BJJ Injury Prevention and Body Optimization 101
Congrats, you’re now an active participant in a combat sport. While the goal of Jiu-Jitsu is not to injure your opponent, it is absolutely to put your opponent in pain. And let's face it - when two people are actively trying to turn each other into pretzels, shit sometimes happens. While injuries happen in every sport from football to golf to tennis, it’s a lot easier to get injured escaping an armbar than it is to pull a muscle hitting a volleyball.
So what are you going to do? Quit because BJJ carries with it the risk of injury? Hell no. As the saying goes, failing to plan is planning to fail. This is especially true when it comes to avoiding injury in BJJ. In order to stay a healthy, happy, killing machine you need to make a simple but actionable plan which encompasses the primary aspects of physical health.
We’ve crafted the most in depth and easy to follow injury prevention and physical optimization plan which you can use to ensure that you are utilizing the most effective scientifically proven injury prevention and physical enhancement tactics. That’s right - the easy to follow instructions we will outline in this article will actually increase your physical well being while dramatically reducing the risk of injury.
#1. EATING RIGHT KEEPS YOU INJURY FREE
You are what you eat and if you eat crap, you become crap. It’s truly that simple. Every cell in the human body (minus brain neurons) are replaced every 7-10 years. This means that the nutrients or garbage you have been filling yourself with over the past decade literally makes up the fiber of your being. When you eat a donut your digestive system breaks that donut down and the “nutrients” are spread throughout your muscles, joint tissue, bones and even your brain. Eating junk food destroys your body's ability to regenerate damaged cells and degrades healthy tissue, which dramatically increases your chances of injury, obesity and chronic health problems.
“What is junk food? Essentially any food that is highly processed, high in calories and low in nutrients. Junk food is also usually high in added sugars, salt and saturated or trans fats. Some evidence points to junk food as being as addictive as alcohol and drugs.” Says Christy Brissette, one of America’s leading nutritional experts. “Just one serving of junk food can increase inflammation throughout your body.”
Inflammation is the bodies response to injury and as well as it’s response to the whopper you just ate. Inflammation increases the odds of injury while also reducing the time it takes you to heal from a given injury. Putting processed foods in your body make you soft. Straight up. Processed foods, sugars and carbohydrates are stored as disgusting FAT in your body. Very little of a Domino's Pizza actually goes towards muscle regeneration, in fact, over 90% of those calories are converted into fat cells.
The more fat you have packed onto your frame, the easier it will be to find yourself injured. That extra weight puts added pressure on your joints and a doughy physique is a more pliable play thing for your opponent. Muscle is denser than fat, which means it takes up less space than fat and is much harder to bend for that goon attempting to neck crank you. Muscle takes up approximately four-fifths as much space as fat and essentially acts as body armor while fat functions more as a suit a poisonous blubber.
Keeping crap out of your system is essential to muscle growth, decreased inflammation and healthy, hard to break joints. Here is a summary of what NOT to eat or drink.
Soda, juices, most smoothies - THESE NO LONGER EXIST TO YOU. Liquid sugar is the worst garbage you can put in your body. And yes, even most smoothies and juices have enough sugar in them to do a ski-jump off of. Liquid sugar is not identified by your brain as food, and therefore, does very little to curb your appetite. These sugars provide zero nutritional value and are converted into fat upon digestion. Next time you buy an orange juice, smoothie or soda, look and see how many grams of sugar are inside. You’ll likely notice there are over 20 grams of sugar! If you’ve ever seen 20 grams of marijuana, you know 20 grams of something is a hefty amount.
White bread, pizza, buns - DON’T EXIST IN YOUR WORLD!!!. Packaged and pre-sliced white bread, pizza and almost all buns are made of highly-processed, simple carbohydrates. These are digested quickly without providing many nutrients or benefits to the body. They mostly just turn into fat and increase inflammation. Now I know you’re thinking “But don’t I need carbs?” Yes! But not from bread. We’ll go over where to get ROCKET FUEL carbs that will have you running through brick walls shortly.
Candy, ice cream, sweets - EXTINCT! Not that we really need to go into why you might as well drink battery acid instead of eating “foods” such as these, but! For the sake of science we shall. Sweets are generally made with refined sugar, refined wheat flour, and added fats. Shortening, which may be high in unhealthy trans fats, is sometimes added. These treats might be tasty, but you don’t give a shit about that!!! You’re a SAVAGE who lives to kill things with your bare hands and DESPISES putting things in your mouth that make you soft. Candies, ice cream and sweets have basically no essential nutrients, copious calories, and many preservatives. They’re dead to you.
