Nutrition for BJJ: What really matters

Updated: Feb 5, 2019

When people talk about 'recovery' in jiu jitsu they usually think about ice baths, foam rolling, massages or cryotherapy. The most important aspects are often overlooked: sleep and nutrition. In this series I will try to give some insights on one of the most contested subjects in the athletic community: nutrition.

Whenever I’m studying a subject, whether it is for writing a paper or learning a new position in jiu jitsu, I always try to find the concepts most experts seem to agree on. Stretching, lifting weights, training jiu jitsu, even though experts disagree on some details, the main concepts to achieve progress are mostly agreed upon. When I started delving into nutrition, it appeared to be a different story. Gracie diet, vegans and vegetarians, IIFYM, Keto… so many options that appear to completely disagree with each other. After reading up on a lot of different diets, trying them out for myself, and talking to befriended athletes and experts, six main principles (with actual scientific backing) stood out. In order of importance:

1. Calorie balance

2. Macronutrients

3. Micronutrients

4. Food choices 5. Food timing

6. Supplements

It's very important to start at these base of the pyramid. If you want to lose weight by using fat burners whilst you are at a calorie surplus, you're are fighting the wrong battle. That sounds pretty logical. A more realistic example is intermittent fasting to lose weight. Intermittent fasting is a form of food timing, and thus a lot lower in significance than calorie balance. No matter how many hours you fast, if you end up with a calorie surplus at the end of the day, you will not lose weight. Intermittent fasting to lose weight will therefore only work if you are at a calorie deficit. So now you know what the things you should focus are. In my coming blog posts I will address all of these 6 concepts from a BJJ athlete’s perspective. In the following entries I will tell you what you need to know. The amount of calories you need to consume to gain, maintain or lose weight. The protein, carbs and fats that are required for the BJJ lifestyle. The vitamins and minerals you need to survive and thrive. How to pick the food you want to get all these nutrients from. This one is the most widely discussed, mainly because it is very personal. Some people might have some sensitivity for certain foods (gluten and lactose come to mind) whereas others will do perfectly fine consuming these. Further topics include when to eat what, and finally which supplements you can take to help your performance and recovery.

As a bonus, I will go into the weight cut for BJJ, which require a very specific approach, different from MMA and boxing where there is time to recover.

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