Updated: Nov 5, 2020
You have probably heard something along the lines of "I train so that I can eat whatever I want," or "The only reason I'm not overweight is because of Jiu jitsu." Or you may have heard one of a thousand stories from people who have lost an incredible amount of weight just by training BJJ. You also never fail to hear your friend say, “I’ll start when I get in better shape for jiu-jitsu.”
Yes, Jiu jitsu is amazing, and for the average practitioner, it does have some incredible benefits that they can take home daily. Stress relief for one, some serious calorie burning, and time away from any other responsibility calling their name. However, for the majority of competitive athletes, an hour of training alone isn't going to cut it when you are trying to maintain daily peak condition and hit the podium repetitively. In addition to high-level Jiu jitsu instruction and training, a BJJ athlete also typically needs a proper nutritional program, in order allow him/her to endure long, hard training sessions, recover quickly and efficiently, and maintain a healthy weight or maintain their fight weight. (Because no one likes to cut weight.) Unless of course, you are Megaton and can party and drink excessively right before stepping on the mats for Pan-Ams.
One truth we hold to the highest standard in nutritional education is that EVERYBODY is different. Different diets and different methods have created different champions, and they all hold their approach to be optimal.
The Gracie Diet was the nutrition method developed by Grandmaster Carlos Gracie that has been passed on through the generations within and outside the Gracie family. It breaks down foods into 6 categories and emphasizes on the combinations of each. Veganism in jiu-jitsu has been more and more popularized as the diet has emerged. Kron Gracie, The Diaz brothers, and the Miyao brothers all advocate for the benefits of a plant-based lifestyle. Joe Rogan and Chad Mendes leave us with our mouths watering with their wild game recipes and literally Elk everything.
However, on another extreme, we find the infamous #GarryTononDiet. “I will keep eating cheeseburgers and winning championships, ya’ll can watch while you throw kale at me” said Garry Tonon on an Instagram post about his unorthodox approach to nutrition. His view on the over-selectiveness of what some athletes eat and how they should emphasize more on their training methods, was met with little resistance from those who hate dieting in the first place. His ongoing success clearly puts all nutrition experts to shame.
So, what’s THE ultimate recipe for success? While dietitians might debate we should stick to the boiled chicken and broccoli in plastic containers, we must ask ourselves how sustainable that really is.
Ultimately, as mentioned before, everyone reacts differently to different foods, and the recipe for maintaining the top podium position is to find what works for YOU and you only. Whether that means training multiple times a day and scarfing down cheeseburgers and beer after, or you prefer to enjoy a diet full of veggies and acai. We all know that the science behind jiu-jitsu will always be different than the science that applies to the rest of the population.