Performance Nutrition & Supplementation for BJJ – Part I

By: Damon Armani, Labrada Nutrition Research & Development Team

To begin this series, we have to cover some fundamental material. You may be fairly new to taking supplements. Many in the world of BJJ are. Maybe you’ve tried protein powders, nutrition bars, creatine, etc… And I’m guessing that you have taken some kind of multi-vitamins for most of your life. In addition, if you are (or were) overweight you’ve probably tried several of the popular fat burners on the market. If underweight I’m sure you have tried a few of the different weight gainers available. It seems like the majority of people who take supplements will do so in order to:

1. Lose weight
2. Gain weight
3. Improve their health

Additionally, you may have tried individual items like Vitamin C, E, D, etc….. to boost your body’s immune system. Every day there is a new “miracle ingredient” reported in the news designed to improve your ability to think, lose weight, recover from illness, or assist in preventing many of the diseases our bodies are prone to acquire over the years.

But here you are, in the world of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Mixed Martial Arts where it’s all about performance. It seems like every famous MMA competitor has a supplement company endorsement. All the popular magazines feature ads with supplements promising to increase strength, power, speed, recovery or endurance. In addition, “steroid replacements” are advertised as alternatives to the illegal drugs that competitors are constantly reported to be on. Many products claim to actually produce steroid-like benefits. Many of these products are actually herbs with fancy names or common dietary ingredients that are using their “chemical names” to give the appearance of being a powerful drug. It’s all about marketing.

On the other side of the issue we find “old school” or conservative minded trainers/coaches/athletes that will tell you all you need is a good diet and proper training in order to develop your technique. They will say that there is no supplement that will make up for poor training technique or a bad diet. Their position is that hard training and proper eating is all you will need in order to improve your strength, speed, and endurance.

While hard work, proper training and a great diet are all part of a sound program in order to improve technique and performance, there is certainly a place for the strategic use of supplements. The goal of proper training in order to improve your technique is to increase your skill level. But before you can throw that first punch, land that first kick, or choke out your opponent, your body must first acquire the energy to move. Movement requires energy. So the goal of performance nutrition is simply to optimize your body’s ability to replenish its energy during training sessions and competition.

So now you’re ready to find out which supplements to take, right? Before choosing which ones to use, we will need to take a quick look at how our muscles are fueled. A basic review of exercise physiology indicates that wrestlers and sprinters (close relatives to grapplers) will utilize a 90% Anaerobic/10% Aerobic contribution of “energy production.” So our focus should be on a supplement regimen that will maximize the body’s ability to produce energy mostly in anaerobic conditions.

Sport

ATP-CP and LA

LA-O2

O2

Basketball

60

20

20

Fencing

90

10

Field events

90

10

Golf swing

95

5

Gymnastics

80

15

5

Hockey

50

20

30

Distance running

10

20

70

Rowing

20

30

50

Skiing

33

33

33

Soccer

50

20

30

Sprints

90

10

Swimming 1.5km

10

20

70

Tennis

70

20

10

Volleyball

80

5

15

1.FOX, E.L. et al. (1993) The Physiological Basis for Exercise and Sport. 5th ed. Madison: Brown & Benchmark

A quick look at bioenergetics shows us that muscle cells store limited amounts of ATP (which is the “immediate” source of energy for muscular contractions). Muscular exertion requires constant replenishment of ATP. Failure to meet the energy requirements in your body results in fatigue. This is why you “gas out” during your training….or your muscles fail during lifting exercises. Here is a simplified “timeline” overview of how your muscles are fueled:

 

Duration

Classification

Energy Supplied By

1 to 4 seconds Anaerobic ATP (in muscles)
4 to 10 seconds Anaerobic ATP + CP
10 to 45 seconds Anaerobic ATP + CP + Muscle glycogen
45 to 120 seconds Anaerobic, Lactic Muscle glycogen
120 to 240 seconds Aerobic + Anaerobic Muscle glycogen + lactic acid
240 to 600 seconds Aerobic Muscle glycogen + fatty acids

2. MATTHEWS, D. et al. (1971) The Physiological Basis of Physical Education and Athletics. Philadelphia: Saunders

In part 2 we will start to look at ways we can enhance endurance through the proper use of performance nutrition and supplementation. We’ll touch on carbohydrate loading and replenishment, ATP enhancement, ribose and creatine. Stay tuned as we dig into the meat of the performance supplementation issue!

Damon Armani is a consultant to the sports nutrition industry and is a member of the Labrada Research & Development team. Having been an avid weight trainer for over 30 years, he has competed in power lifting and is a 3 time Collegiate Martial Arts Champion. He continues to research novel compounds and assist in designing cutting edge formulas for his clients.

Click here to read part II

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