Finding the best bjj diet for you will come down to a couple key factors such as goals, types of training, training volume, and ultimately, diet adherence.
I have tried many diets over the years, specifically over the past 10 years while weight training and during the last five years training bjj.
Included in this post are some of the things that I wish I knew when I first started manipulating my diet and specifically, when altering it to find the best bjj diet for me.
If you’re looking for the best bjj diet, it is one that matches your goals, emphasizes solid dieting fundamentals, and places importance upon pre and post training meals and recovery.
First, lets dispel the common notion that one, single type of diet is best for every athlete whether it be intermittent fasting, keto, vegan, or carnivore.
Furthermore, from the words of John Danaher he believes that he hasn’t seen a performance advantage based solely on a specific dietary adherence.
However, by manipulating your calories, macro nutrients (see image below), and maintaining solid diet fundamentals and healthy lifestyle you can perform as the best version of yourself.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or health expert. I am simply someone who enjoys training jiu jitsu and has found a simple to maintain diet that works for me both on and off the mat.
The content below is purely for informational purposes.
What Is a Good BJJ Diet and What Are Solid Diet Basics?
(now that we’re passed the pokemon infused click-bait image of me trying to flex my abs as hard as possible) I will quickly break down some key points for structuring and maintaining a diet around sports performance.
While some of these are simple and common understandings I think they are important to mention. These will also be explained in more detailed in the following sections.
First off, its strongly recommended that you add in weight training 3-5 times a week especially if you are trying to manipulate your weight – this is how you keep muscle on during a dieting phase and how you gain muscle during a bulking phase.
Without weight training, you are likely spinning your wheels by either bulking up to a talk kirby-like figure (see dbz image1) or the skinny, child-like counterpart when dieting (see dbz image 2)
- The best diet is one that you can maintain the longest and most comfortably while still working towards your sports and dietary goals.
- Based on your goals calculate your total calories required to lose weight, maintain weight, or gain weight
- Try to limit alcohol consumption (this will noticeably improve your performance and recovery immediately)
- Limit excessive consumption of junk foods
- With that being said I am a strong supporter of not severely limiting yourself (that’s why macro counting exists – see this explained further down)
- If you are looking to maintain muscle aim for 1 gram of protein per pound of body (see our updated info on weightlifting and bjj in our post here)
- Prioritize simple carbs before and after your bjj training* (shameful link to my favorite pre training fruit snacks) and complex carbs with the rest of your meals
- Consume plenty of water before, during, and after bjj training
Order of Diet Importance
In this image, the order of importance for each diet listed from most to least important is:
Calories (total calories consumed in a day) >
Macro-nutrients (amount consumed each of protein/fats/carbs) >
Micro-nutrients (amount of micros consumed ie vitamins/minerals) >
Timing (the timing of your meals throughout the day)
1. Calories Are King
About 10-20 years ago, the age old body building dogma of only eating health food was dispelled. No longer were the masses forced to listen to the celebrities pushing chicken, broccoli, and rice 6 times a day.
Calories are king means that you can meet your daily macro nutrient goal with any type of food regardless if they’re considered the healthiest option or not.
Following the above table you can realistically meet your 1g of protein per 1lb of body weight and then fill the rest of your carbs and fat macros with pop tarts.
While the pop tart only diet seems great and strongly resembles the diet of my 9 year old self, you probably want to stick to whole foods and some treats here and there while still meeting your micro nutrients.
Here’s an example of my post workout meal for reference:
- egg whites and broccoli
- big bowl of lucky charms and almond milk
The balance of macro counting is a thing of beauty.
Where to Start with Calories
There are three numbers that you should be concerned with when it comes to calories:
- Amount of calories you need to lose weight
- Amount of calories you need to maintain weight
- Amount of calories you need to gain weight
There are a bunch of calculators that you can find online that can give you a good idea based on your age, weight, and activity level, but I’ve found that the easiest way to get a good understanding of these numbers is by being aware of what you are eating and weighing about every other day and combining these numbers to get an average weight.
Yes, unfortunately, this means being vaguely aware of how many calories your consume in a day.
I know this seems very burdensome and tedious, but the good news is that if you eat roughly the same things every day, and you use an app like myfitnesspal for a day or two you can quickly get an idea of how many calories you are eating.
If you are weighing every other day and your weight stays roughly the same over a 2 week period, you can get a really good idea of your maintenance calories.
Once you have an idea of your starting weight and maintenance calories, you can move onto calorie manipulation based on your goals – see the later sections on dieting to lose weight, and dieting to gain weight.
