Intermittent fasting is a method of dieting that has gotten a bit of attention in the BJJ community lately with excellent endorsements by both Edwin Najmi and Tom DeBlass.
What is this diet all about? And more importantly, can intermittent fasting be of help to the BJJ community? Read the rest of this article and find all the info you need!
What Is Intermittent Fasting for BJJ?
It is a process of cycling periods in which you eat with periods in which you don’t eat. These short fasting windows cause your body to produce a multitude of hormonal responses – responses that you can use to improve and boost your fighting performance.
The practice of Intermittent fasting (IF) for BJJ comes both with benefits and drawbacks. Benefits are such as weight control and lower inflammation. There are also some drawback factors and two of them are not eating enough calories and nutritional deficiencies. Seeing how IF can benefit you and your body, and considering the risks is the key.
Recent scientific work has explained exactly how intermittent fasting for BJJ helps – it promotes white adipose browning and reduces obesity by shaping the gut microbiota.
The study was conducted by a group of Metabolic Laboratory staff in Bethesda, USA, in collaboration with several scientists from the Chinese Metabolic Laboratory at the College of Life Sciences in Changsha, China.
In layman’s terms, this new study did experimentation on mice and found that (intermittent) fasting every other day promotes the development of beige fat in mice.
Beige fat is a mix of white fat (storing the energy) and brown fat (burning up the energy for heat), which is considered much healthier than just white fat.
As a huge proponent of IF, Tom DeBlass wrote the quote from a 2017 scientific study:
“The abstract for the research details that Intermittent fasting is an effective and natural strategy for weight control but its efficacy still isn’t quite understood. In the study, Li, Guolin, and collaborators successfully stimulated beige fat development within white adipose tissue and dramatically ameliorated obesity, insulin resistance, and hepatic steatosis. These findings provide a new gut-microbiota-driven mechanism for activating adipose tissue browning and treating metabolic diseases.”
In the following video, you can see all of the incredible benefits for BJJ from the intermittent fasting that Tom DeBlass listed here, as a longtime grappler:
Different intermittent fasting for BJJ routines revolve around the same basic concept: a large fasting window with a small dining window. There are several different ways to split the day, and some choose to even fast for 20 hours, with the diet period being only 4 hours or even twice a week, 24 hours fast. The highest extreme is the proposed intermittent fasting of 36 hours every 8 to 10 days.
Types Of Intermittent Fasting For BJJ
The main difference between the various types of intermittent fasting for BJJ is the time you choose to do it and their refeeding windows. The most popular window model is 16-8: you eat within 8 hours and then abstain from food for 16 hours.
Leangains (16/8) Method
Intermittent fasting for BJJ is all about not eating at all at certain points during the day. What exactly these points ought to be is a topic of discussion among the experts on the field of intermittent fasting. One acclaimed and most popular method is to not eat anything for 16 hours. This is a timeframe in which you need to keep your body free of any foods, only drinking water.
One way to do it would be intermittent fasting for 16 hours between 7 p.m. and 11 a.m. After 11 a.m. you would try and eat all of your food for that day in an 8-hour window and discontinue eating at the 7 p.m. mark. This method would be ideal for someone who trains in the morning as you will be able to eat after BJJ training.
During intermittent fasting, it is allowed to consume black coffee, diet juices, and sugar-free chewing gum. Foods should contain foods high in protein and be based on unprocessed foods.
Warrior Diet (20/4)
Another option (20-4) would be fasting from 10 pm to 6 pm the following day. Once the clock hits 6 p.m. you will have a 4-hour window in which you can eat all of your meals. As you can see, this is a huge, 20-hour long fast. 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 4 hours a 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.
For those of you who have busy schedules and night workouts before 6 pm, this might be ideal.
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 in moderation and variety, without any special restrictions when it comes to food choices. The diet is very flexible with regard to the choice of the day on which it is set, and during those days one should drink calorie-free drinks. Regular exercise is an important part of the program.
Alternate–day fasting (36/12)
The alternate-day fasting method is based on a significant calorie restriction every other day. ‘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, i.e. 300 to 500 kcal. This diet speeds up the metabolism and leads to significant weight loss.
The simple principle of the 5-2 method requires that you eat normally 5 days a week, while 2 days a week the calorie intake is reduced to a quarter of standard consumption. Specifically, for women, it is about 500 kcal intake, and for men 600 kcal per day. It is important that fasting days are not consecutive.
Some Things To Keep In Mind In General
Some things you should keep in mind if you start with intermediate fasting for your BJJ:
- Drinking enough water.
- Choosing the program that is right for you
- Eating varied and balanced meals in the “feeding” period, without overeating
- Listening to your body and stop intermittent fasting if your immune system is compromised or if you experience low energy levels and/or extreme mood swings.
- Exercising regularly
- Taking a branched-chain amino acid (BCAA), so that losing weight would not result in loss of muscle mass.
Benefits Of Intermittent Fasting For BJJ
The big advantage of IF is that it reduces inflammation. This is crucial for grapplers because training is physically very demanding on the body. Inflammation control will improve recovery. Intermittent fasting for BJJ will help your body become more resistant to the bad organisms that accumulate on a daily basis, and when you break down tissue from training. It also allows your body to be more efficient in killing these organisms. Your body will literally repair itself if you give it a chance.
