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Intermittent Fasting for BJJ – Should You Be Eating Before BJJ Training?

Whats the deal with intermittent fasting for bjj – is it something that can be beneficial for your own bjj training and if so, should you fast before training, if not what to eat before bjj if anything at all.

As someone who has done intermittent fasting for almost the entire time I’ve been training in bjj over the last five years, allow me to provide some further info on the benefits of intermittent fasting and how to tell if its something you should try out in your own bjj diet.

Intermittent Fasting Pros and Cons

Good tool for caloric deficitTakes time to get used to
May allow you to focus more when fastedCan lead to over eating during feeding window

Intermittent Fasting and Working Out – The Basics Explained

The concept of intermittent fasting refers to a daily eating schedule that extends the amount of time your body goes without food each day while allowing you have fewer but larger meals.

Often you will hear about the 16/8 intermittent fasting schedule. This means that you will fast while only consuming low/zero caloric beverages for 16 hours of the day and only consuming food within the latter 8 hour window.

The truth is intermittent fasting hasn’t been shown to have any larger, provable benefits than other diets. However, it has been proven to be safe, and if its effective with helping you maintain a calorie deficit then it is a dietary tool that you should consider.

Here are some basics of intermittent fasting:

During the 16 hour fasting period:

  • you can consume only coffee, tea, water, or other zero calorie beverages (the goal is to stay under 25 calories)

During the 8 hour eating window:

  • you can eat however many meals you’d like as long as they are within this window and still meet your caloric goals

Many people cite the benefits of intermittent fasting as being:

  • convenient
  • easy to maintain
  • easy to stay in a caloric deficit*

*Note that a caloric deficit has been shown to be the number one factor with any diet in terms of the ability of a person to lose weight – if intermittent fasting helps get you there then its worth it.

Some of the cons of intermittent fasting may be:

  • being hungry for most of the day
  • headaches/nausea dizziness when fasting
  • over eating calories during the feeding window

For instance, this is what the priority should be when considering any diet (along with longevity of course):

If you take a look at this image you’ll see that intermittent fasting (meal timing) should be given the lowest priority and calories should be the first.

Calories are king and will be the number one factor in whether you lose or gain weight

Therefore, having a negative energy balance is the main reason time-restricted eating leads to weight loss not intermittent fasting itself.

Additionally, there have been some studies that suggest with intermittent fasting there can be improvements in health markers such as blood pressure, LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and blood sugar although again these may be linked to a negative energy balance.

The benefits haven’t been entirely proven and current research suggests that more studies need to be done.

When considering the benefits and effects intermittent fasting on an endurance athlete such as someone who practices Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, it may not be the best bet.

However, there are plenty of examples of mma and bjj practitioners who find intermittent fasting convenient and beneficial for their training schedule.

Here is a video of top bjj athlete, Mikey Musumeci, speaking of his intermittent fasting protocol where he trains for most of the day and then has only one large meal in the evening:

For others they may find this protocol difficult to maintain.

They may find it is tough when you are trying to improve performance at a sport. For most people, it is important to schedule your meals around the times you work out:

  • Either by having large meal ~2-3 hours prior to bjj training and fasting after
  • Or by going into training fasted and having a massive meal after.

If the goal is the best possible performance, limiting your carbohydrate intake before or after bjj training as such those protocols found in ketogenic or intermittent fasting based diets may not be the best option.

It truly comes down to just just doing what is most sustainable/convenient for you, so that you continue doing it and working toward your dietary goals.

Is Intermittent Fasting Effective – Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

Is intermittent fasting effective?

While there have been many suspected benefits of intermittent fasting there haven’t been too many actually proven.

From the gym members who were surveyed at my gym they mentioned the below (anecdotal evidence):

  • better sleep
  • better digestion
  • more focus
  • more energy
  • less hunger
  • more convenient
  • better pumps during weight lifting

Personally, I’ve found intermittent fasting to be beneficial purely for convenience – I used to hate trying to schedule 6 small meals a day with 30 grams of protein each around a busy, daily schedule.

Also I’ve found when I am deep in a caloric deficit phase, switching to two larger meals a day instead of 4 smaller ones has really helped me stay sane and enjoy the feeling of being full.

So during that low calorie dieting phase intermittent fasting has been a beneficial tool.

I find it much easier to eat less daily calories when I am fasting for most of the day and then being indulging on one or two massive meals during my feeding window.

The satisfaction of feeling extremely full after one of these meals isn’t something you are going to find in other diets when on a calorie deficit.

In terms of actual medical research (see references at the end of this post as well):

Some research suggests that intermittent fasting may be more beneficial than other diets for reducing inflammation and improving conditions associated with inflammation (Alzheimer’s disease, asthma, stroke)

If intermittent fasting (IF) helps you maintain a caloric deficit at a higher quality of life (vs traditional calorie counting) for you then it’s worth

So Does Intermittent Fasting Work

Several diet researchers such as Ethan Weiss, out of the University of California, San Francisco have come to the conclusion that there is no benefit to eating in a narrow window.

