Nutrition plays an important role in your performance on the mats, and off the mats. What you put into your body can affect your mood, brain function, energy levels and much more. Below are FIVE nutrition pillars that anyone can start to implement into their life today. Even if you are not a Jiu-Jitsu practitioner, these pillars can still be applied to your life to increase your overall health and longevity. Remember, small gradual changes lead to eventual big growth.
PILLAR ONE: ELIMINATE OR LIMIT SUGAR INTAKE
Sugar. We know how bad it is for us, yet we give in. It’s a love hate relationship. We love the sweet goodness it gives us in many forms, but we are conscious of the adverse health implications. The recommended daily intake of sugar is 25 grams for women, and 38 grams for men. Let that sink in.
For many it may be impossible to eliminate sugar from your lives completely, but being conscious of your daily intake is the first step into limiting your intake. It’s important to note sugar comes in many forms and many names, a general rule of thumb to follow is that if the ingredient ends in “-ose” (e.g. dextrose, sucrose, fructose etc) it’s best to avoid it. Another ingredient to look out for is maltodextrin, which is also a fancy term for, you guessed it, sugar.
While sugar may give you that “boost” for your Jiu-Jitsu sessions, you will eventually feel the crash, gas out quicker, and wreck your overall health.
If you cannot eliminate sugar completely from your diet, there are some exceptions, and they tie into the rest of the pillars. Foods such as raw honey, agave nectar, and maple syrup taken in moderation will be a healthier alternative to sugar and artificial sweeteners.
PILLAR TWO: EAT MORE FRUIT
Eating more fruit has a host of benefits. For starters it can help satisfy that sweet tooth and can help decrease your sugar intake. Although fruit itself does contain natural sugars, it is processed and used by your body differently than white sugar and its derivatives. Fruit also has quick acting carbohydrates to help fuel your Jiu-Jitsu training, or work out session, and has the added benefit of providing nutrients and antioxidants.
However, there are some a some things to look out for when adding fruit into your diet. It is important to always select local and organic fruit as much as possible, consume in-season fruit, and make sure your fruits contain the seed. The best way to ensure you are covering all of your bases when purchasing fruit is to shop at your local farmers’ market. This way you can be sure at least two of those criteria are being met.
PILLAR THREE: DRINK MORE WATER
As a Jiu-Jitsu athlete it is highly important that you are always properly hydrated, with water. If you are feeling fancy you may add some Pink Himalayan Salt to your water, as this will help replenish minerals and electrolytes lost through sweat from training sessions. No sports drinks (you will be breaking Pillar One, as most, if not all, sports drinks contain…sugar).
Get used to drinking plain or lightly salted water. The easiest way to determine how much water your should be drinking daily is to divide your bodyweight in half, and that is how many OUNCES of water you should be drinking daily. For example, if a person weighs 150 lbs, he/she would need to drink around 62 ounces of water to be properly hydrated. Opt for more water if you consume foods and beverages that have a dehydrating effect on your body. Beverages that contain caffeine, such as coffee and energy drinks, as well as alcohol are examples of dehydrating beverages. If you can be strict with your water intake, you will reap the benefits of controlled weight, improved mood, improved skin, and overall well being. With an overall well being, expect better performance on the mats.
PILLAR FOUR: EAT WHOLE FOODS
This one is simple, but often difficult to follow. A diet where the majority, if not all, of your foods come from natural sources will improve your overall health and well-being. This is a no brainer. But we live in a world where there is a Starbucks next to another Starbucks. Take a tip from bodybuilders here (for your sanity) and eat 90% whole foods and 10% whatever you want, in moderation. It is easy to fall into the temptation of convenience without thinking twice about the long term health consequences. Preparation is key.
When grocery shopping, stick to the outside, and avoid the aisles. By circling around the store, you will be shopping in the produce section, and meat section. This will guarantee that the food in your cart doesn’t come with an ingredient list. You don’t need an ingredient list to know what a sweet potato is, you can visually see it. Stick to animal proteins, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds and you will be well on your way to a healthier diet not only for Jiu-Jitsu but for life.
There is a grey area for certain foods when it comes to if it is a “whole food” or not. Those foods include things like rice, beans and other grains. Technically speaking, many grains are minimally processed and therefore are not a “whole food” and beans have to be soaked prior in order to help prevent any digestion issues. For these foods, experimentation is best, try out the food in question for 30 days, if your digestion is wonky, eliminate it. These grey are foods will be hit or miss and different for each person.
PILLAR FIVE: EAT 2-3 MEALS
Yes, 2 or 3 meals a day spaced out by at least 4 hours. No snacking. Before reaching for the snacks, ask yourself, “am I hungry, or bored?” and “am I breaking one of these pillars?” Snacking generally occurs out of boredom or mood, and snacks generally are not healthy as they are reached for out of convenience.
As a Jiu-Jitsu athlete reaching for a sugary snack will have its consequences and show on the mats, if not immediate, eventually. Eliminate the snacks. By sticking to 2-3 meals you are not overly taxing your digestive system and body. Digestion demands a lot of energy expenditure from your body. Energy that can be used on the mats, energy that can help you escape a bad position or maintain that choke hold.
Experiment with your meals, maybe you prefer the typical breakfast, lunch and dinner (spaced out 4 hours in between) or you are better off with 2 meals. Be aware that consuming a meal before training is never a good idea, allow at least 2.5 hours after eating a meal before training. Whether you choose to consume 2 or 3 meals will be up to you, but do ensure these meals follow Pillar Four, contain a protein source and natural carbohydrate (root vegetables, tubers, etc.)
As a bonus, here are a couple tips on the subject of digestion. First, always be upright after eating a meal (seated or standing). The reason behind this is that it will help your food digest properly. It is tempting to lay down after a nice meal, but your body is working and the stomach acids need to be properly fitted to ensure correct digestion. Laying down after a meal will cause problems such as acid reflux and more.
The second bonus tip, drink water 30 minutes before AND after your meal. Not during. This will help increase your daily water intake, and aid in digestion.
There you have it! Five pillars to follow, try to implement one a week and build up from there, or go all five at once. Keep in mind these pillars aren’t just for Jiu-Jitsu athletes, every one and anyone can utilize these pillars and improve there quality of life. See you on the mats!