The diet is one of the most important elements of having a healthy life. The things you eat can have a dramatic effect on how you feel and even how you behave. And most importantly, the way you eat can skyrocket your BJJ performance or plummet it altogether. That being said, there are many ways in which you can eat for BJJ. There are many diets that show promise and that can give you results. One of the most often spoken about diets in this sense is the so-called intermittent fasting diet.
What is this diet about? And more importantly, can it be of help for the BJJ practitioners? Read the rest of this article and find out.
Intermittent Fasting for BJJ
Leangains (16/8) Method
Intermittent fasting is all about not eating at all at certain points during the day. What these points ought to be is a topic of discussion among the intermittent fasting experts. One acclaimed method is to not eat anything for 16 hours. This is a period in which you need to keep your body free of any foods. The easiest way to do this method is to sleep overnight and morning by skipping breakfast, as soon as the clock hits 11 AM, you will have 8 hours of time in which you can eat what you want. After the clock hits 7 PM, you will again have to cease eating until 11 AM the next day.
During the fast, it is allowed to consume black coffee, dietary juices and chewing gums without sugar. The food should contain a high protein food and be based on non-processed foods.
Warrior Diet (20/4)
Another method for intermittent fasting involves you fasting from 10 PM up until 6 PM (example) on the next day. As you can see, this is a huge, 20-hour long fast. You will then have 4 hours in which you can eat all of your meals. This method has surprisingly become popular with the help of Ori Hofmekler’s Warrior Diet. It’s surprising because it’s not very practical for people to eat only during four hours of the day.
During these 4 hours, the order of food consumption is important, so it is important to start with vegetables, proteins, and fats. If you’re still hungry, then you can eat carbs.
Eat Stop Eat (24-hour fast, 1-2 times a week)
The idea behind this method is to go 24 hours once or twice a week, and the rest of the week eat moderately and varied, without any special restrictions as far as food choices are concerned. Diet is very flexible regarding the selection of the day it is set, and during those days it is to drink zero calorie drinks. Regular exercise is an important part of the program.
Alternate–day fasting (36/12)
Alternate-day fasting method is based on a significant calorie restriction on every other day. The ‘normal’ days should be varied and 2000 kcal should be taken for women and 2500 kcal for men, followed by a day with a fifth of normal calorie intake, ie 300 to 500 kcal. This way of eating accelerates metabolism and leads to significant weight loss.
The simple principle of the 5-2 Method requires that 5 days a week eat normally, while 2 days a week the calorie intake is reduced to a quarter of the standard consumption. Specifically, for women, it is about 500 kcal intake, and for men 600 kcal per day. It is important that the fast dates are not consecutive.
And this is the basis of the intermittent fasting. We have to commend it for its simplicity – you can easily understand how to start practicing it. Below you will get to read more about the benefits and drawbacks of the intermittent fasting diet.
Things to keep in mind, if you start with intermediate fasting:
- Drinking enough water.
- Choosing a program that is suitable for you
- Eat diverse and balanced meals in the “feeding” period without overeating
- Listen to your body and stop with fasting if your immune system is compromised or you experience low energy level and/or extreme mood swings.
- Exercise Regularly
- Take branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) that weight loss would not result in muscle mass loss.
Benefits of the intermittent fasting for Jiu-jitsu
There are many benefits that people that practice this diet report. One of them, naturally, is weight loss. If you’re not allowed to eat for 16 or even 20 hours a day – it’s natural that you will lose weight. It’s just the nature of it – you will simply be far less likely to be able to eat enough calories to keep your body in an overweight state.
Inflammation also tends to be lower for people that practice intermittent fasting. The reasoning behind this is simple. The more often you eat – the more often the body will have to deal with waste products from the processing of the foods in your digestive system. And a natural byproduct of these processes is inflammation. Well, if you eat only for a few hours during the day – you will give the body’s digestive system a chance to recuperate. Your entire body will recuperate, in fact. And it’s very important to decrease the inflammation levels – especially for grapplers. BJJ puts a tremendous strain on your body and, once again, a natural byproduct of this strain is inflammation.
Insulin Resistance Reduction
Intermediate Fasting reduces blood glucose levels by 3-6% and the insulin secreted concentration by 20-31% in healthy individuals. Insufficient insulin production is a response to constant blood sugar intake, excessive intake of food (especially foods with many simple and refined carbohydrates), and cells become insensitive to insulin.
Insulin resistance is causing many diseases, including cancer. Intermediate fasting reduces insulin resistance and increases insulin sensitivity, thus preventing Type 2 diabetes and various other diseases.
Human Growth Hormone boost
Also, consistent scientific research shows that intermittent fasting can be highly beneficial for your natural Human Growth Hormone (HGH) levels. Your body has the power to naturally create high HGH levels, however, the fact that some of the hormonal receptors are inflamed can jeopardize this process. If you use intermittent fasting – as we’ve mentioned before – you will decrease inflammation. This will regulate your endocrine system and as a direct result of this, your natural HGH production will skyrocket.
For the sake of reference, HGH has been shown to help increase your muscle mass, decrease your levels of fat, increase your energy stores, dramatically slow down the aging process, and it generally does wonders for your body. Now, with the help of intermittent fasting, you too can naturally increase your internal HGH production.
Intermediate Fasting reduces LDL cholesterol levels, total triglycerides in the blood, inflammatory factors, blood sugar, and insulin resistance, all of which are risk factors for the onset of cardiovascular disease.
Drawbacks of the intermittent fasting diet
That being said, the intermittent fasting diet is not without its drawbacks. One of the biggest potential drawbacks that you may face by practicing this diet is that you may happen to not ingest enough calories. Athletes need more calories than their couch-potato counterparts – the body simply needs more energy to move. And take a physically demanding sport like BJJ, add a lack of calories, and you have a disaster waiting to happen. Your whole body will eventually crash and you may get sick and tired all the time. So, it’s in your best interest to really be mindful about eating enough calories. This can be especially tough with the four-hour eating time-window of Ori Hofmekler’s method.
Another potential drawback of using the intermittent fasting diet is that you may get nutritionally deficient, too. Your body will burn through important nutrients at a very fast rate if you practice a highly-demanding sport like BJJ. And you will need to always have a steady stream of new nutrients replacing the old ones just to keep the machinery going. Once again, this becomes increasingly difficult to do if you have restraints on the times you can eat. You will need to make sure that you’re ingesting enough foods that have enough calories and vitally important micronutrients as well.
You may also have some difficulties in timing your diet properly. For example, if you’re only supposed to eat from 6 PM to 10 PM and if you have a 2-hour long BJJ session in the morning – then you may get exhausted, not having any food to eat prior or after the training session. This means that you should time your eating periods and tailor them depending on your training time. Most experts agree that you shouldn’t eat anything substantial for 2 hours prior to your training as this will make your performance plummet. It’s recommended that you eat some foods rich with carbohydrates after your training session to aid muscle recovery. So, it’s not impossible to do – but it can make things a bit more difficult.
The intermittent fasting is definitely not for everyone. But if you’re a dedicated sportsperson and you wish to improve your performance and body composition – then you can try it out. It may take some time before your body gets acclimatized to the eating restraints. During this period, you may feel a bit sloppy and underfed. However, with time, you will get used to it and you will feel energized and powerful. But if you don’t feel right even after this initial acclimatization period then it may not be the smartest thing to do for you to follow this diet. In such a case, we recommend that you find another diet that will work for your particular body type. Also, check what Joe Rogan said about intermediate fasting in his podcast!