In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, diet is a very key aspect to your performance on the mats. The amount food and water you ingest directly affects your energy levels. Especially if you are getting ready for a competition, diet becomes extremely important – especially if you are trying to lose weight. If you have researched types of diets and methods for losing weight, it’s likely that you may have come across intermittent fasting. This method of dieting has gotten some attention in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioners. This guide highlights Intermittent Fasting for BJJ, it’s types and benefits for this popular sport.
What is Intermittent Fasting
First, let’s define what intermittent fasting is, and why it is such a popular trend in the fitness community.
Intermittent Fasting (IF) is an eating pattern that puts you in a cycle of a “fasted state” and a “fed state.” To be clear, IF is not actually a diet – it is simply just a pattern or schedule in which you eat your meals and when you don’t eat your meals.
When you are in your fasting window, you typically are not allowed to eat or drink anything aside from water, plain coffee, or tea. By doing so, you put your body in a stressed state, allowing you to access your fat storage. The body adjusts your hormone levels and puts your body in “fat-burning mode.”
Two main hormones are directly affected from IF – HGH and Insulin.
HGH is the hormone that promotes muscle growth. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that regulates the amount of glucose you have in your blood. Having high insulin levels causes your body to store more body fats.
When you are fasted, your human growth hormone (HGH) levels go up while your insulin levels go down. In other words, your body becomes a fat burning machine!
Types of Intermittent Fasting
There are a few types of intermittent fasting methods out there. Depending on your schedule or personal preference, you can choose which method best works for you.
Leangains Method - 16/8
Popularized by Martin Berkhan, the Leangains method is where the 16/8 Intermittent Fasting schedule was born. This is probably one of the more popular IF methods out there.
With this schedule, you put your body through the fasted state 16 hours of the day and eating on the other 8. For example, you can eat your first meal at 10 AM and your last meal at 6 PM. Afterwards, you do not eat anything until 10 AM the next day again.
Warrior Diet - 20/4
This method is simply the “hard-mode” variation of Leangains. With Ori Hofmelker’s Warrior Diet, instead of eating for 8 hours, you shorten your eating window to 4 hours instead. This means you have to fast for 20 whole hours, while eating all your calories in 4 hours!
This method is probably one of the more difficult IF methods out there. Not a lot of people are able to ingest all their required caloric intake in such a short period of time. Another issue you may run into is that you may not have the energy to roll since you have been fasted for such an extended period of time.
The Eat-Stop-Eat is the IF method in which you are putting your body in a fasted state for an entire 24 hour period. For example, if you ate your last meal at 6PM on Monday, you don’t eat anything until 6 PM that following Tuesday. This is extremely hard especially if you are doing intermittent fasting for BJJ.
If the Warrior Diet is the “hard-mode,” this has to be the “nightmare-mode” of IF. Keep in mind that you put your body in a great deal of stress by doing this method. You should only be doing this about once or twice a week at the most if you choose to do so.
It is not recommended that you train during the 24 hour fast since you cannot replenish your body with nutrients that day. Only do this on a recovery day!
The 5:2 Diet
The 5:2 Intermittent Fasting method is type of fasting that limits your caloric intake for 2 days and eating regularly during the other 5 days of the week.
During the two days of caloric deprivation, you can only eat about 500-600 calories. It is probably best to eat mostly fruits and vegetables during this state! The other 5 days your regular diet.
The great thing about this method is that it doesn’t restrict your eating window so you can pace your food intake as you please. This works really well if you like working out 5 days a week and resting during the weekend.
5 Benefits of Intermittent Fasting for BJJ
Now let's start talking benefits. What's so great about Intermittent fasting? What are some of its benefits and why should you try it for your own? Should you try intermittent fasting for BJJ and will it benefit you in your training?
1. It's a Great Tool for Weight Loss
Probably the number 1 reason people try intermittent fasting is the weight loss aspect that come with it. As mentioned before, fasting and eating less meals throughout the day increases HGH and lowers your insulin levels. On top of that, it also releases the fat burning hormone noradrenaline.
The changes in these hormone levels that you get out of short-term fasting actually increases your metabolic rate by 3 to 14%!
By using IF methods, you are able to burn much more that you would if you ate at longer eating periods. The main reason here is that the body takes a while to fully digest food. If you continuously feed your body for 12-16 hours throughout the day, your body is constantly working to burn the food that you ate. Alternatively, by using IF, you give your body plenty of time to digest the food AND burn excess fat cells!
If you are trying intermittent fasting for BJJ, this could be a very useful tool to have in your arsenal. If you are trying to cut some weight to get ready for a match, this could definitely speed up the process to get to your weight goals!
2. It has Great Health Benefits
Intermittent fasting has been shown to reduce your insulin resistance. It has been shown that it can lower your blood sugar levels and insulin levels by up to 20-31%. This can significantly reduce your chances of preventing Type II Diabetes among other diseases.
Along with blood sugar and insulin resistivity, IF also reduces your LDL cholesterol level and triglycerides. All of these are factors in cardiovascular disease. Practicing periodic fasting is actually great for a healthier heart!