2. What Are the Best Macros for a BJJ Diet
What are the best macros for BJJ? Keep in mind that calories are king – manipulating your macro nutrients doesn’t really play that big of an effect unless you are eating a very large portion of a single macro or eating very little of a certain macro.
From my years of experience with weight training and bjj, the best macros for bjj are:
To avoid worrying about exact percentages here are some easy numbers to follow:
|Protein||Aim for 1 gram of protein per 1 lb of body weight (if you weight 160lbs aim for 160g of protein)|
|Fats||Per 100lbs of body weight you can aim for 20-30 grams of fat|
|Carbs||After the above macros are met you can use the rest of your calories toward carbohydrates|
[table id=11 /]
Examples of common foods that fit into macro nutrient categories:
Here are some examples of macro nutrients again- keep in mind that foods may often contain a bit of two macro nutrients.
A Note on Food Choices
Below are some quick tips on recommended food choices:
- whole foods are strongly recommended over processed foods (they are simply better and contain more water, fiber, and micro nutrients than processed foods)
- when it comes to carbohydrates, generally simple carbs such as cereals, breads, pastas should be prioritized in your pre and post training meals while more complex carbs such as sweet potatoes, oatmeal, and brown rice cab be consumed with your other meals
- with regard to fats, it is best to avoid trans fats and eating a large amounts of fats found in animal proteins, your fats should come from healthy fat sources such as avocados, nuts, nut butters, seeds, and vegetable oils (as opposed to those found in cheeseburgers and fried foods)
3. What Are Micro Nutrients and How to Eat More of Them
While micro nutrients may not be as important as total calories and macro nutrients, they are definitely important for overall health and longevity.
Micro nutrients are vitamins and minerals needed by the body.
If there is a deficiency of a single micro nutrient it can lead to severe and harmful effects. Major deficiencies of a micro nutrient can be quite rare. However, its important to be aware of them and continue to consume them within the recommended dosages.
Below is a table of micro nutrients and what foods they are commonly found in:
|Vitamin A||Eggs, cheese, beef|
carrots, sweet potatoes, leafy greens, fish, tropical fruits
|Eye health, immune support|
|Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)||Acorn squash, Soy products, watermelon, pork||Promotes healthy hair, skin, muscles, brain functions|
|Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)||Enriched cereals, dairy products||Promotes healthy hair, skin, blood, and brain function|
|Vitamin B3 (Niacin)||Fortified grains, potatoes, mushrooms, peanuts||Essential for healthy skin, blood cells, nervous system, and brain|
|Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid)||Broccoli, mushrooms, avocado, chicken, tomatoes||Aids in production of lipids, hormones, hemoglobin|
|Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxal)||Tofu, legumes, potatoes||Immune support, reduces risk of heat disease, and supports proper sleep, appetite and mood regulations|
|Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)||Eggs, dairy products, meat, fortified cereals and fortified soy milk||Assists in cell creation, nerve cell protection, helps create red blood cells, reduce risk of heart disease|
|Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid)||Broccoli, dark leafy greens, fruits||Promotes creation of serotonin and norepinephrine, increased immune system support, reduces risks of some cancers|
|Vitamin D (Calciferol)||Fortified cereals, fortified dairy products, fatty fish||Promotes formation and strengthening of bones|
|Vitamin E (Alpha-tocopherol)||Leafy green vegetables, nuts, whole grains, vegetable oils||Common antioxidant, may aid in prevention of dementia, protects certain lipids from dmage|
|Vitamin K (Phylloquinone)||Milk, eggs, green vegetables, cabbage||Aids in blood clotting|
|Choline||Peanuts, eggs, milk||Aids in metabolizing and transporting fats, supports nerve and brain activities|
|Folic Acid||Green Vegetables, legumes, fortified cereals||May reduce heart disease, may reduce risk of colon cancer, integral for new cell creation|
|Calcium||Tofu, dairy products, leafy green vegetables||Aids in blood clotting, supports healthy blood pressure, strengthens bones and teeth|
|Chloride||Processed foods, soy sauce, salt||Integral to digestion, supports balance of fluids in body|
|Chromium||Nuts, cheese, meat||Supports healthy blood glucose levels|
|Copper||Nuts, seeds, beans, prunes, whole- grains||Supports creation of red blood cells, integral in iron metabolism|
|Fluoride||Toothpaste, tea, fluoridated water||Aids in prevention of dental cavities, supports strong bone formation|
