Food is a big part of BJJ. Either having a healthy diet for energy to train or watching what you eat to make weight for a competition, what you eat is important. So it is pretty easy to be dragged into believing that the next big diet fad will fix everything for you. Whether it’s Atkins, Dukan, 5:2 or Gracie they all claim that they are the best diet for you. So how do you navigate the maze of diets and find out the best diet for the older bjj athlete?
I have written a number of previous articles on diet, with how the paleo diet worked for me and some great recommendations on food for older athletes from the Grappler Gourmet. There is so much in the media about diet, that it can be very confusing, This is what prompted me to do so much research on the subject. But when I see articles in the press about the Pegan Diet it can only make it even more confusing.
The problem with nutrition research is that most of it relies on large studies of populations and their dietary patterns. This is obtained mostly through dietary questionnaires or 24-hour dietary recall. These type of studies are further complicated because it is very hard to tease out the factors that matter. Many experimental studies on vegan or paleo diets, which should give more direct evidence of cause and effect often have only small numbers of people in the study, making it hard to draw firm conclusions. Even worse is that the diets they use for comparison (the control group) are not ideal alternative diets. So the quality of the science behind “the best diet” is flawed.
No one is arguing that diet is less than extremely important to health and well-being, but seemingly everyone is arguing as to what constitutes the best diet. Ultimately all the research and published papers instead of clearing things up, just contribute to the confusion. A lot of the impacts of diet will be unique to you as an individual. Just as unique as your training plan or your BJJ game. There is no one size fits all. When it comes to your diet you have to work out what is optimal for you. This is even more important as you age as you need as much support as possible.
You could think of it as drilling. All the hours you spend drilling to get just one technique honed in so it feels good for you. Put the same number of hours into honing your optimal diet. You will need to start off with a base line, so this is going to entail a really strict diet for 4 weeks. This will allow the negative impacts of your previous diet to work their way out of your body. I would suggest starting with the following diet for 4 weeks. Unless you know you are allergic to any of the suggested foods, then obviously avoid these.
You are only doing this for 4 weeks so it isn’t as bad as it may look. After this then look at introducing aspects of your old diet back. If you can’t live without pasta, try it and see how it makes you feel. If any of the food items you introduce make you feel bad, you really need to question should you be including it in your optimal diet. Or if it is something really bad but yummy (pizza!), consider only eating it when your body will have a chance to recover. Yes food can can impact you just as badly as a weekend of alcohol fuelled partying back when you were 21! I know I have felt it.
I am not in favour of any particular diet, vegan, paleo or whatever. I am in favour of a diet that optimises my body for training and reducing the impact of ageing. This means my diet won’t be the same as the diet that will work best for you. The content and the volume of the diet may be different, but the methodology of working it out will be roughly the same. As it is the same as any scientific experiment. It’s all about trial and error. Even if you are happy with what you are eating, a little experimentation could help you discover something new. Our tolerances and our bodies change as we get older, staying optimal should always be a goal for any Old Munki.