Why Exercise ALONE is Not Good For You

By Joe Mullings

UFC Lightweight Edson Barboza is nearly 6 weeks out from UFC 142 in Rio de Janeiro. His camp is going perfect. We just finished the “Overload” period of his training camp. Already an insane athlete in strength, conditioning and recovery, there is always room for growth. During the Overload sessions, we are working on the balance of strength and endurance in addition to his technical training. The elite level of the sport of MMA requires an insane commitment to strength & conditioning, wrestling, BJJ, striking and all of the middle ground conversions of “on the feet to the ground” and visa versa. These are 2-a-day training sessions of the most intense 2 hour segments that you could imagine.

Edsons greatest opponent he will face until January 14 will be the foe known as Overtraining Syndrome (not Overeem)

At this point, Edsons greatest opponent he will face until January 14 will be the foe known as Overtraining Syndrome (not Overeem) and the breakdown of his body due to all of the stresses put on it. The overtraining syndrome is common in combat athletes at the elite level. It leads to underperformance, fatigue and increased vulnerability to infections and sickness. Edsons camps typically run 10 to 12 weeks in length. The psychological, endocrinogical, physiological stresses and their effects on the body are profound. The intensity, timing, nutrition, recovery and balance of these training sessions are critical in the proper recovery of the athlete. Injuries, staph infections, MRSA, headaches, colds and flu like symptoms are all indicators and products of an over stressed athlete.

During all of these training sessions, the athlete is taxing 2 of his primary energy systems, ATP and Anaerobic. You can read our article Cardio and Energy to get more detail on those systems. Put shortly though, these are the 2 energy systems that are responsible for ballistic, intense and explosive movements for up to 3 minutes in a well trained and conditioned athlete. A combat athlete is either in an anabolic (muscle building) or catabolic (muscle eating) state. When a combat athlete is training in the ATP and anaerobic energy systems, they are always heading into the catabolic state. How long they stay there has a great deal to do with what they are feeding their bodies during and immediately after their respective training sessions. When a body is in a catabolic state it is also in a compromised immune state. Catabolic states also occur during starvation, infection, surgical trauma, extreme physical trauma….get it? All bad stuff as normal human beings we avoid like the plague. So why the heck do too many high level athletes continue to expose themselves to a catabolic state during their training?

A combat athlete is either in an anabolic (muscle building) or catabolic (muscle eating) state

The athlete can suspend the time they spend in a catabolic state by being sure they have a sound nutritional diet and ingest the right stuff during and immediately after their intense training sessions. Stuff like proteins, BCAA’s, Glutamine, Creatine, Simple/Complex carbohydrates are the stuff that allow your body to stop eating itself (going catabolic) for recovery and allow those supplements to be the brick and mortar of the building (anaerobic) state of recovery.

As Edson goes through his camp, he is constantly subjecting himself to a catabolic state. Each literal minute he stays catabolic, he is doing himself harm. Take each of those catabolic minutes, turn them into hours, days and weeks and in a 10 to 12 week camp, he subjects himself to training injuries, depression, lack of motivation and lower level physical and psychological performance during his sessions. Add to that the induced muscle damage and excessive muscle soreness. Every day he is not able to train at his optimal level, is a lost day to the opponent. At the elite level of MMA or BJJ for that matter….its often “the edge” that makes the difference between winning and losing.

OK, so how does an athlete put the brakes on the catabolic state and get back into the anabolic state and reap the rewards of all the training:

  • Except for the last 2 weeks of the camp, because we are focusing on weight management, the athlete needs to ingest massive amounts of calorie and nutrient dense foods. The correct amount of proteins, complex carbs, good fats and meal timing are critical. 5 feedings a day for the athlete. We cover different aspects of your diet choices on the www.JiuJitsuMania.com website.
  • Supplementation and their timing are critical. Proteins, BCAA’s Glutamine, Creatine and complex carbohydrates ingested immediately following training sessions quickly put the brakes on the catabolic state and move the athlete quickly into healing and building. Allowing them to reap the rewards of their training session
  • Proper rest and relaxation. Think of your body as a massive skyscraper. When the training session is over and you have immediately taken your post training supplementation, you need to throw a tarp over yourself and let the brick and mortar building begin. Shutting down all of the non-value added activities gives the athlete the quiet time to rebuild the skyscraper. The response and adaptation to the stresses of the training sessions force the body to adapt and build itself even stronger IF you have fed it the right fuel.

For years I have watched some of the top MMA and BJJ athletes train their butts off during a 10 to 12 week camp and not feed their bodies what they need. Pure heart, great training partners and the fear of loss push them through training sessions. But this is no way to have a world-class athlete perform at his best. They get to the day of weighins and have a hard time cutting weight and they get to fight day and don’t perform at their optimal levels. Literally, their bodies are burned out and have no idea how good they are supposed to feel. Pay attention to your diet, plan your supplement intake, get your rest and learn the basics of what makes your machine perform in over drive….don’t get left behind in the dark ages.

Joe Mullings is one of the cofounders of JiuJitsuMania and also owner of The Armory. He has been the Strength & Conditioning Coach for many UFC Athletes, World Champion BJJ Athhletes. He holds a Brown Belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.


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