|Iodine||Seafood, iodized salt, some processed foods||Supports nerver and muscle function, assists in setting body temperature|
|Iron||Eggs, fruits, green vegetables, red meat, poultry, fortified cereals and grains||Integral for making amino acids, collagen, neurotransmitters, and hormones, assists in transferring oxygen throughout the body|
|Magnesium||Seeds, milk, green vegetables, legumes, whole wheat products||Integral to blood clotting and regulation of blood pressure, assists in building bones and teeth|
|Manganese||Legumes, nuts, whole grains, teat||Assists in metabolizing amino acids, cholesterol, carbohydrates, helps form bones|
|Phosphorus||Broccoli, potatoes, almonds, dairy products, meats||Assists in converting food into energy, integral in building and protecting bones and teeth|
|Potassium||Vegetables, legumes, grains, milk meat||Lowers blood pressure, assists in maintaining steady heartbeat, integral in balancing fluids in the body|
|Selenium||Seafood, grain products, walnuts||Assists in regulating thyroid hormone activity, antioxidant rich|
|Sodium||Vegetables, salt, processed foods||Assists in balancing fluids in the body, has an effect on blood pressure|
|Sulfur||Legumes, meats, nuts||Supports healthy hair, skin, nails|
|Zinc||Beans, nuts, poultry, red meat, fortified cereals||Supports healthy immune system, assists in forming many enzyme, proteins, and creation of cells|
So as you can see, there are many vitamins and minerals that make up all of the micro nutrients that the body needs.
Some of these micro nutrients are hard to avoid while some can be missed within your daily food and may eventually lead to deficiencies.
First and foremost, if you are concerned with a certain micro nutrient being deficient or low, please see a medical professional as they can perform tests and blood work to find out the exact amount of a specific micro nutrient there is within your blood stream.
The easiest way to eat more micro nutrients is to first, throw your daily food into this calculator or similar one that tracks micro nutrients, and based on the results as well as tests performed by a medical professional, you can add more of a specific food that is high in a certain micro nutrient and/or supplement.
Next, is to make sure that most of your meals contain plenty of green vegetables – the big three are where its at:
I don’t recommend just taking a bunch of pills for a specific micro nutrient or loading up on a multi vitamin as often this can lead to consuming above the recommended dosages which may cause more harm than good.
Also some micro nutrients may have adverse affects on others and may lead to little or no absorption of a specific nutrient.
4. Timing – Daily Meal Scheduling Considerations
My recommendation is to aim for 3-5 meals a day. Depending on your training (I go into this further in the next section) here is a sample make up:
- Each meal should have equal amounts of protein (so if you weigh 200lbs and are eating four meals a day each meal should have 50 grams of protein)
- As stated previously, ~75% of your daily carbs should be prioritized in your pre training and post training meal
- Fats should be prioritized in the meals furthest away from your pre and post training meals
Example meal plan with an emphasis on meal timing and macro break up:
|Meal #1||9 AM||Egg whites, broccoli, bowl of cereal with skim or almond milk|
|Training||11 AM||BJJ or weight training|
|Meal #2||12PM||Chicken stir fry with veggies and rice and bagel with jelly|
|Meal #3||3PM||Ground Turkey with pasta sauce and a little rice and green peas|
|Meal #4||6PM||Greek yogurt with berries and mixed nuts/granola|
BJJ Diet Timing (this is probably the most important section*)
Nutritional timings is probably the most important aspect when considering a challenging, calorie burning activity like bjj.
If you take nothing else from this post, I hope that you get some info on your pre-bjj and post-bjj hydration and nutrition.
Generally, you’ll want to consumer ~75% of your daily carbs in the meal directly before your bjj training and directly after your bjj training (obviously if you are weight training on bjj training days as well carbs will be spread out more to favor your weight training).
Your body needs these carbs to fuel and recover from your workout. So what should a pre bjj training and post bjj training meal look like?
These meals should occur ~.1.5-2.5 hours prior to training and should be made up of simple carbs, a good amount of protein, and little fat (fat will slow down the absorption of other nutrients which is what we want to avoid at this time).
Example of a pre bjj training meal (consumed ~2hrs before):
- Cup and a half of greek yogurt, mixed berries, some oats and honey (this meal is high in carbs, has moderate protein, and very little fat)
*other meal examples will also be shown in the google sheet/pdf download in the below section
Along with what types of food to eat, hydration is extremely important when it comes to bjj training.
