This article was written by 3rd-degree Roger Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt Nicolas Gregoriades.
Ever since I began my training in the martial arts I’ve been looking for ways to help my body heal faster, become stronger and perform at its best. This has led me to study strength training, conditioning and in particular, nutrition & supplementation. In this article, I discuss which supplements for jiu-jitsu I take.
Why should I take supplements?
A Jiu-jitsoka puts his body through much more stress than the average individual and is more likely to have deficiencies. We all know of the physical benefits of our training but sometimes we neglect to assess the physical costs. I’ve said it before - Jiu-Jitsu is hard on the body. The amount of vitamins and minerals lost through perspiration and the general taxation on our systems means that we need far more nutrition than the average individual to replenish our reserves and contribute to the repair and growth of our bodies’ tissues.
Which ones should I take?
Below I have listed the 10 products which I have found give me the biggest bang for my buck. Most of them have been researched and documented as effective. Although it’s impossible to be completely objective, I have found them to work well for me and take many of them on a daily basis.
If you train hard you need to be on creatine. Not only will it help you build muscle, it'll also protect your heart. Forget all the negative opinions you hear about it - it's one of the safest, most effective and well-researched supplements on the market. Basically, creatine allows your muscles to contract harder, and for longer. It’s pretty obvious that even a small increase in the contractile force of your muscles might be the difference between finishing an opponent with a choke or being able to crank out the last few reps in your conditioning routine. There are several types of creatine available, including monohydrate and ethyl esther. I find monohydrate works just fine - and I use it in capsule format because it's easier to take that way than in powdered form.
Research has shown that diets rich in Omega-3 fats are associated with superior heart, brain and circulatory health - all systems which you need functioning optimally for decent performance on the mat. I’ve noticed that it has a generalized anti-inflammatory effect on the body, which is beneficial for the jiu-jiteiro in hard training. I also find fish oil helps keep my joints and skin in good shape. Keep in mind that a lot of low-grade Omega-3 supplements can be rancid or contain PCB's, so always research the product you intend to purchase. Make sure the ones you choose are in the triglyceride form
Magnesium replaces Vitamin C on this list. This amazing mineral is responsible for over 300 enzyme reactions and is found in all of your tissues. It has multiple benefits but the ones we're most interested in as jiu jitsu guys are improvement in sleep quality and muscle relaxation. When I take magnesium I sleep more deeply - no two ways about it. The muscle relaxing effect also really helps me unwind after an intense training / sparring session. Unfortunately, many forms of magnesium are difficult to absorb when taken orally. I've tried several different brands and formats and found that dissolvable types work best for me.
4. Vitamin D3
When you’re sick it means you can’t train. Dojo mats and training partners expose you to far higher amounts of germs and bacteria than the average person ever experiences, so it’s vital that your immune system is as strong as it can be. Vitamin D3 plays a major role in keeping your immune system healthy. Researchers are continually reporting that low blood levels of vitamin D are associated with one disease after another. Most of us (especially those of us that don't get enough natural sunlight on our skin) are deficient. You can easily solve this by taking 5-10 thousand IUs per day.
5. Hydrolyzed Collagen
Hydrolyzed Collagen is unique in its amino acid structure because of its high amounts of glycine, lysine and proline, which are found in lower amounts in other protein food supplements. These particular amino acids are found to generate cell growth faster because of the natural ability to produce supporting amounts of connective tissue diminishes after the age of 25.
Collagen is more easily digested in the hydrolyzed form because of its low molecular weight and is absorbed within 30 minutes. I have noticed a major difference in the health of my joints (and skin) in particular since I started using it.
6. Green Foods
“Green Foods” is a general term which refers to products that are made from extracts of algae, fruit, vegetables and other plants. They serve to alkalize, energize and nourish the body's cells along with balancing the body's pH level eliminate toxins such as heavy metals, which can weaken our tissues and lead to disease over time. The phytonutrients found in green foods are full of antioxidants and plant-based vitamins and minerals. They help to detoxify and cleanse the body Quality green drink supplements can be expensive as hell but they are actually quite economical. Each serving has the nutritional equivalent of eating many servings of fruits and vegetables that you otherwise might not be able to fit into your diet. I literally feel better on the days I drink one.
B-Vitamins do a wide range of important things in your body, from helping your cells grow properly to metabolising fat, carbs and protein into energy. I notice a marked improvement in my energy levels when I’m taking good B-Complex supplements, which comes in handy when I’m training hard. The B-vitamins, like Vitamin C, are water-soluble and are not stored in the body. This means that they are required daily to ensure the body maintains healthy levels. Because an insufficiency in one B vitamin typically means a deficiency in another, it is vital the B vitamins be taken together.
8. Digestive Enzymes
'Health starts and ends in the gut' is a common expression in health circles. If you are not processing your food properly you can run the risk of being malnourished. Adding digestive enzymes to your meals helps you break down and process your food much more effectively, allowing you to absorb as many of the nutrients as possible. Since I’ve added enzymes to my diet, I’ve lost fat, improved my digestion and just experienced an overall feeling of well-being.
9. Green Tea Extract
Green Tea is one of the best fat-burners I’ve found - it’s perfect for the guy who wants to drop a few pounds so that he can be a bit more agile on the mat. Also, a recent study showed that the antioxidants in green tea can offset the oxidative stress induced by strenuous workouts (i.e. jiu-jitsu). This means quicker recovery from physical exertion and diminished free-radical damage incurred during training. Try to choose a product that is decaffeinated so it comes without any of the 'jittery feeling' that ephedra-based thermogenics and regular green tea supplements can cause.
Ever have trouble remembering your techniques? A Nootropic supplement might help. Also referred to as 'smart drugs' or 'memory enhancers', nootropics work by altering the availability of the brain's supply of neurochemicals (neurotransmitters, enzymes, and hormones), by improving the brain's oxygen supply or stimulating nerve growth. This can result in clearer thinking and better memory.