lot and so remaining hydrated is so important to ensure you’re recovering well and performing at your best at every single training session. Try to remember that it takes a while for your body to absorb water that you drink, so make sure that you drink water an hour or so before your rolling sessions rather than drinking water five minutes before you start.
5. Most supplements do not work
There are thousands of supplements marketed towards bodybuilders, BJJ practitioners, bikers, and every other kind of athlete. The reason is simple, there’s a lot of money to be made. The truth is that there are only a few supplements that have been shown to work in a clinical setting. In fact, there are only two legal and safe supplements that have real clinical evidence behind them.
Caffeine: Caffeine is a psychoactive stimulant drug most of us consume in our daily cup of coffee. Caffeine helps you increase mental acuity, physical explosiveness, and prevents the early onset of fatigue. As long as you’re not excessively reliant on caffeine for energy, consuming some will help increase your endurance and strength.
Creatine: Creatine is a naturally occurring amino acid which increases ATP (adenosine triphosphate) in cells, which gives your muscles more energy. Unlike caffeine, creatine won’t help your cardio performance, but it will improve your strength in the gym, as well as with explosive movements while you’re rolling.
Other supplements may or may not work and tend to have mixed evidence behind them.
6. Avoid excessively large meals
This is common sense. Don’t eat a large meal before you roll. This is especially important for BJJ where you may very be put into an upside down position, as well as having your stomach compressed.
Eating a large meal prior to training can lead to stomach discomfort and also a decrease in performance as your body is using blood to digest food rather than fuel your muscles. You can eat large meals, but save these for after your training session.
7. Try intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting is a great way to increase your energy, potentially reverse aging, decrease your body weight, and manage your appetite. Intermittent fasting isn’t for everyone, but more and more people in the BJJ community are using intermittent fasting as a tool to improve their health.
Intermittent fasting involves periodically abstaining from food for a specific period of time, which results in the consumption of fewer (but larger) meals. For example, instead of eating five meals per day, you eat two large meals between the hours of 12pm-8pm. This would mean you’re fasting for 16 hours per day and eating all of your calories within an 8-hour “feeding” window.
8. Increase protein intake
Increasing protein intake is essential for anyone physically active. Protein consists of amino acids which help your muscles recover from training. Without enough protein, you’re going to be sore all the time, you’ll lack energy, and you won’t be able to train and recover at an efficient rate. Protein also helps control your weight by decreasing your appetite and speeding up your metabolism.
A good range to aim for is between 0.7-0.8g of protein per pound of bodyweight. This is more than enough for you if you're training BJJ and isn’t so much that you end up eating like a competitive bodybuilder.
Nutrition for BJJ practitioners is not too different from other sports. The purpose is to increase your energy levels, maintain an ideal body weight and body composition for both performance, recovery and health. Keep your protein intake high, stay hydrated, don’t fear carbs and don’t waste your money on supplements that don’t work.
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