Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competition can be anxiety-inducing for many reasons, but one of the hardest aspects is showing up prepared, healthy, and on weight. There are many different strategies competitors use to weigh in on time and on weight but are these strategies healthy for you? Most of them are not.
One major aspect of BJJ competition is the weight divisions that each rank is divided into. When you sign up to compete one of the first forms you have to fill out is your weight division. How do you choose? Do you go with what you weigh right now? Do you anticipate gaining or losing enough weight for the next weight bracket? Do you have enough time to prepare? Do you have to weigh in right before your matches or do you get to weigh in a day before? These are all questions any competitor has had run through their mind.
The advice I would give to beginners that haven't tested themselves in competition yet is to sign up for your natural weight that you walk around at. The anxieties of competition come from many sources and you don't need to add in managing your weight. The exception to that advice would be if you are one or two pounds above the nearest bracket and have enough time to lose a couple of pounds. Most likely your first competition will be at white belt or sometimes blue belt and you probably aren't signing up for a worldwide competition. You will be learning a lot already. You can add weight management to your next competition!
When you gain confidence in your competition performance is when you should start targeting specific weight brackets. Most likely you'll lose weight to get to the top of the weight bracket. Depending on your starting weight this can be anywhere from 5 - 20 pounds to chisel off before competition.
A common strategy for cutting weight is to sweat it all out and dehydrate yourself until you can weigh in, then gain all of your water weight back. People will go through great lengths to lose water weight, rehydrate, and weigh 10 or more pounds than their opponents. Another way to drop weight quickly is to fast before the competition. They typically do this within a few days of competition. These strategies are not only unhealthy, but saps the competitor of some of the energy they normally would have while training. The competitor is also more prone to injury in this weakened state. These strategies are also extremely mentally exhausting! There is a better way.
The best way I have found to make weight is to start managing your weight with your diet. You'll want to start dieting at least one month if not two months or more in advance. If you are a competitive BJJ practitioner, chances are high that you train regularly and don't have much extra time to add other workouts in. This is why you should take a look at your diet.
There are a few main tips I have for your diet. Firstly, you should make sure you are in a caloric deficit, which means you eat less than you burn. Most of the time I do this by eating smaller portions for my meals.
Second, you should cut out the junk food. Maybe once a week you can reward yourself with a little snack, but otherwise you should stay disciplined and eat clean!
Lastly, you should have a balanced diet. Eat clean proteins, fruits, veggies, and some complex carbs. Try to avoid fried food, greasy meals, heaps of pasta, or sweets which will bog you down. Eating clean not only helps you with your caloric intake, but your body will digest your food better and make you feel better and perform better as a result. How do you feel training after cheeseburgers and ice cream vs after an acai bowl and smoothie?
To hold yourself accountable while you are dieting you should weigh yourself on a daily basis. Pick a time of day you will weigh yourself everyday. For me, it's after I wake up, use the restroom, and brush my teeth. Then I know it's time to check my weight. I use this time because it's closest to when I would weigh in for a competition. This daily routine accomplishes two things; it lets me track my weight and it holds me accountable for the food I'm eating. The scale will not lie to you and when you start to establish a pattern you will understand how your food directly affects your weight. This accountability is built directly into the Gentle Art Lifestyle competition prep course for all participants!
If you give yourself ample time and stay disciplined with your diet, you should be able to find yourself healthy and at the top of your weight bracket. These two advantages can be the difference between a silver medal and a gold medal. Then you'll have earned a feast fit for a champion! ~Written by: Nick Lee Avid competitor, BJJ Coach, MyOdisee habit coach