Diet tips from a BJJ Instructor (who likes to eat)
Being overweight is a problem for many people. One of the most often-used excuses for delaying a start into Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is “I need to get into better shape before I begin training”. Not surprisingly, this is the same excuse used when a student quits training after an injury or extended hiatus (such as a year-long pandemic). While it seems obvious that you can get into shape by training, it might surprise you to also know there is more than one way to reach this goal – and it involves eating.
Food is a basic necessity, but it can also become a vice. The difference is in the details of the diet, or more specifically, what your diet consists of. This post is about what you can change in your diet to improve personal health, and achieve results even faster. The list below is an easy-to-remember guide for controlling weight, and improving energy… all with the ultimate goal of beginning (or returning to) BJJ training.
More than any other substance you regularly consume, sugar is the most addictive and destructive. It creates a taste that people crave, while at the same time providing a quick boost of energy. Setting aside the different types of sugars we consume, instead focus on the underlying problem: their boost is typically short-lived. People who regularly consume sugar will often repeat the process, since their body crashes after shortly after the initial energy boost. It’s a terrible cycle that for some people has become a daily routine.
Begin with replacement, not removal. If you’re addicted, and most people are, it is better to replace the kind of sugar you consume then to waste time on a failed attempt at cutting it out of your diet completely. Honey is a good alternative when baking or cooking, but most people consume their sugar in the products they eat and drink. This is where replacement begins: switching out sugar-laced beverages for flavored water drinks is a good start, but keep in mind that fruit juices are also especially high in sugar content. Find a healthy ‘sweet’ to replace sugar, such as Stevia, discussed below.
REPLACE HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP
Sugar is often paired with the additive High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), which can silence the body’s sensation of feeling full. Sweet drinks are a big culprit, as they often contain HFCS among the main ingredients. It is by design that many restaurants offer soft drinks loaded with sugar and High Fructose Corn Syrup along side a food menu that allows for up-sizing the meal. HFCS suppresses appetite regulation, and so people will often eat beyond the point they would normally feel full. Unwanted weight gain is one result, but HFCS is also linked to fatty liver disease and type-2 diabetes.
Just as with sugar, you will have a greater chance of success by switching out food and drink containing HFCS for an appealing alternative. Artificial sweeteners are one way to do this, but not without risk. Saccharine, for example, is extremely addictive. A safer alternative (and the only FDA approved natural sweetener) is made from the leaves of the Stevia plant, often sold with ‘Stevia’ in the product name or with a similar-sounding brand name such as Truvia.
Substituting sugar and avoiding High Fructose Corn Syrup may be one easiest paths towards reducing weight, and among the most effective ways to improve health and lower the risk for disease.
People snack for many reasons: hunger, routine, boredom, stress, anxiety. With the pressures of daily life comes a desire to escape it, and like many, snacks are a good distraction. We find comfort is replacing life’s bitter moments with something sweet and tasty, but without some restraint snacking will create another harsh reality. As with sugar, replacement is easier than restriction. If you must eat that cookie, choose oatmeal raisin over chocolate chip. If you want significant change, replace those cookies with fruits: sweet honey melon, cantaloupe, apple slices. Better yet, switch to a filling vegetable like carrots, celery, or snap peas – but avoid high-calorie dressing and dip.
If there is a ‘trick’ to having a good diet, it’s finding something that tastes good while also being healthy for you. There are lots of ways to turn a bland healthy food into a flavorful treat with a dash of cinnamon or splash of honey. Oatmeal with raisins and nutmeg is one of my favorites! Just don’t be afraid to experiment or think outside the box. These are things you will also learn to do in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and both are equally rewarding. If you need help with your diet, please send a message to Black Diamond Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu asking for advice. =Olin