Supplementation for BJJ Marathon Sessions

Marathon BJJ

The highlight of my week is Friday evening.  Not because I go clubbing or drinking or bar hopping or whatever it is the  kids are doing these days.  It’s because of something special that happens at my Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu gym.

Here’s what the typical Friday evening schedule looks like.

6:00-6:30: Open Mat
6:30-7:30: Fundamentals II
7:30-8:30: Marathon Roll

Marathon Roll is only for blue belts and above.  White belts can participate, but they have to be individually invited by one of the instructors.

It consists of 10 sets of 5 minute rounds with 1 minute rest in between for a total of 60 minutes of pure BJJ happiness.  This is pretty much a super-mega-ultra interval session for 60 minutes straight.  The 1 minute of rest is barely enough to retie your belt, run to the fountain to get a sip of water, and run back to find your next partner.  Catching your breath is a distant dream.

If the coaches catch you trying to sneak in a rest by pulling something like the typical slow re-tying your belt thing… they start screaming for you to hurry up and start training.

Once you start the marathon roll you’re not allowed to stop.

The only time I’ve seen guys stop are if they get injured or if they come close to vomiting.  That’s it.

On Fridays, I get off work and immediately drive to the gym.  Depending on how forgiving traffic is, I might be able to get there by 6:00 and squeeze in a couple of rounds during the Open Mat.

I generally make it for the entire Fundamentals II class which consists of 20 minutes of warm up, 25 minutes of instruction and drilling, and 15 minutes of live sparring.

So you see, when Friday night rolls around, I get a bounce in my step because it means I get 120-150 minutes of pure BJJ with at least 75-100 minutes of sparring.

What more could a guy with the BJJ Caveman moniker ask for?  Needless to say, when the clock strikes 8:30 and the 10th and final round of the Marathon Roll is concluded, I am completely and gloriously dehydrated, depleted, and destroyed.

In an effort to sustain my energy during such long sessions, I recently experimented with supplementation while training.  I imagined that the reasons I was feeling so wrecked during and after the Marathon Roll were due to a few things.

  1. Electrolyte depletion – 120+ minutes of pure BJJ while wearing a Gi causes the body to lose a ridiculous amount of sweat, and with sweat goes electrolytes.  While drinking water will help replenish all the water that’s lost, it doesn’t do a anything for the electrolytes, in fact it can actually cause further dilution of whatever electrolytes that remain in the system.
  2. Glycogen depletion – Grappling and wrestling with someone, especially the big boys in my gym, is glyolytically demanding, and since I’m eating a low carb diet, my glycogen stores are probably on the lower end of normal.  It’s been shown that for people who go low carb for a prolonged period, they become more efficient at using and storing glycogen, but I’d imagine that training for 120+ minutes straight would blow through whatever stores I have.  Of course I’ve never verified any of this by doing something crazy like a muscle biopsy or anything.
  3. Muscle breakdown / Gluconeogenesis – To replenish some of the glucose that’s being lost after glyogen stores are depleted, gluconeogenesis is likely being initiated whereby some muscle tissue is broken down into their component amino acids which can then be converted go glucose to supply the rest of the body.

To counteract these factors I decided to add:

EXOS Catalyte: An electrolyte replacement powder
EXOS Aminos: A free amino acid powder.

The reason for the electrolytes is pretty straight forward.

You may ask why use free amino acids instead of something like whey protein?

Well, free amino acids can be readily absorbed and don’t need to be digested.  Your GI system doesn’t need to secrete the typical proteolytic enzymes required to break down whey protein into amino acids before it can be absorbed (which requires energy… and is the last thing your body wants to do when you’re fighting with another 200+ pound grown ass man).

Once the free amino acids get into the blood stream they can be used by muscle tissue to limit breakdown as well as initiate immediate repair and recovery.

I fill a bottle with water and add a scoop of each.  I use the lemon flavor of both.  The whole thing actually is quite tasty, pretty much like lemonade.

After doing this for the past few Friday evenings, I can say for certain that I definitely FEEL better during and after my training.  This means less fatigue, less soreness, less pain, less getting gassed out…. but still the same amount of tapping out (I’m telling you, the guys that choose to train on Friday nights rather than partake in the usual festivities are beasts here).

Because these are rather pricey, in the interest of saving my wallet I try to use these sparingly.  Since our normal BJJ classes only go for 60 minutes, I’m now conditioned well enough where I feel fine by the end of class, so there’s no real reason for me to use these if I don’t train longer than an hour.

I do think this will be useful on Saturdays and Sundays when the gym hosts open mat sessions where I stay anywhere from 90-120 minutes.

Depending on how things go, I may consider adding in

EXOS Carb Fuel: One scoop provides 10 gm of fast absorbing carbs, to help address the glycogen depletion part.

I suspect that this will further help my performance… and feeling less wrecked.  The insulin response will likely be negligible since this volume and intensity of training will lead to a ridiculously insulin sensitive state.

Since I’ve already blown through my supplement budget this month I didn’t pick it up… maybe when my supplement allowance gets replenished next month I’ll try it out.

*Image found here

 

2 Responses to Supplementation for BJJ Marathon Sessions

  1. Fung Yen says:

    One of my doctor friends told me that we get enough nutrition from our normal 3 daily balanced meals. Supplements are a waste of money because more than 75% of them are flushed out by the kidneys.

    • BJJ Caveman says:

      This is probably true.

      But there are also deficits in our current diets that lead to deficiencies in many micronutrients and minerals. Magnesium is an example.

      Also, working out for 2-3 hours straight will make even the most well nourished people dehydrated and deficient and electrolytes.

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