Inflammation is usually lower for people in BJJ who practice intermittent fasting. The reasons for this are simple. The more often you eat – the more often your body will have to deal with waste products from food processing in your digestive system. And the natural by-product of these processes is inflammation. Well, if you eat only a few hours during the day – you will give your body’s digestive system a chance to recover. In fact, your whole body will recuperate.
And, it is very important to reduce the level of inflammation – especially for us grapplers. BJJ puts a heavy strain on your body and, once again, the natural byproduct of this strain is inflammation.
During intermittent fasting for BJJ, you will naturally eat less food. This is especially true if you only give yourself a 4-hour window to eat all the food for the day. This strategy works wonders if you need to lose weight before a competition. This sounds easier than done because you will feel hungry, but once your body adjusts you will become more efficient in burning extra energy in the form of fat.
Although an excellent strategy, it should be used periodically. You should only do this when you need to lose weight before a competition. If you naturally have low body fat, IF is not recommended.
Insulin Resistance Reduction
Intermediate Fasting reduces blood glucose levels by 3-6% and secreted insulin concentrations by 20-31% in healthy individuals. Insufficient insulin production is a response to constant blood sugar intake, excessive food intake (especially foods with many simple and refined carbohydrates), and cells become insensitive to insulin.
Insulin resistance causes many diseases, including cancer. Intermediate fasting for BJJ 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 very beneficial for your natural levels of human growth hormone (HGH). Your body has the power to naturally produce high levels of HGH, however, the fact that some of the hormonal receptors are inflamed can jeopardize this process. If you use intermittent fasting for your BJJ – as we have already mentioned – you will reduce inflammation. This will regulate your endocrine system, and as a direct result, your natural HGH production will skyrocket.
For reference, HGH has been shown to help increase your muscle mass, reduce fat levels, increase energy stores, dramatically slow down the aging process and generally works wonders for your body. Now, with the help of intermittent fasting for BJJ, you too can naturally increase your internal HGH production.
Intermediate Fasting lowers LDL cholesterol levels, total blood triglycerides, inflammatory factors, blood sugar, and insulin resistance, all of which are risk factors for the onset of cardiovascular disease.
See also: –> CBD Oil For BJJ – Everything You Need To Know
Drawbacks Of Intermittent Fasting For BJJ
Not Eating Enough Calories
There are a few drawbacks with IF for grappling athletes. Undereating is a big one. As a grappler, you are already expending huge amounts of energy. If you don’t eat enough, weight fluctuations will be created that will interfere with your performance on the mats.
One of the reasons for this is that you need energy in the form of food to continue training at a high intensity every day. Weight fluctuations can also take you to a plateau, and sometimes it takes a while before you get out of it. BJJ athletes and other sportsmen that intermittently fast for too long experience rapid weight loss. Excessive weight loss in a short timeframe will negatively affect your strength and endurance.
Fasting or not, you still need to eat enough quality calories to maintain your muscle mass and your performance. Eating enough protein, carbohydrates and fats plays a major role in your body composition, performance, and overall health. This can be especially difficult with a time frame of four hours of Ori Hofmekler’s diet method.
Quantity is important, but so is quality. As a BJJ athlete, your main focus should be to eat for performance. Prioritize the 3 key macronutrients proteins, carbohydrates and fats. You can eat a lot of calories, but they may come from the wrong foods. On some occasions, you can eat too much of a certain macronutrient and not enough of another. It’s already a tricky business, and now imagine adding IF to your routine. It’s a recipe for creating a deficiency.
Even if you eat enough calories, the cells will still be hungry. How to fix it? Eating enough quality food. Covering all your bases such as proteins, carbohydrates and fats is of utmost importance. Intermittent fasting is great, but it may not allow you to do that. Imagine you only had a 4-hour window to eat all your calories for the day? Your body would not be able to digest all the food in one huge meal. As a result, your tank remains empty because you did not eat enough the day before.
Your body will burn important nutrients very quickly if you practice a highly demanding sport like BJJ. And you will always need to have a constant flow of new nutrients that replace the old ones just to keep the machine going. Once again, this becomes increasingly difficult to do if you have time constraints when you can eat. You will need to make sure that you’re eating enough foods that have enough calories and vital micronutrients.
Timing Your Eating Hours Properly
You may also have some difficulties in timing your diet properly. For example, if you 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 before or after your workout. This means that you should time your eating periods and adjust them depending on your training time.
Most experts agree that you should not eat anything significant 2 hours before your workout as this will make your performance steep. It is recommended that you eat foods rich in carbohydrates after training, to help your muscles recover. So it’s not impossible to do – but it can make things a little bit more difficult.
Intermittent Fasting has its place in the world of grappling and BJJ. However, before you decide to experiment with it – research. Food is used by the body for energy, so starving yourself and training in a state of fasting can potentially cause sudden weight loss and negatively impact performance. Using IF to cut weights within a certain time frame could work.
Also, you may get fooled by the effect intermittent fasting for BJJ has on your body in the beginning. Most likely, your energy levels will be super-great, but daily training will take a toll on you. Reaching the plateau is not fun because you will need time to recover from it. But if you are a dedicated athlete and want to improve your performance and body composition – then you can give it a try.
It may take some time for your body to adjust to dietary restrictions. During this period, you may feel a bit sluggish and undernourished. However, over time you will get used to it and you will feel energetic and powerful. But if you don’t feel well even after this initial period of acclimatization, then it may not be the smartest thing for you to follow this diet. In such a case, we recommend that you find another diet that will suit your particular body type.
Also, check out what Nick “Chewy” Albin said about intermediate fasting in his video!