Essential nutrition and supplements for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
Like other other mixed martial arts, BJJ is a very challenging sport. But in order to be fully immersed in BJJ, it’s vital to be leading a healthy lifestyle. Although taking supplements is not necessary, they can aid in giving your body an extra push. However, be warned: There are tons and tons of supplements on the “bodybuilding/ dietary” market, but don’t be fooled by good packaging and advertising. Many of these pills and powders are dangerous, and some have even been linked to kidney or liver failure. If you are taking supplements, make sure to take them in moderation, and consult with a doctor if something feels wrong.
Remember those days when your mom used to nag you to eat all the veggies on your dinner plate? Well she was definitely right! Many highly acclaimed BJJ athletes insist that the core of their diet relies on eating a wide palette of fruits and vegetables. If you eat badly, don’t expect taking supplements to save you. It’s important that you maintain a balanced diet, and use supplements only as a small boost. Taking vitamin B12 is good to promote healthy blood cells and nervous system. Vitamin B12 can be found in a wide variety of foods. These include shellfish, liver, fortified soy products (tofu, soy milk), fortified cereals, red meat, low-fat dairy, cheese, and eggs. You can add an extra boost by taking a B12 vitamin pill everyday.
A deficiency of electrolytes in the body can make you very weak, and in turn can even cause muscle cramping. A great fix is to drink filtered water with an effervescent electrolyte mix in the form of a dissolving tablet. This a a perfect substitute for something like Gatorade, which contains a great deal of chemicals and sugar. Also, taking magnesium, in the form of vitamin pills, can aid in alleviating muscle strains. Taking creatine may also be an option if you are doing high intensity workouts, and need enhanced recovery.
Because the mats are often a breeding ground for bacteria, taking an immune system tablet as a preventative measure against getting sick is a good idea, especially when those around you are feeling queasy. Taking a spoonful of fish oil every day is a great way to obtain important doses of Omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for brain and memory performance. They also lower your risk for diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and arthritis. Omega-3 can be found in different types of fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines. It is also present in most nuts, as well as in flax and chia seeds.
It’s fundamental that as an athlete you are taking care of your body. As they say, you are what you eat, so if you are feeding your system processed foods and other junk, don’t expect it to be reaping any great returns. I’ve noticed that when I start skipping meals, or filling my sweet cravings with McDonald’s sundaes, that I find myself falling asleep at practice (yes, seriously!). I can barely roll. I usually get submitted, and can hardly remember what I learned on the mats that day. Moreover, my overall mood just feels awful. After a junk food fix, I become so unmotivated I sometimes barely get myself up out of bed. Keeping my diet clean is crucial if I want to maximize my training, and show myself what I’m fully capable of doing.
While supplements can enhance your performance, taking them in excessive amounts may be dangerous. It’s important to research what they are made of to make sure you are not allergic to anything that goes into them. But mainly, it’s just really important to monitor what goes into your body, and to maintain a healthy diet and drink plenty of water. And, as always, when in doubt, talk to your coach.
Written by Hannah Milic.