All of the food categories identified above are your mortal enemy. They literally want to kill you and will do everything in their power to make you weak and breakable. Screw those foods, they no longer have any power over you. Avoiding putting the aforementioned things inside of your face is key to keeping your body injury free. Just as a building made of jelly donuts would absolutely collapse, the same goes for your body.
WHAT TO EAT IN ORDER TO STAY INJURY FREE:
Eggs, chicken, steak, nuts - Sorry vegans. The best sources of protein tend to come from animals in some way and protein is an essential element in injury prevention and recovery. After a BJJ injury, the injured body part is often immobilized or at least heavily compromised. This inevitably leads to a decline in muscle mass. Pumping your body full of protein can help minimize atrophy and a high-protein diet may help prevent inflammation from getting too bad and slowing down your recovery. Most importantly though, protein increases muscle mass and muscle provides a protective coating around those sensitive joints your training partners are always trying so hard to bend.
Broccoli, kale, peppers, oranges (not orange juice), lemons, sweet potato, strawberries - All of these foods are rich in Vitamin C. Vitamin C promotes the creation of collagen, which helps strengthen and maintain the integrity of your bones, muscles, skin and joints. Having a daily dose of vitamin C in your diet is an essential way to help your body rebuild damaged tissue after an injury as well as strengthen healthy tissue to avoid new injuries. Vitamin C has robust antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which radically speed up recovery by averting dangerous levels of inflammation. Vitamin C is one of the easiest vitamins to get enough through your diet, so you have no excuse to stay healthy. Foods with the highest concentrations of it include citrus fruits, red and yellow bell peppers, dark leafy greens, kiwi, broccoli, berries, tomatoes, mango and papaya. That vitamin C supplement your taking does not have anywhere near the benefit consuming whole foods with naturally occurring vitamin C does. It's not even clear that supplements provide any benefits for those already getting enough vitamin C from their diet.
Fish, algae, walnuts, flaxseeds and chia seeds - After any injury, healing always begins with reducing your body's inflammatory response. This reaction is initially needed for proper healing. However, if inflammation remains too high for too long, it may slow down your recovery. One way to prevent over-inflammation from delaying your recovery is to eat high amounts of omega-3 fats. These fats, which are found in foods such as fish, algae, walnuts, flaxseeds and chia seeds have scientifically proven anti-inflammatory properties. You can also prevent excess or prolonged inflammation by limiting omega-6 fats, which are found in corn, canola, cottonseed, soy and sunflower oils. Consuming too many omega-6 fats is known to promote inflammation, especially if your intake of omega-3 fats is also low. Some studies report that omega-3 supplements may help increase the creation of muscle protein, reduce the loss of muscle during immobilization and hasten recovery from concussions. That said, high intakes of omega-3 fats from supplements may reduce your body's ability to regain muscle mass once you return to training. Therefore, it may be best to increase your omega-3 intake from foods rather than supplements.
#2. KEEP TRACK OF INJURIES / TENDER AREAS
Seriously. As novel an idea as this is, remembering how it is you where injured, recording the injury and then determining a path to recovery is vital in healing quickly. How many times have you tweaked an elbow, ankle or what have you in class, thought it was no big deal and then woke the next morning thriving in pain?
As soon as you feel a minor tweak in an area of your body in class, take a mental note and then write it down as soon as you get home. This will help you (and your doctor if needed) determine what specifically what is injured. Do you have a routine case of tennis elbow, lateral epicondylitis from overuse or did that armbar you narrowly escaped from leave you with a bruised tendon? It’s easiest to determine this by taking note when it happens.
PLAN FOR RECOVERY
Taking excessive time away from training because of an injury sucks. There is no silver lining, it just sucks. But sometimes you find yourself in the unfortunate spot of necessitating time off for the sake of physical well-being. The key to making your time off suck slightly less is simply planning for recovery and following through with this plan every single day.
Sign up for a physical therapy and let a professional help you assist you with an actionable gameplan. Taking this simple step will ultimately save you time by helping you recover much more quickly than you could on your own. Almost all professional athletes use physical therapists when they have even minor injuries. A physical therapist’s job is to optimize your recovery and help you craft the fastest path to being fully able again.
