This year has been crazy to say the least. In the chaos of what’s happening now, we can reflect, organize and perhaps even rethink our lifestyle so that when BJJ comes back (Which has already started), we can come back and keep on going even stronger. Jiu-Jitsu nutrition is a huge part of that, especially if you haven’t been eating clean in lockdown. Speaking of nutrition, we’ve talked carnivore diet, vegan diet, etc so far. But what happens if we try and meet in the middle? What about a plant-based diet for BJJ athletes?
What do Kron Gracie, the Diaz brothers, Jake Shields, Dave Meyer, Mike Tyson, Coleen, Schneider, and Arnold Schwarzenegger have in common? Well, they’re all more or less famous. More importantly, however, they’re all plant-based. There’s no need to point out that their athletic abilities are what makes them special, so there has to be something to this non-meat thing that does work for athletes. The Game Changer documentary coming out in 2019 also made a lot of people wonder. It is a movie by James Cameron, after all, but not one without flaws in terms of content. However, it has some fair points, so let’s look at plant-based dieting for grapplers.
Vegan, Vegetarian, Cranivor, Ominovore?
First of all, you’ll notice that I use the term plant-based instead of saying outright vegan, or vegetarian. In this world of political correctness and social justice warriors, I love using ambiguous terms that tend to confuse everyone. However, this is not one of those instances. I say plant-based because it describes a type of diet that is, in my opinion, perfect for Jiu-Jitsu nutrition. Moreover, it is not as restrictive as having to brand yourself in just one of the usual categories. It is something like being the crazy fanboy of just one BJJ affiliation.
Let’s clarify a few terms first, just for the sake of argument. Vegans are people that do not like to eat anything that comes from animal origin. that includes honey and eggs and the likes. In other words, only fruit, vegetables, seeds, and things like that are on their menu. Vegetarians are the folks that usually skip only meat. All other animal products, and oftentimes fish, are ok. Then we have the omnivore, that’s your “normal way of eating” everything. Finally, on the far end of the spectrum, is the carnivore diet, which consists of nothing but meat.
Now, since we’re talking plant-based Jiu-jitsu nutrition here, let’s focus on “vegetarianism” more closely. The thing with vegetarians is they tend to split into further categories depending on whether they eat fish, and/or eggs, and/or milk products, etc. Too complicated. Fort the purpose of this article, plant-based means someone that eats a diet that predominantly includes fruit, vegetables, and animal products other than meat.
The Benefits Of a Plant-Based Diet
Why exactly would you even think about going on a plant-based diet, to begin with? As a grappler, you’re probably interested in health and performance. Well, you get both of those, and then some with a plant-based diet. And I haven’t even mentioned how tasty the meals are…
In terms of Jiu-Jitsu nutrition, you can expect the best performance of your life. I’ve tried almost every type of nutrition in the past ten years, from keto and pale to intermittent fasting and eating within a preset value of macros. I’ve never had more energy than when on a plant-based diet. Cardiovascular energy, mental clarity, and also recovery all get a boost from skipping on ingestion a lot of meat. Some claim it has to do with acidity, for others it may a psychological moment, but the fact remains that eating plant-based is awesome for BJJ.
As a bonus, remaining on weight can be easier. Digestion and gut health improves when you reduce meat consdu[tion. It has to do with plenty of factors, like ingesting away more fiber through more vegetables and seeds. In any case, bot dreaming on, and cutting weight will be (slightly) easier than on an omnivore diet.
From a health perspective, eating plant-based will help you battel some common chronics diseases like diabetes and heart diseases, as well as help fight off inflammation. It is also helpful in boosting the immune system and helping you prevent certain modern-day diseases, like some forms of cancer.
There are also claims that a plant-based diet boosts mood as well, but the jury is still out on that one/. Since no studies have been performed on the brain chemistry of someone on a plant-based diet, I’ll say that this is just a possibility at best, for now. It perhaps has to do with the “saving the planet, sparing the animals” vibe.
Being Careful With Jiu-Jitsu Nutrition
In a previous article on a vegan diet for BJJ, I mentioned that every diet that restricts something has to be balanced in order to work. It should go without saying that junk food, processed food, sugars, and the like won’t really do anything for you. So it’s not just about dropping meat, but actually eating whole, real foods and balancing them in a smart way.
Luckily, for people on a plant-based diet, this is not hard. Milk-derived products, like cheese, cream, and greek yogurt, along with eggs will make sure you’re not missing out on any essential nutrients. Some essential amino acids, along with useful non-essentials ones are only found in animal products. Moreover, if you’re flexible enough to not exclude meat completely, apart from the occasional fish, grab a liver or spleen. Internal organs once every month or so wil help you get a real nutrient-dense bomb of things you might not be getting regularly on a plant-based diet.
Of course, supplements will help immensely. I’m not talking about pre-workout stuff or protein powder. in fact, you can get more than enough protein on a plant-based diet. Eggs, milk products, beans, chickpeas, nuts, quinoa, etc are all amazing sources of protein. Supplements that you should include in any Jiu-Jitsu diet anyways are fish oil and multivitamins. Pop one of each daily and you’re golden. Oh, and include Spirulina if you want to go the extra mile.
Finally, if you’re thinking about starting a plant-based diet, be smart about it. Start to wean off meat gradually, while introducing more vegetables and fruits. Try to make sure you balance your protein sources and include variety in every meal. Apart from that, you’re bound to discover some amazing tastes and combinations you weren’t aware of before.
I haven’t been on a plant-based diet for long, but I have to say that I’m loving the effects. In the past few months I’ve been on it (along with time-restricted eating) I’ve never felt better or more energetic. The only thing I haven’t checked is my blood health markers, but given the Covid-19 situation, I’ll hold off on them for a while more. n terms of Jiu-Jitsu nutrition, this is a diet plan that I’ve enjoyed more than any other so far. Plus, it’s extremely easy to find food that fits your needs, even if you’re used to eating out. Give it a try!