A quick and easy way to tell if you are hydrated before AM training is if you are able to urinate
To get hydrated it is recommended that you drink ~a cup of water every 15 minutes about an hour before training as opposed to just downing an entire bottle of water before stepping on the mat.
This not only will not hydrate you, but you will feel like a water bed sloshing around on the mat.
Along with pre training hydration, it is important to also drink water during training and especially just before live sparring.
If you’ve ever experienced a headache during or after training it may be due to lack of water consumption (this is anecdotal of course, but I know others at my gym have experienced the same thing).
Immediately, after training and cool down, drinking water again is key. This is all obvious stuff I know, but you’d be surprised how many guys I see show up to class train and leave without even a gulp of water in them.
If you prefer some sweetness with your water, I sometimes will do 3/4 water and 1/4 Gatorade or other sweet drink like lemonade.
Plus these carbs will come in handy throughout training.
BJJ Weight Loss
If your goal for bjj and dieting is to lose weight here are some fundamentals you can consider along your own bjj weight loss journey.
Again, some of these are common and obvious ideas its important to understand why these work to lose weight and how to implement these guidelines into your own bjj, diet, and lifestyle.
After getting an idea of your maintenance calories its time to decrease ~100-150 calories a day from your diet.
So if you usually eat 2,400 calories a day drop them to 2,250 a day and continue to weight in every other day. After a week or two take an average of your weigh ins and see how much weight you have hopefully lost.
Depending on your starting weight you should aim for ~1-2% of weight loss per week. So if you weight 200lbs you start at aiming to lose 2lbs a week.
Water fluctuations are real – depending upon your activity level, amount of sodium in your diet, and amount of water consumed, you may see large a fluctuation during your weigh ins – these are normal.
That’s why it’s important to weigh in every other day and take an average of all of the numbers over a 1 to 2 week period to see if there steady weight loss.
BJJ Weight Loss and Dieting Quick Tips:
- consider only dieting for nine-twelve weeks at a time* anything beyond that may lead to binging or obsessive thoughts surrounding food (I know I’m not the only one who only watches too much Bake off when dieting)
- coffee, tea, and diet sodas are you friend, if you haven’t already cut out sugary, high calorie drinks and switched to these you may see some weight loss after doing so. (Ending a meal with a diet soda is a quick way to drive the hunger away and let your body know that the meal is finished)
- if you are limiting your calories – don’t drink your calories since whole foods will always fill you up more
- along the same theme, limit or cut out alcohol entirely especially if you have been dieting for some time
- consider upping your vegetable intake since vegetables have a very high satiety rating and will fill you up on less calories
- switching out high calories foods with low calorie foods like the examples listed below will help with satiety and keep you sane when your daily calories get low:
|ice cream||>||frozen bananas or greek yogurt with diet jello mix|
|peanut butter||>||pb powder|
|high calorie sauces||>||hot sauce|
|high calorie cereal||>||cheerios or other bland kid’s cereal with stevia added to it|
Maintenance Periods – What to do after you’ve reached your goal weight?
After dieting to lose weight for nine-twelve weeks, it is strongly recommended that you go into a maintenance period. This is a period usually lasting as long as your dieting period where you slowly add in more clean calories.
For example say you dieted from 200lbs to 175lbs over a twelve week period.
After you have reached your goal weight of 175lbs you should stay at that weight for ~1 month then add some clean* carbs in.
At which point your weight may go up ~5-8lbs (this is okay -its mostly water) then stay at that weight for anther 2 months. —this is how you keep the fat you just lost off permanently.
After that 12 week maintenance period which follows directly after your cut, then you can begin dieting again to lose more weight or transition into a bulking period or just stay at that weight for now if you are happy with where you’re at.
Calories to Gain Weight – How to Go Up a Weight Class in BJJ the Right Way
I will eventually write a detailed post on how to add muscle and bulk up the right way to a higher weight class in bjj, but for now here is some quick info.
If you are looking to get stronger and build muscle the only way to do so in an efficient and structured manor is by eating in a calorie surplus, weight training, and gaining weight (while being okay with some fat gain).
As I mentioned in our other post on bjj strength training, strength does play a factor in how good you are at jiu jitsu.
While it isn’t the biggest factor, there’s a reason there’s weight classes, and if you and your opponent are the same weight and have the same level of technique, strength will then play a much larger faster.
There are plenty of misconceptions in bulking up with weight lifting and eating at a calorie surplus (eating more calories than your maintenance calories), but let me explain it very simply. This is speaking from my direct experience with weight training, dieting, and bjj:
You may be able to gain some strength while staying the same weight, but if you really want to stack the chips in your favor gaining weight is the best way to do so.
