Whether you are a seasoned member of T45 Jiu-Jitsu or an absolute beginner, your diet plays a critical role in your performance and adaptability to training.
It’s not just macros like protein, fat, and carbs that impact your body’s ability to train. Micronutrients including iron, B vitamins and vitamin C can have a real impact on your energy levels and are critical to maintaining healthy body function.
Getting the balance right with macros:
Protein intake is an essential nutritional need for Jiu-Jitsu training and development. It’s important to regularly consume adequate protein to build muscle mass, promote muscle gain and repair.
Protein can be found in a variety of foods in varying amounts. It’s important to include a range of protein sources in your diet in order to obtain a sufficient amount of different amino acids, vitamins, and minerals.
Carbohydrates get a really bad rap but the truth is our bodies need carbohydrates as a source of easy-to-access energy. The key is to consume slow-release carbs that are not processed. This means Jiu-Jitsu practitioners should be consuming oatmeal, brown rice, beans and vegetables such as carrots, corn, sweet potatoes and beetroot.
Ideally, more carbohydrates should be consumed approximately 2 hours before training so that you will have enough energy to maximise your workout.
Opinions are strong on this one, in the world of competitive sports there seem to be two schools of thinking on fat, either low-fat/ high carb or low-carb/high fat (think keto). Just like protein and carbohydrates, your body needs some fat for energy, to absorb vitamins, for healthy cell formation and to protect your heart and brain health. The average person needs around 30% of their food to come from fat.
Not all fats are created equal, so before you reach for that doughnut or takeaway, think about how usable that fat will be to your body. Is it a processed trans fat that your body can’t break down (like the one found in pastries and fried foods) or useful monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats like the ones found in fish, eggs, olive oil and walnuts?
The Value of Essential Micronutrients:
While it’s important to make sure you get quality protein and carbs at the right times it’s also just as important to eat a diet rich in micronutrients. These essential vitamins and minerals can influence your energy and endurance
Iron plays a role in transferring oxygen from the lungs to tissue and is critical for respiration and energy metabolism. Because iron influences endurance and performance, it is an important micronutrient for training and development. Iron is important for exercise, but we also lose iron through exercise.
It is advised that you eat iron-rich foods away from eggs and dairy as these foods can inhibit iron absorption. If you are supplementing with iron, it is best to take iron in the morning on an empty stomach.
Electrolytes, such as magnesium, calcium, sodium, potassium are vital for maintaining hydration, generating energy and contracting muscles, and are lost through sweat. After an intense training session, grading or competition, it’s important not just to replace the water lost but to restore these electrolytes.
This can be done by eating mixed nuts, particularly almonds, most fruit and vegetables. If you don’t have access to these foods you may choose to add a sports drink or add an electrolyte mix to water.
B vitamins help your body convert food into fuel. These are water-soluble and so cannot be stored in the body. There are 8 B vitamins, thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), biotin (B7), folate (B9) and cobalamin (B12).
Leafy green vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, eggs, liver, oily fish, spirulina, wheatgrass and barley grass are all excellent sources of B vitamins and many other vitamins and minerals. As B12 is mostly found in animal products, vegans and vegetarians may need to supplement or consume B12 fortified foods such as Nutritional Yeast and fortified non-dairy milk.
Vitamin C plays a major role in tissue growth and repair, wound healing and bone maintenance and repair. Consuming adequate vitamin C may help you stay healthy and ready for training.
Getting the Balance Right
Eating better quality foods will eventually become a habit. Maintaining a balanced diet that is high in vitamins and minerals is good for our body and our training, everyone enjoys a treat now and again. You should not restrict yourself entirely to certain foods, but approach your diet more cautiously, especially if you’re serious about your fitness exercises. Think of the 80/20 rule – if you eat well 80% of the time, there is absolutely no reason to not to enjoy a treat the other 20% of the time.