By Gavin Allinson
What should you consume before training?
Do you need any specific supplements pre-training?
Which supplements can help your performance?
What should you be eating before training and competition?
When it comes to preparing yourself for jiu jitsu training and competition, as with any area of nutrition we need to consider your overall food intake for the day and even the previous day if you are competing.
How long before training should you eat?
Everyone is different when it comes to how they handle food and how their digestion system works. I’m often reminded of this when sparring BJJ as there are 2 or 3 guys in my academy whose stomachs makes a real racket burbling and gurgling, compared to others where there is no sound at all.
Some people may be able to eat a sandwich minutes before they get on the mat and others may have to abstain from eating food for up to a couple of hours before doing any sort of physical activity. So there is no definitive answer as to when you should eat before a training session
The digestive system utilises a lot of energy and causes blood to be preferentially delivered to the stomach, instead of around the body to the muscles where it might be needed, so having a last minute sandwich is probably not a good idea. Allowing time for your food to be digested before any sort of performance has to be a good idea.
Timing your meals before training
A good rule of thumb is to have your last solid food no sooner than 90 minutes -120 minutes before you train. This depends a lot on the time of day that you are going to be training. At my academy our evening class is at 6pm. I’ve been told by some guys that they find that time awkward as they don’t have time to get home to have something proper to eat as it is too close to class, and that after class it can be 8-8-30pm before they get chance to eat anything.
If you are having your lunch at 12 then it is too long to be going until 8pm without having anything to eat, so a solution could be to take some food in a container and eat it around 2 hours before your training session.
Blood sugar control
As an athlete, an overlooked but important skill is the ability to manage your blood sugar levels and to keep them stable throughout the day. I often see my classmates coming into class gulping down a bottle of sugary energy drink because they feel they are going to need the energy.
It’s OK to drink an energy drink but don’t drink it before the class has started; you can start sipping on it during water breaks. This same strategy applies for all sports, even an event like marathon running. The reason is that when you have an energy drink or any high glycaemic index food like chocolate, or even pasta, your blood sugar level will start to rise rapidly and unless you have been active recently this causes insulin to be released. For the majority of people this will cause them to feel sleepy – ever had a snooze after a big Sunday lunch?
Once you have started training then the sugar in the energy drink that you are consuming will be used immediately to fuel your activity so you will not suffer from your blood sugar getting out of whack. This will obviously help to improve your recovery time as you will not be depleting your energy stores as much, which would then need replenishing. Obviously, if you are trying to lose weight then avoid energy drinks at all times, even when training, as you really want to be trying to utilize your fat stores to fuel your training session.
Check out www.ControlBloodSugar.com for more information.
Foods to eat before training
Some points to consider for your food choices in the 2-3 hour window before you train. The food should be relatively easily digestible chicken or fish as a source of protein rather than beef or lamb. Carbohydrate sources should be higher in fibre before you train compared to after training, when you will need carbohydrates that are broken down more quickly for faster replenishment.
Some example meals before training would include complex salmon salad, soups, tropical fruits (banana, mango, pineapple), fruit smoothies with protein and oats, omelette, hummus and vegetables.
Supplements to improve performance
The main pre-work out supplements that are available are generally targeted at the body building market and the marketing tends to be focused on getting a massive pump and ‘rage’ which is going to enable you lift lots of heavy things in the gym. This approach can be a bit off-putting for the general jiu jitsu market; some people would argue that you want to be cool, calm and collected for BJJ, not amped to the max.
Some of the ingredients in the supplements targeted at body builders can help with athletic performance for BJJ though. Let’s have a look at some of the components.
Some of the benefits of caffeine include: boosting endurance performance, reducing perception of pain and delaying fatigue. Individuals have varying sensitivities towards caffeine; too much caffeine can leave you feeling wired and can give you the jitters – not a good sensation, so tread with caution. Like most stimulants the more you use caffeine the faster your body becomes accustomed to it which means that you will often need to use more to get the same effect. If you feel that caffeine helps your performance then in order to retain this you need to use it sparingly. As with any new supplement (or food stuff for that matter) try it in training first. Don’t turn up to competition and have 3 caffeine tablets when you’ve only ever had one in training; you could end up a burbling mess!
Beta-alanine is an amino acid (a constituent of protein) and is found in food in small concentrations. Beta-alanine is used to improve performance by buffering lactic acid. Lactic acid causes the burn that you get in the muscles during intense exercise, e.g. when you’ve been trying to choke someone, they are not tapping and your forearms are burning, just about ready to explode. Having the ability to buffer lactic acid enables you to prolong working at high intensities, so your opponent may tap before your arms burn-out.
The effects of beta-alanine are best acquired with regular prolonged usage, the opposite to caffeine. You may get a slight itchy/scratchy feeling on your skin when using beta-alanine the first few times. This is normal and to be expected and lessens overtime.
Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAA)
BCAAs make a great energy source for working muscles, for longer sessions or when you are trying to lose weight. They can help spare your glycogen stores and protect your muscle mass from being used as a fuel, which assists in improving recovery times. In endurance athletes BCAAs have also been shown to help reduce the onset of fatigue.
With BCAAs you get some of the energy boosting properties found in sugary drinks without the risk of increased insulin production and possible fatigue.
B Vitamins, particularly B1 (Thiamine), B3 (Niacin), B6 (Pyridoxine), B7 (Biotin), B12 (Methylcobalamin)
B Vitamins help reduce tiredness and fatigue by optimising the normal energy yielding metabolism from the break down of carbohydrates and protein for fuel.
Nitric Oxide (NO) Boosters
Nitric Oxide works by causing blood vessels to dilate, which means that blood can be transported more easily around the body, enabling more oxygen to be transported to the muscle cells so they they can work more efficiently in off -setting fatigue. The amino acid arginine causes an increase of nitric oxide.
Beetroot juice (Beet It) is a commonly available NO booster used to boost endurance performance and would be a suitable product to take before BJJ training and competition.
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