Scientific studies show that intermittent fasting has anti-aging benefits to it. Animal studies showed that rats that were put in the IF regimen lived 36-83% longer. The studies even suggest that IF may even prevent cancer!
3. It's Great for Brain Functionality and Focus
Intermittent fasting helps with the growth and development of brain cells. This improves your memory and mental focus. Intermittent fasting for BJJ can prove to be useful in this sense. You need a great deal of memory and focus during your matches!
IF also increases the growth of the brain hormone BDNF – the “Miracle Grow” for your brain. This is the hormone that allows your brain to be more resilient to stress and help stimulate new brain cells.
Studies are showing that IF can actually help reduce your odds for strokes and even help protect against Alzheimer’s. It has been shown to boost your BDNF levels by 50-400%!
4. It Reduces Inflammation
Another major key benefit for doing Intermittent fasting for BJJ is that it reduces inflammation. As you know, BJJ puts a tremendous amount of stress in your muscles and joints. This causes inflammation in your body!
Putting your body in an Intermittent fasting routine makes your body go into a process called autophagy. This is basically a process in which your body destroys its old/damaged cells and replaces them with new ones. Your body goes through this cleansing state.
In other words, by practicing fasting methods, you give your body a chance to heal itself!
5. It's Easier to Maintain a Healthier Lifestyle
Chances are you have tried healthy eating and meal prepping. Probably the hardest thing to do is maintenance. It can be quite a hassle trying to plan, prep, and cook your meals throughout the week if you have 6 of them per day!
When you have work or school full time, going to the gym, and training BJJ, it can be a bit of a chore to prep your meals! It can be hard to fit in our busy schedules.
For this reason, many find it much easier to prepare 2 larger meals rather than 6 small ones. And the beauty of it is that your diet becomes more flexible. Since you are putting your body in a fasted state, you can easily burn off fat much easier – so you can probably even afford to have a slice of pizza or two!
Important Things to Consider Before Trying Intermittent Fasting
Although there are many health implications for Intermittent Fasting, it is not easy and it is not for everybody. You should know both the benefits and the risks that you put your body before starting the program.
It goes without saying that you will get extremely hungry. Especially if your body is used to eating consistently throughout the day, you might find it difficult to start in the beginning.
It might be wise to start slow and work your way up. Try starting off with a 12 hour fasted period and slowly work your way to the target 16 if you plan on trying the leangains method.
Another thing to consider is to properly keep yourself hydrated during your fast. You are going to need to keep your energy levels up while you aren’t eating.
A common side effect that people might run into is nutrition deficiency. Because of the shorter eating window, people tend to forget to eat their required caloric intake.
If you normally eat 1800 calories in a 14 hour period of eating, you should still continue to eat the same amount during the new 8 hour window. This is one of the biggest mistakes people make when they try IF. This can be extremely risky for a sport like Jiu Jitsu.
BJJ is physically demanding and burns a lot of calories. You need to ingest the proper amount of calories to get your body to recover for the next session! Delay, Don’t Deny!
One common misconception people have with IF is that since you burn fat much easier now you can eat whatever you want. Yes, you do burn fat much faster but that doesn’t mean you should be eating 11 Double Quarterpounders during your feeding window!
You do get a little more flexibility in your diets and can have a little more leeway with “cheat meals,” but be smart about it. Don’t go all out in your feeding window and overindulge over your required caloric requirements.
Intermittent fasting is not your “get out of jail free” card. You should still continue to use healthy nutritious diets you normally do to meet your weight goals. It is simply a vehicle to get you there much faster.
If you have existing medical conditions, you should probably consult your doctor before trying this program. If you have diabetes, low blood pressure, eating disorders, or taking medication, make sure you consult your doctor.
If you are healthy with no nourishment issues, you should be fine with IF. But remember, Intermittent fasting is not for everyone. Do what works for your own body.
Women Trying Intermittent Fasting
One major drawback with intermittent fasting is that it doesn’t work as good for women as good as it does for men. The hormone disruptions that you get out of intermittent fasting is not as beneficial to women.
Reports show that IF can cause infertility and cause missed cycles. If you are trying to conceive, it might not be a good idea to do intermittent fasting. It is also a bad idea if you are currently pregnant or breastfeeding.
Women must be extremely careful when trying IF. There is a separate specific guide on how women can do intermittent fasting. Maybe start with a 12/12 or 11/13 scheduled window and ease your way in. If you start feeling hormonal imbalances, stop immediately!
Intermittent fasting is an excellent tool to add to your overall fitness. There’s a reason it is so popular in the fitness community. With its many health implications and benefits to your overall fitness, it’s no wonder people are starting to try intermittent fasting for BJJ!
However, it is also good to keep in mind that there are also risks to trying out this new program. You are putting your body through a drastic change, so you must be aware of the risk factors involved. You may feel weak in the beginning of the program, but as your body adapts and gets acclimated to it, you get the many benefits out of it.
But remember, Intermittent Fasting is not for everyone. If you have health concerns, make sure you consult a licensed professional before doing so. Definitely do your due diligence before starting the program to see if its right for you!
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