Those of us who participate in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training know that it is important to keep an eye on our diet. We know more these days about the complexities of proper eating, so there is really no excuse to avoid implementing smart dietary practices into your every day life. Besides, we all take up BJJ to excel and to reach new levels of physical conditioning, so it’s only natural that smart nutrition would be a key concern for all of us.
The Different Aspects of a Smart BJJ Diet
While the focus of this post is going to be on what to eat before training BJJ (e.g. training sessions and competitions), we cannot simply pass over the other phases of diet that are crucial to long term success in BJJ. To make matters as simple as possible, here are the three phases of your diet that have both long term and immediate impact on your overall performance:
• Your long term, daily diet
• Your pre-training or competition meal
• Your post training, recovery meal
By boiling down your diet to these three, main phases, it’s easier to come up with a winning eating plan. And by considering your daily diet and post workout meals, you’ll be better prepared to create a pre-training meal plan that works for you.
What To Eat Before Training BJJ
Your Daily Diet: Don’t Neglect Smart Nutrition
We’re not going to try to sell you on some miracle MMA diet that will turn you into a ripped, raging fighting machine. That’s not what most of us are after anyway. Instead, we want to stress the importance of having a long term diet that is geared toward optimum health and fitness levels.
You should try to get away from the three round meals a day and opt for more frequent eating. Recent studies have shown that people maintain a faster metabolism and more health benefits by spreading out their daily meals over 5 or 6 smaller meals; instead of the traditional 3 large meals a day.
Make your daily eating a combination of non-refined carbohydrates: Whole grain breads, whole grain pasta and fruits. In addition to these types of carbs, be sure to make friends with your vegetables. A few large salads every day will keep you healthy, full of energy and since they aren’t dense in terms of calories, you feel full without getting fat.
The final part of your daily eating equation should be lean proteins and healthy fats. Try to include a source of lean protein with every meal. Here are some good foods that are packed with protein:
• Chicken Breast
• Tuna fish
• Lean cuts of beef
• Low fat milk or dairy products
• Low fat yogurt
• Boiled egg whites
• Nuts & Seeds
In addition to these protein-rich foods, you may want to include some flax seed oil and salmon oil for essential, healthy fatty acids. Remember, though, this is not a hard and fast diet that you should consider. We wanted to include a typical, healthy structure that will help you to stay strong, energetic and healthy for all of your BJJ training.
And now that we’ve laid the ground work of a smart, healthy, daily diet, let’s move on to the issue at hand: What should you eat before your BJJ training?
The Pre-Training Meal
When you train in BJJ, you burn a lot of calories. There is just no way to roll on the mats for hours at a time without burning a lot calories. However, you certainly don’t want to arrive at the BJJ studio with a full belly or to stop in the middle of class to eat a snack. Having a full stomach during your training can make you feel queasy and it will definitely impede your performance.
Here is a plan for pre-training or pre-competition eating that has worked well for many BJJ practitioners and MMA fighters over the years:
- Plan your pre-training meal to happen approximately 4 hours before you start working out. This allows the food to be fully digested before you start rolling on the mat.
- Keep the caloric count for your pre-training meal between 500 and 1,200 calories. You don’t want to overindulge during this meal, as you will pay the price of being sluggish and not at your best if you take in too many calories. Most of the fighters we have talked to over the years tend to take in approximately 800 calories prior to training, and 1,000 prior to an actual competition.
- Carbs are the way to go. Your body burns complex carbohydrates for immediate energy. So it only makes sense to provide this optimal form of fuel for your body prior to training. Avoid the fatty and protein rich foods during your pre training meals. Instead focus on foods like: pasta, fruits, vegetables and breads. You can liven up these meals with a small amount of protein, but try to keep the carbs as the focus of your pre-training meals for the best results on the mat.
This kind of diet is similar to what runners use prior to their training. For years trainers have referred to this type of meal as a carb-loading meal. Marathon runners will often load up on carbs for several days, prior to a big race. And the same benefit they get from this type of diet is available to BJJ practitioners. You’ll have more energy and feel lighter, more agile and ready to go when you adopt this type of pre-training meal.
And for post-workout nutrition, consider a small dose of lean protein along with some additional carbohydrates. A protein drink or light meal will give your body what it needs to recover from the hard training that you just endured. Don’t forget about staying hydrated. Every day you should be drinking lots of fresh water around the clock. The sweat flies fast and furious during a typical BJJ training session, so staying hydrated should be one of your key concerns every day.
Keep these basic tips in mind while formulating your own BJJ diet plan.
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