Intermittent fasting is a weight loss tool that works for some people, but not everyone.

If you decide to try intermittent fasting, remember that just like with any eating pattern, diet quality is key is still a large part. If you recall the diet priority right behind caloric total is macronutrients and micronutrients.

This refers specifically to the quality of food. Furthermore, it is always better to eat whole, fresh foods whenever possible while limiting over fatty, sugary and processed foods.

If you find that you can handle the discipline required to fast for majority of the day and enjoy eating fewer but larger meals then maybe IF is something for you.

If you find it difficult to maintain a caloric deficit intermittent fasting might be a tool that you can employ.

Fasting Cardio – Is It Good to Training Cardio or BJJ Fasted

Does fasting cardio have any larger benefit than doing cardio in a non fasted state?

From the bit of research that is available so far, fasted cardio doesn’t cause any noticeable fat loss over non-fasted.

So if your goal is to lose weight a daily caloric deficit is still king, and whether or not you eat before doing card really won’t make a difference.

However, there also likely no detrimental effects to fasted cardio. This comes back to the two biggest factors that lead to weight loss:

  1. caloric deficit
  2. consistency

With energy deficit being equal, there won’t be much of a difference between fasted vs fed state cardio in terms of fat loss in an individual.

There is no evidence to show that fasted cardio “burns extra fat” cardio whether it be fasted or after a training session burns calories and will help you maintain a daily energy deficit.

So your aim when doing cardio or any kind of training should just be to burn extra calories to supplement your diet and weight loss goal

Remember fasted cardio needs to be done for long durations at a low intensity. Around 40% of your maximum effort – so this doesn’t apply for bjj.

BJJ isn’t a low intensity form of cardio so it is not recommended to train bjj fasted.

However, again, please try it out for yourself.

There are likely no detrimental effects of training bjj fasted, but if you feel yourself moving better or moving more sluggishly that would be the ultimate tell tale sign.

For many who prefer light intensity AM cardio like going for a morning walk (with coffee) by all means try it out fasted.

This is something that I’ve implemented in my own training days and rest days for recovery and while trying to maintain a calorie deficit.

I’ve also found when I’m fasted in the morning I’m more productive and feel less sluggish.

The bottom line is – if you aren’t in a daily or weekly calorie deficit, doing fasted cardio makes no difference – and you’re unlikely to lose any fat.

What to eat before bjj

What to eat before bjj?

If you are curious what you should eat before bjj, it is my personal opinion and that of my surveyed teammates, that timing of the meal is more important than what it is made of.

The general rule we’ve found is that most bjj practitioners at my gym make it a point not to eat a large meal less than 1.5 hours before training.

Some people will eat something small closer to training like an apple or fruit snacks or just take a couple swigs of a Gatorade or other sugary drink as opposed to a large meal

So it is generally, recommended to follow the below rules as to not have digestion be an issue while still being fueled with calories and carbohydrates for class:

2-3 hours prior to class:average sized meal made up of a moderate amount of protein, a lot of carbs and minimal fat
1.5-.5 hours priorLight snack as in a piece of fruit/mixed nuts or sugary drink

BJJ diet plan – How I Use Intermittent Fasting for BJJ

How does intermittent fasting fit into an overall bjj diet plan?

When considering your bjj diet, again, intermittent fasting is a tool to help you reach your goals.

You will find intermittent fasting be most beneficial when:

  1. you are trying to lose weight in a caloric defect
  2. when you are trying to maintain your current weight
    • (and are having difficulty sticking to the set amount of calories without over indulging)

If you find yourself in either of these scenarios intermittent fasting might be a good tool for you.

Note: If you are doing intermittent fasting it is very important to schedule your largest meals around your training.

Once more, it is very possible and maybe even beneficial for you to consider intermittent:

  • as long as your training is fueled with calories (especially those found in carbohydrates)
  • and you are able to efficiently recover from previous training sessions.

Intermittent Fasting for BJJ Training

If you find the benefits outweighing the cons and are able to stick to your current dietary goals, then intermittent fasting is something you can implement into your own bjj diet.

While intermittent fasting hasn’t been proven to be overtly beneficial (unless its being used to maintain a calorie deficit) it has been proven to be a safe tool for the average person and endurance athletes a like.

It is something you can try out and see how it fits for you.

If you feel better training fasted and if you like the convenience of having 1 or 2 larger meals a day then by all means give it a shot.

I know that intermittent fasting has made schedule my own meals easier especially when trying to lose weight.

Thanks for reading and see you on the mats – Zack


Related Posts:

-Ultimate BJJ Diet Guide

-BJJ Diet Tips: Understanding Calories, Macros, and More

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