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Post-Workout Nutrition for Grapplers

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When I first started playing organized sports about thirty years ago we were all told that water was all you needed after and during practice (it wasn’t called training in those dark ages).  Next came Gatorade.  Gatorade has been around since the late 1960’s and really took off in the 80s when the formula was purchased from the University of Florida.  Everyone was drinking Gatorade to “Be Like Mike” or whatever spokesman was popular at the time.  Fast forward another decade and someone figured out that adding amino acids (protein) to these drinks may be an even better option after training.  As you can see, this is not a new topic by any stretch of the imagination but I’m hoping that I’ll be able to give you a basic and practical guideline on what you need after training, why you need it and how to use it in your training.

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Training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, or any form of grappling for that matter, is tough.  In my opinion we have the most conditioned athletes in the world (I include MMA athletes in this group, btw).  How many times have we seen athletes from other sports come into the gym to train and after a few minutes they’re lying on the floor like an asthmatic having an attack?  All of this conditioning comes at a price.  You train hard and you train often.  Gifted athletes have bodies that are able to tolerate the workload that comes with our sport.  The rest of us aren’t so lucky and need to do what we can to make sure that we recover as quickly and effectively as possible.

 floor afterworkout

Why Do You Need Specific Post-Workout Nutrition?
Before moving into the specifics of post-workout nutrition I want establish a few things.  Rolling is fueled by your glycolytic system.   Glycogen is stored within your muscles and liver.  For a much more thorough but still digestible description of energy systems check out this article by Tom Kelso at Breaking Muscle.  Something else that we all need to accept is that exercise (any form) breaks down protein and we rely of protein synthesis to repair it.  Lyle McDonald wrote an article a few years ago if you’re interested in getting more details.

Appropriate post-workout nutrition is helpful in improving your recovery from workouts by improving your re-uptake of glycogen into your muscles and liver.  Several studies have shown that a drink composed of carbohydrates and amino acids taken after training is superior to a solid meal or to pure carbohydrates for replenishing glycogen (2,4,5).  There is some variance on the exact proportions that are needed but 3:1 (CHO:AA) tends to be accepted.  There is data to suggest that just carbohydrates in a high enough quantity can be equivalent for replacing glycogen (5).  The potential problem in that situation is the extra calories and that carbs by themselves aren’t very anabolic/anti-catabolic.  Which brings us to our next reason to supplement correctly after training.

Post-workout carbohydrates combined with protein has a net positive affect on your protein synthesis (1,3).  I’m going to over-simplify this to make a point: a net positive protein synthesis is anabolic and a negative net protein synthesis is catabolic.  Anabolism is what we’re all hoping to achieve (even if you’re not bodybuilding or trying to go up a weight-class).    Now that we established (hopefully) that proper post-workout supplementation is good let’s look at a few options.  For more information on the studies please take a look at the references included below (they all have hyperlinks). 

Some Commercially available products:

  • Gatorade G3
    • Available everywhere
    • Cost: $2.34 (drink) and $3.17 (shake) at my grocery store
    • Taste:  Ok.  I little heavy on the artificial flavors and sucrolose.
    • Notes:  You can get it anywhere which is nice if you need something in a pinch.
  • Surge Recovery (Biotest)
    • Available: Online retailers and supplement stores
    • Cost: ~$40-45 for 16 servings;  ~$2.50/serving
    • Taste: Reviewers generally liked it, some commented that it was overly sweet
    • Notes:  Somewhat expensive; powder
  • Recovery (ATH Nutrition)
    • Available: ATH Sport Nutrition
    • Cost: $52.99 for 35 servings; $1.51
    • Taste: Coconut & Cocoa is delicious
    • Notes:  Good price per serving, powder, mixes well, tastes good and is a small company wholly owned by someone that trains BJJ.
  • Organic Chocolate Milk
    • Available: pretty much everywhere
    • Cost: ~$1.00/serving
    • Taste: what do you think?
    • Notes: tastes great, higher calories, needs refrigeration, widely available; lactose may not agree with you

Wrapping Up:
If you’re able to afford it I’d recommend using a post-workout product such as those mentioned above.  The main factors are going to be cost, taste and convenience.  You may also want to check out Alan Aragon’s Surge vs Chocolate Milk for a little more background on those two products.

I personally use ATH Recovery anytime that I train.  I think that this is particularly important when you train more than once daily.  I’ve tried G3, chocolate milk and Recovery and liked Recovery enough that I purchased two 6lb containers of it.  It may be in my head but on the days that I train twice (lunch and again in the evening) I’m able to better maintain intensity in the second class now that I’ve started to use the supplement.  More info on this product can be found at their website, FacebookTwitter and Instagram.  You can also use this coupon code:  ATHFB for a discount on their products.

References:

  1. Bird SP, Tarpenning KM, Marino FE.  Independent and combined effects of liquid carbohydrates/essential amino acid ingestion on hormonal and muscular adaptions following resistance training in untrained men.  Eur J Appl Physiol.  2006 May;97(2):225-38
  2. Berardi JM, et al. Postexercise muscle glycogen recovery enhanced with a carbohydrate-protein supplement. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2006 Jun;38(6):1106-13.
  3. Tang JE, et al. Minimal whey protein with carbohydrate stimulates muscle protein synthesis following resistance exercise in trained young men. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2007 Dec;32(6):1132-8.
  4. Jentjens R, Jeukendrup A.  Determinants of Post-Exercise Glycogen Synthesis During Short-Term Recovery.  Sports Med. 2003;33:117-44
  5. Zawadzki KM, Yaspelkis BB 3rd, et al.  Carbohydrate-Protein Complex Increases the Rate of Muscle Glycogen Storage after Exercise.  J Appl Physiol. 1992 May;72(5):1854-9
  6. Campbell NA, Williams Brad, et al.  Biology: Exploring Life. Boston: Pearson Prentice Hall. ISBN0-13-250882-6
  7. Aragon Alan.  An Objective Comparison of Chocolate Milk and Surge.  Bodyrecomposition.com 2009
  8. McDonald Lyle.  Muscle Growth and Post-Workout Nutrition.  Bodyrecomposition.com 2
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Matthew Corley

I'm a 37 year old husband and father to two girls.  I train under Ezra Lenon (black belt under Kiko France of American Top Team) in St Louis MO.  I drag my two little girls with me to the gym every chance that I get and usually end up training 5 days a week.  I'm a huge gear junkie, spend entirely too much time watching BJJ videos and am fascinated with the cerebral side of our sport.  When I'm not training or hanging with my family I work as a clinical pharmacist.

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Contact: matt(at)bjjlegends.com

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