The number one question we get is, "how do I recover after a tough training session?"
1. HYDRATE BEFORE TRAINING, REHYDRATE AFTER TRAINING
A lot of BJJ fighters do a poor job of replenishing nutrients after training. If you've ever cut weight before, you realize what a huge difference a small percentage of dehydration can make. A drop in water as small of a percentage as 2% of your body weight can reduce your endurance (and slow your recovery). At 4% your capacity for muscular work greatly declines (Art and Science of Making Weight).
Now how much water should you hydrate and rehydrate with? Studies have shown that water loss through sweat (and electrolyte loss for that manner) during training can vary 10-fold between athletes (What's Causing My Muscles to Cramp). The best method is weighing yourself before and after training to get your amount of fluid weight loss. Then drink 1.5 liters (48 oz, 6 cups) throughout the day to replace every 1kg of weight lost (What's Causing My Muscles to Cramp).
It is also important to note that water by itself is one of the worst rehydration drinks out there because of its lack of electrolytes (What's Causing My Muscles to Cramp). The amount of fluid retained from water would be minimal if you were to rehydrate with plain water (Milk as an effective Post-Exercise Rehydration Drink).
Therefore, POST training, you should always choose a recovery shake with electrolytes to improve fluid retention. When looking for a recovery shake, compare them for sufficient amounts of critical electrolytes: Sodium, Potassium, Magnesium, Calcium, Phosphorus. Most sports drinks or recovery shakes contain only Sodium and Potassium. Often overlooked electrolytes like Magnesium and Phosphorus can have huge impacts on your performance.
We look for a recovery shake with at least 200mg of Magnesium in a ratio of 2 Magnesium per 1 Calcium, 400mg of Potassium, and 200mg of Sodium (Supplements Part 1). Besides recovery shakes like our POST, there is also milk.
There are some downsides to milk (most notably spoiling, fat, and lactose) but it can be an effective choice if you're on a budget. (Milk as an effective Post-Exercise Rehydration Drink).
Consuming an electrolyte drink throughout the day can help prevent cramps and keep you properly hydrated for the next workout. We generally look for a low carbohydrate, high electrolyte content sports drink. We designed our LYTES with this in mind by adding in Vitamin C, Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Zinc, Selenium, Copper, Chromium, Sodium and Potassium. The carbohydrates from Organic Sugar Cane provide you with the energy during your training session, but you don't need a whole ton (we use 10g per serving).
If you'd rather bootstrap your own sports drink, one option you have is using sea salt in your water. Table salt doesn't contain these same trace minerals, so for optimum benefit, use a sea salt version or use Lite-Salt which contains sodium and potassium. Still, you're going to be missing out on any meaningful amount of electrolytes other than sodium and potassium by only using sea salt.
2. A CLEAN DIET IS THE FOUNDATION TO SUCCESS
Having a healthy diet is the foundation to your performance. Everyone knows that, but how exactly can you take scientific studies and apply it practically into your everyday life? Being a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu athlete, you're often on the go and not preparing your own meals. The best tip that I can pass on is to eat at least one salad a day with all the colors of the rainbow inside it. That means making your plate as colorful as possible with the different variety of fruit and vegetables.
3. HIGH / LOW TRAINING
You can have the perfect diet but if you aren't monitoring your training intensities you will overtrain. MMA Strength and Conditioning coach Joel Jamieson uses the term High Low from track coach Charlie Francis. It basically means you need to vary training intensities. A good rule of thumb is 80% of days you will focus on lower intensity sparring and drilling and 20% of the time high intensity sparring and drilling. The point is, alternate your training intensities to get the most out of your training while not beating up your body. I've trained with some of the best BJJ fighters in the world, and every one of them practice this simple principle one way or another. You can't train hard every single day. Even guys like Leandro Lo, who are notorious for training hard, will have a high and a low day.
4. REPLENISH LOST NUTRIENTS
On top of rehydrating, ensure that your recovery drink has a correct ratio of carbohydrates to protein to rebuild muscle and prevent muscle breakdown. Energy requirements tend to rise as you go up from strength training through mixed sports (BJJ, MMA, Surfing) to pure endurance sports. Carbohydrates will scale up while protein requirements scale down. If you purchase just a regular ol' protein, throw in some carbohydrates by blending in a banana or two.
We designed our POST off of a ratio of 3 carbohydrates to every 1 protein specifically for BJJ, MMA, and Surfing. As you go more towards pure endurance based workouts, you need a higher ratio (4 carbohydrates : 1 protein) and as you go more towards strength training you need a lower ratio (2 carbohydrates : 1 protein). A ton of marketed and gimmicked "recovery" drinks have insufficient amounts of carbohydrates to recover and are often opposite the recommended ratio containing 3 or 4 proteins to every 1 carbohydrate.
If a company is advertising a low carbohydrate or low calorie recovery shake, run away. Carbohydrates are critical to replenish muscle glycogen and to stimulate an insulin response to prevent muscle breakdown (Carbohydrate-Protein Complex Increases Muscle Glycogen Storage After Exercise). Studies have shown greater recovery effects (most notably muscle growth and decrease muscle soreness) when proteins are coupled with carbohydrates (Post Exercise Carbohydrate Protein Antioxidant Ingestion Decreases Plasma Creatine Kinase and Muscle Soreness).
This is the one time of the day that carbohydrates are critical to your recovery, especially if you are training twice a day. And no, it won't make you fat. I typically have a recovery shake after a hard training session, maybe blend it with a banana for even more potassium, then eat a regular meal about an hour later. That way I will continue to refuel for the next training session.
As an athlete, you need more sleep than your average person. In one study conducted at Stanford University, tennis athletes who extended their nightly sleep to 10 hours a night increased their sprinting time, improved their drilling times and mood, decreased their reaction time, and increased their hitting accuracy (Study Shows Sleep Extension Improves Performance and Mood).
They concluded that sleep is as much a significant factor in achieving peak performance as diet and practice. Sleep should be looked at as a training tool. Make it a priority just as much as training and eating. If you must, cut out other things of your day to ensure that you get 10 hours of sleep. This is a rather intuitive tip but often overlooked tip, increase your nightly sleep to 10 hours - you'll feel better and perform better.
1. A. Cosgrove. Art and Science of Making Weight. 2008.
2. C. Mah. Study Shows Sleep Extension Improves Athletic Performance and Mood. Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies. June 8, 2009.
3. Luden N, Saunders M, Todd M. POSTEXERCISE CARBOHYDRATE PROTEIN ANTIOXIDANT INGESTION DECREASES PLASMA CREATINE KINASE AND MUSCLE SORENESS. International Journal Of Sport Nutrition & Exercise Metabolism. February 2007;17(1):109-123.
4. L. McDonald. What’s Causing My Muscles to Cramp – Q&A. http://www.bodyrecomposition.com/nutrition/whats-causing-my-muscles-to-cram.html
5. L. McDonald. Muscle Growth and Post-Workout Nutrition. http://www.bodyrecomposition.com/muscle-gain/muscle-growth-and-pos-workout-nutrition.html.
6. SM Shirreffs et al. Milk as an effective post-exercise rehydration drink. Br J Nutr (2007): Pg 1-8 7. Zawadzki KM, Yaspelkis BB 3rd, Ivy JL. CARBOHYDRATE-PROTEIN COMPLEX INCREASES THE RATE OF MUSCLE GLYCOGEN STORAGE AFTER EXERCISE. J Appl Physiol. 1992 May;72(5):1854-9.