Performance Nutrition & Supplementation for Grapplers Part 2

Endurance Enhancement – Carb Loading/Replenishment

In our first installment we explored the strategic use of dietary supplements to enhance an athlete’s ability to excel in their training goals.  We also reviewed exercise physiology as related to the “bioenergetics” of energy production as related to grappling arts.  In this installment we will take a look at “chronic” and “acute” aspects of optimal carbohydrate intake which will enhances glycogen levels and accelerate recovery after training.

From a “chronic” perspective, we must focus our attention on overall carbohydrate intake in order to ensure we have the maximal amount of glycogen stored in our muscles in order to delay fatigue as long as possible.

Here are some basic goals of proper carbohydrate timing and intake:

  1. Maximize glycogen levels prior to training to delay fatigue.
  2. Rapid replenishment of glucose during training to keep training intensity high.
  3. Rapid replenishment of glycogen levels after training to minimize cortisol levels and “super compensate” for optimal recovery.

Again… if you spend any amount of time researching on the internet or picking up any number of bodybuilding or MMA magazines, there are many supplements on the market promising to assist in accomplishing these goals.  What I try to do in order to sift through all the hype is to:

  1. Review studies from accredited institutions, researchers and respected top level trainers in the industry.  One such resource is the NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning Association) which offers unparalleled cutting edge research dealing specifically with sports nutrition.
  2. Personally try all the supplements that show promise for specific goals that I have set for performance enhancement as well as consult with other individual who have tried these same compounds.  I carefully track the amounts taken; time ingested and note specific areas of improvement.
  3. Apply higher levels of credibility to supplements that have been on the market several years in order to show a track record of success.

That being said, from our previous installment we know that in order to maximize performance, grapplers should be focusing on anaerobic supplementation.  Muscle glycogen is the most important source of energy during bouts of high-intensity exercise.  Accordingly, our “chronic” daily carbohydrate consumption would be in the “5 to 7g of carbohydrate per kilogram body weight a day.”(1)   So that would mean an athlete weighing 180 pounds (81.81 kilo) would opt to eat approximately 400 – 575 grams of carbs a day.  Dividing your intake into 5 meals would equate to approximately 75 – 100 grams per meal.  Optimally on training days you might plan on ingesting 100 grams an hour or two prior to training, 100 grams during training and 100 after training.  Sounds like a lot but (amazingly during periods of intense physical training the requirements can go as high as 10g/kg body weight!) again we are looking for maximal performance enhancement related to delaying fatigue, and minimizing cortisol (a stress hormone released during intense training which catabolizes muscle) release.

Looking more closely at specific types of carbohydrates to ingest, slower releasing (lower glycemic) carbohydrates prior to training are a good choice.  Isomaltulose is a great pre-training choice which releases slowly into the bloodstream avoiding high peaks and sudden drops in blood sugar levels.  This leads to a more prolonged and balanced supply of energy.   Karbolyn (Game Time Power Carb from Labrada Nutrition) is a great choice to take during and after training as it is a “designer carbohydrate” which absorbs much more quickly than traditional carbohydrates.  This allows the body to load glycogen more quickly, taking advantage of both the “rapid synthesis” period (30 – 60 minutes post training) and the slower phase which typically lasts for the next several hours.  The highest muscle glycogen synthesis rates occur when approximately 1 – 1.85g/kg are consumed immediately post-exercise.   I personally mix up a 3 liter bottle of water with 75 – 100 grams of Power Carb and 20 grams of BCAA’s and Glutamine for drinking during the training session.  After training I will normally mix another 75 – 100 grams with approximately 10 grams of whey protein isolate and about 10gms of BCAA’s and glutamine.  One of my big secrets is adding D-Ribose (a “penta-sugar”) to my pre and post drinks as muscle ATP stores can drop by over 70% during intense training and can take up to 72 hours to be restored.  However, D-Ribose has been shown to cut the recovery time down to just 12 hours! During this time you will experience diminished protein synthesis (possibly leading to muscle loss!) and lowered strength and endurance levels.  D-Ribose has the ability to dramatically enhance the rate at which ATP is replenished in the muscles. (2)(3)  So if you have been dragging for several days after your hardest training sessions, you might want to try this nutrient out!

Here is how a “chronic” and “acute” carbohydrate regimen looks like for a 180 pound athlete:

“Normal” Daily Carbohydrate Intake:  400 – 575 grams
“Intense” Daily Carbohydrate Intake:  575 – 800 grams


Pre-training (1 hour before)
5gms D-Ribose
“Normal” – 75gms – 100gms Complex Carbs (Oatmeal is a great source)
“Intense” – 150gms

“Normal” – 75gms – 100gms Simple carbohydrates (Power Carb, Gatorade, etc…)
“Intense” – 150gms

“Normal” – 75gms – 100gms Simple Carbohydrates
“Intense” – An additional 100gms approximately 1 hour after the first drink
5gms D-Ribose

In the next installment we will continue to look at nutrient optimization techniques to both assist your performance on the mat, and recovery from training sessions.

(1)  Fogt, Donovan L. 2011 NSCA’s Guide to Sport and Exercise Nutrition. Champaign, IL; Human Kinetics

(2)  Zimmer, H.G., et al. “Ribose intervention in the cardiac pentose phosphate pathway is not species-specific.” Science 223 (1984): 712-714

(3)  Zimmer, H.G., and H. Ibel. ” Ribose accelerates the repletion of the ATP pool during recovery from reversible ischemia of the rat myocardium.” J. Mol. Cell. Cardiol. 16 (1984): 863-866.


Click here to read part I


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