Bulking tips *this assumes that you are weight training 3-5 times a week in addition to your bjj training:
This is just a general guide from my own research and from what I have found to work best for me so please feel free to adjust as you see fit
- It is recommended that you start your bulk to the next bjj weight class being relatively lean at the start. This can be done just after a cut followed by a maintenance period.
- it is also important to not just dive into a bulk immediately after finishing your cut. This is a sure fire way to guarantee a massive amount of fat gain. A maintenance period after a cut is key*
- After your weight has settled during your maintenance period and hasn’t move much over 2 weeks, it is then time to start adding calories. You can start by adding in ~100-150 calories per day. For instance if your maintenance calories were about 2400 you can then go up to 2500 per day for the next two weeks and monitor your changes with every other day weigh ins.
- This will vary depending upon your starting weight, but you can aim for ~1lb of weight gain per week during the bulk.
- Water retention will also be a factor so its still important to weight in everyone other day and take weekly averages to get a good idea of your weight gain
- Your bulk can go anywhere from 8-20 weeks depending on your own tolerance for weight and fat gain. If you are fine with gaining a bit more fat you can definitely continue your bulk up until the 20th week mark
- Keep in mind as you gain more fat your body is prone to gain less muscle and more fat. So the optimal time to gain the most muscle is in the first couple weeks of your bulk.
- Start off with adding in “clean” foods and carbs like rice, potatoes, pasta, breads especially if you are still having food cravings. Its very easy to binge and go over with fatty and sugar processed foods initially.
- Once you find it difficult eating more and more rice and potatoes, you can then add in some more fats to make them taste better (like adding a bit olive oil to your rice)and/or start adding in some less clean foods to help you reach you calorie goal
- Another option to get in more calories is to add in one cheat meal during the week. You can begin adding in these cheat meals ~1-2 months into your bulk.
- At the end of your bulk, you’ll want to again take another maintenance period in order for your body to adjust to your new weight and hopefully, hang on to as much muscle as possible. This maintenance period should last from 1-2 months before moving onto a cut to lose the fat gained during your bulking period
- When you transition from this maintenance period into a cut, you will see your muscles shrink a little bit. This is normal and due to water retention within the muscles, It doesn’t* mean you are immediately losing all your hard earned gains.
Example BJJ Diet PDF Meal Plan
Here is a sample bjj diet pdf meal plan.
It can be downloaded through our google drive in excel or pdf format.
This diet can be used as a starting off point to modify it based on your goals (whether its to lose weight, gain muscle, or stay at your current weight).
It is mainly used to help you structure your own meals with some solid meal ideas as well as a good indication for meal timing based on if you are training both bjj and weights that day, only bjj, only weights, or if its a rest day.
Take notice of the macro breakdown of each meal.
Just like it was noted in the above macro and meal timing sections pre and post workout meals have more carbs and meals furthest away have less carbs and more fats, but protein remains consistent throughout each meal
These are also broken down into 4 meals a day.
For me personally, I’ve found that four meals were easy enough to maintain while still reaching my weight training and bjj goals. However, you can adjust these to be 3-5 smaller or larger meals depending on your schedule
You will also notice that I try to hit approximately the same meal times across all days regardless or training activity.
Below is a screenshot of the bjj diet meal plan:
BJJ Diet Guide – The Final Word
So what is the best bjj diet?
Its one you can easily maintain, aligns with your goals, and considers the best meal plan for training and recovery.
In this post, I went over training nutrition basics, how to find your maintenance calories, and how to adjust your diet depending on whether you are trying to lose weight or gain muscle.
These ideas also assume weight training is a big part of your training regiment.
Weight training 3-5 days a week guarantees you are getting the most out of your dieting efforts.
If you’re looking for the best bjj diet, it is one that matches your goals, emphasizes solid dieting fundamentals, and places importance upon pre and post training meals and recovery.
Hopefully, this post has provided you with some solid info to start off your bjj diet journey.
It’s important to be patient with yourself and with your results.
What you see on social media isn’t always real life so I recommend embracing the grind and the process, create meals that you look forward to eating, and set small dieting goals for yourself along the way.
I promise that if you stick to a similar diet plan and are training hard in the weight room and on the mats you will see benefits.
Time is going to go by no matter what so you might as well take that one small step a day to work toward your goals.
Thanks for reading all and hope you have a good day – Zack