The best way you can help your physical therapist or doctor is to have a clear understanding of how you where inured. The vague “I hurt my back” or “My shoulder feels off” makes the job of the medical professional harder and ultimately waists your time by necessitating extra detective work in order to figure out what’s actually going on.
If you can walk into your doctors office and say “My knee had pressure on the outside, I heard a pop woke the next day in severe pain”, your doctor will be able to quickly determine that you likely have an injured MCL. By simply documenting damage when it happens, you’ll be in a much better position to recover from said damage. Jiu-Jitsu Planner has a great section dedicated to documenting health, but you can even buy a $5.00 notebook at Walmart if you so choose. Just document the ebbs and flows of your body and you’ll find yourself consistently healthier.
#3. SUPPLEMENTS MAKE YOU POWERFUL
We live in a time of unprecedented scientific progress and medical understanding of the processes that make your body tick. So why don’t you help your body tick right along with the many over-the-counter supplements that will help you train harder, run faster, feel better and even think more efficiently.
Grapplers and athletes in general tend to use supplements as meal replacements as opposed to meal supplements which is the use they are intended for, hence the name supplement. Your body needs a healthy mix of the essential nutrients that only come from solid food in conjunction with the added benefit that a daily supplement regimen can provide you. Providing the right blend of daily supplements can take you from a mere mortal to that of a vengeful god who can SMASH anyone unfortunate enough to cross your path. Did we mention the Jiu-Jitsu Planner has a section dedicated to tracking your supplement intake as well as the effects?
Below you will find the BEST supplements any BJJ athlete can put in their body on a regular basis. We have no relationship whatsoever with any of the companies or products mentioned and speak purely from objective experience and expert testimony.
JOCKO JOINT WARFARE - Named after Jocko Willink, the badass Navy Seal, BJJ black belt, podcast host and entrepreneur you’ve absolutely already heard of, Jocko Joint Warfare sits on the cutting edge of joint optimization. Originally designed for athletes recovering from joint injuries to help relieve pain and accelerate healing, joint warfare is manufactured in the USA by Origin Labs and has become the obvious choice for Jiu-Jitsu aficionados and pros alike. Active Ingredients such as Methylsulfonylmethane, Curcumin extract, Turmeric and Boswellia Serrata have been scientifically proven to decrease inflammation, accelerate the healing of tissue, improve cell permeability and even help stave off rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis.
ONNIT GRASS FED WHEY ISOLATE PROTEIN - Protein is the cornerstone of your body. Protein fuels your muscles, bones, cartilage, skin, and blood. In conjunction with fat and carbohydrates, protein is a macronutrient, meaning that your body needs LOTS of it. That being said not all protein is created equal. Based in Austin, TX, Onnit Labs has established itself as one of the world’s premier manufacturers of supplements (hint, hint you’ll be seeing more of their stuff in this article). Onnit Grass Fed Whey is made of the purest form of protein isolate on the market. Unlike whey concentrate, commonly found in stores, whey isolate has had the fat and carbs from its milk source removed unadulterated protein to help you efficiently build muscle and improve your body composition with zero excess calories or sugar. Onnit Grass Fed Whey not only contains all the needed amino acids that the body uses to build muscle, it’s abundant in leucine—a branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) that promotes muscle protein synthesis. Whey isolate has even more leucine per gram than eggs, milk, or soy protein.
JOCKO SUPER KRILL - There’s no such thing as too much Jocko in your life. Also manufactured right here in the USA by Origin Maine, Jocko Super Krill provides the most potent krill oil available.
There have been literally droves of studies published studies that proclaim the benefits of fish oil, improved mental function, greater joint health, better cardio, decreased inflammation, and so on. Most experts will in fact tell you that if fish oil is the most important supplement you can add to your regimen. Now meet krill oil. It’s essentially fish oil on steroids, minus the steroids. Jocko Super Krill is 5x more potent than fish oil and best of all, it won’t make your breath smell fishy.
The above mentioned supplements are, simply put, the best and purest available. If taken daily they will make you look and feel better while giving you the ability to train harder. We have no reason to lie. If you buy them, we make no money. The only benefit we’ll see is another BJJ athlete healthy enough to train another calendar year and buy another Jiu-Jitsu Planner.
There you have it folks. While there are innumerable measures you can take to stay healthy and injury free in addition to what we have discussed, such as hot yoga, the tips provided in this excessively long article are proven to optimize health and minimize your risk of injury. Happy rolling ninjas.