Intermittent fasting (IF) is a practice that comes with benefits and risks. Benefits such as weight control, and lower inflammation. There are also risk factors and two of them are not eating enough calories and nutritional deficiencies. Seeing how (IF) can benefit you and considering the risks is key. There are different types of (IF) and I am going to discuss two of them here. The goal is to give you an idea of (IF) and hopefully, by the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of it.
Types Of Intermittent Fasting
The difference between the two types of intermittent fasting is the time you choose to do it and their refeeding windows. One way to do (IF) would be fasting for 16 hours between 7 p.m. and 11 a.m. After 11 a.m. you would try and eat all of your food for that day in an 8-hour window and discontinue eating at the 7 p.m. mark. This way would be ideal for someone who trains in the morning hours because you will be able to eat after BJJ training. The second option would be fasting from 10 p.m. to 6 p.m the following day. Once the clock hits 6 p.m. you will have a 4-hour window of opportunity to stuff your face with food. That may work for you if you can put down food that can fit into a small Fiat. Ori Hofmekler made this method popular with his book ‘’The Warrior Diet.’’ For those of you with busy schedules and night training sessions before 6 p.m., this may be ideal.
A great benefit of (IF) is that it lowers inflammation. This is crucial for grapplers since training is very physically demanding on the body. Controlling your inflammation will improve your recovery. Intermittent Fasting will help your body become more resilient to bad organisms that accumulate on a daily basis and when you break down tissue from training. It also allows your body to be more efficient at killing these organisms. Your body will literally repair itself if you give it the opportunity. A great approach for this would be to pick a day or days that you fast. Make sure on those days you are not training hard or better yet, do it on a rest day.
During fasting, you are naturally going to eat less food. This is especially true if you only give yourself a 4-hour window to eat all of your food for that day. A strategy like this works great if you need to lose weight before a competition. Adding fasted training to the equation will help you drop those extra pounds even quicker. This sounds easier than done because you will feel hungry, but once your body adapts you will become more efficient at burning extra energy in the form of fat. Although a great strategy, it should be used periodically. You should do it only when you need to lose weight before a competition. If you naturally have low body fat, I would not recommend (IF).
Not eating enough calories
There are some downfalls with (IF) for grappling athletes. Undereating is a big one. As a grappler, you already expend massive amounts of energy. Not eating enough will create weight fluctuations that will hinder your performance on the mats. One reason for this is because you need energy in the form of food to continue training at high intensity on daily basis. Weight fluctuations can also put you in a plateau and sometimes it takes a while before you can get out of it. Athletes that intermittent fast for too long experience rapid weight loss. Losing weight suddenly will have a negative impact on your strength and endurance. Fasting or not you still need to eat enough calories to maintain muscle mass and performance. Eating enough protein, carbohydrates, and fats play a major role in your body composition, performance, and overall health.
Quantity is important, but quality as well. As a BJJ athlete, your main focus should be eating for performance. Prioritize the 3 key macronutrients protein, carbs, and fats. You can eat many calories, but they may be coming from the wrong foods. Sometimes you can eat too much of a particular macronutrient and not enough of another. It is a tricky business already and now imagine adding (IF) to your routine. It is a recipe for creating a deficiency. Even if you are getting enough calories your cells may still be hungry. How do you fix that? By eating enough of the quality foods. Covering all of your bases such as protein, carbs, and fats are very important. Fasting is great, but it may not allow you to do that. Imagine if you only had 4-hour window to eat all of your calories for the day? Your body won’t be able to digest all of the food in one huge meal. Тhat leaves your tank on empty because you did not eat enough the previous day.
Intermittent Fasting has its place in the sport of grappling. However, before you decide to experiment with it do your research. Food is used by the body for energy so starving yourself and training in a fasted state could potentially cause sudden weight losses and a negative impact on performance. Using (IF) for weight cuts in a particular time frame could work. You may get fooled by the effect fasting has on your body at the beginning. Most likely your energy levels will be at the Super Saiyan level, but everyday training will take its toll on you. Reaching a plateau is not fun because it may take you time to recover from it. That could potentially mean time away from Jiu-jitsu.