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Protein and Muscle Building for BJJ – A Quick Guide for BJJ

Protein and Muscle Building for BJJ Explained

If you are looking to build muscle while training Brazilian jiu jitsu, you should be:

  • in a caloric surplus
  • doing some form of weight training
  • making nutrition (protein intake) a priority
  • focusing on meal timing to optimize bjj performance and recovery.

First, what is the daily protein intake for muscle growth?

For individuals who are training endurance based sports such as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu the recommended amount of daily protein intake for muscle growth is 0.8-1.0 grams of protein per pound of body weight. To be safe, it is recommended to take in 1 gram of protein per lb of body weight.

Again, this will change depending on your current goals and statistics, but these numbers are a good general recommendation for any bjj athlete. 


Some other considerations that will alter these recommendations could be:

  • if you are attempting to add muscle and are currently in a caloric surplus, you can lower your protein intake a bit and aim for the lower end of the recommend range (.6-.8 g/lb)
  • if you are attempting to lose weight while maintaining muscle you should aim for 1-1.5 grams of protein per 1 lb of body weight
    • Additionally, as you proceed to lose weight it is also encouraged to consume more protein toward the higher end of this range as you continue to become leaner in order to preserve muscle.
  • If you are dieting to lose weight, you may also find that filling up your daily calories with more protein and vegetables will help with satiety and keep you feeling full

Keep in mind the below definitions when it comes to protein and muscle building for bjj:

 

Caloric Surpluswhen calorie consumption exceeds calorie expenditure
Caloric Deficitwhen you eat fewer calories than your body expends
Caloric Maintenancewhen you eat the amount of daily calories that don’t cause you to lose or gain weight

Here is Dr. Mike Israetel from Renaissance Periodization who I believe also happens to be a BJJ brown belt speaking on muscle gain in one of his amazingly informative lectures:

How much protein is needed for muscle growth?

When considering how much protein is needed for muscle growth there are some key things to keep in mind:

  • if you want to make muscle gain a reality, you need to be in a caloric surplus
  • you also need to be weight training 3-5 times a week

In terms of how much protein is needed for muscle growth, assuming you are in a caloric surplus (which you should be if you are attempting to gain muscle) you can aim for .6-.8g/lb

Does protein build muscle?

The short answer is a resounding, yes, protein does build muscle. 

Muscle is maintained and repaired by amino acids (the building blocks of protein) that make up protein. 

Without amino acids found in protein your body will be unable to repair your muscles after a bjj or strength and conditioning session.

As a result of protein consumption, muscle protein synthesis begins in your body and can quickly work to repair damaged muscle tissue after a tough workout.

How does protein build muscle?

After a workout, protein helps you recover from workouts because muscles slightly tear during exercise. Protein is used to repair and build your muscles back better and strong:

What Kind of Protein for Muscle Gain? What’s The Best Protein to Build Muscle?

What’s the best protein to build muscle?

Below is an image of some common examples of foods high in protein:

Specifically, when concerning your pre or post workout meals you will want to focus on consuming protein low in fat content.

Fat will slow down your body’s absorption of protein and carbohydrates which is the exact opposite of what you want after a tough workout.

Does Jiu Jitsu build muscle?

Does jiu jitsu build muscle?

In weightlifting there is specific tension placed on certain muscles within a specific repetition range (this cannot be said of bjj).

Due to the lack of mechanical tension and metabolic stress, BJJ cannot build muscle. 

In bjj, you will not be performing calculated, controlled and specific muscle-focused movements; instead it will often require you to use your strongest muscle groups all at once or in varying degrees to perform certain techniques, take downs, or submissions.

While BJJ has many other physical benefits such as burning calories which can help in losing weight, increase in cardiovascular health, core strength and endurance, it does not have the same focused effect of weight lifting.

The best way to build muscle for BJJ is simply to lift weights (click to see our guide how to do just that here).

Can you build muscle while doing bjj?

So “yes”, you can build muscle while doing bjj –  that is if you are weight training* in addition to putting in time at the jiu jitsu gym.

You may slim down or notice other cardiovascular benefits such as a better resting heart rate or blood pressure, but doing bjj alone will, unfortunately, not build muscle (in the sense that a weight training routine would).

BJJ Diet Guide

The best bjj diet guide would be one that focuses on the nutritional requirements for a bjj athlete.

When training bjj your two biggest requirements would be:

  1. Preparation for training
  2. Recovery from training

Prior to training you’ll want to make sure that you are fully hydrated and have a good source of carbohydrates and moderate amount of protein (and little fat).

In addition to being hydrated an ideal pre workout meal would have the below macro nutrient split:

~60% carbs

~30% protein

~10% fat

For me as a 190 lb male, this breakdown would be found in one of my common pre training meals:

  • Egg whites with broccoli
  • Bowl of kids cereal (for this example lets use Lucky Charm) and almond milk

Here are images from myfitnesspal app with the nutrient and macro breakdown of this meal:

Recovery from training also deals heavily with hydration and food choices.

Your post training meal should very much resemble the macro breakdown of your pre training meal.

Your body needs

  • high carbs to restore glycogen
  • protein to start the muscle synthesis rebuilding process
  • minimal fat to avoid slowing down the absorption of the other macros.

Meal Choice, Timing, and Hydration are the three biggest factors that should define your bjj diet.

For a more detailed breakdown check out our full bjj diet guide here.

When to Eat Protein to Build Muscle for BJJ? Should I take protein after bjj?

Like a lot of things with healthy eating and muscle building, the question of when to eat protein to build muscle for bjj, comes down to stacking the muscle-building deck in your favor and give your body the most optimal environment for muscle gain and recovery.

*Again bjj alone will not build muscle and build a physique like weight training will, but you can still focus on the best nutritional decisions to improve your bjj performance and recovery.*

Will drinking a protein shake immediately after bjj class gets out or eating some chicken with stirfry rice and vegetables make or break the chances your body recovers and builds muscle? – no probably not

However, if you want to give your body the most optimal chances to recovery from your training and build muscle, again, you’ll want to prioritize some things:

  • whole foods
  • a lot of simple carbohydrates
  • moderate amount of protein
  • little fat
  • proper hydration

With these priorities met, your body will have everything it needs to recover from bjj training properly

How much protein do I need after jiu jitsu?

“So how much protein do I need after jiu jitsu?”

Shown in this graph, you’ll want to space out your protein intake evenly across 3-5 meals throughout the day.

To maximize protein synthesis from your food, you must space your meals sufficiently apart.

This gives your body the best chance to absorb all of the nutrients and protein in each meal.

While, again, this may not make or break your physique when compared to eating at different times or intermittent fasting and only eating one or two meals a day, this has been shown to be the most optimal scenario for performance athletes. 

This also means scheduling your post bjj training meal directly after you get out of class. 

Ideally, you want to have any cardio or bjj training sessions as close as possible to your next meal 

I hope this info has been helpful and that you are now well on your way to building some solid muscle while training jiu jitsu

thanks for reading – Zack