For years, nutritional supplements were thought to be only applicable in the muscle building world. However, athletes who participate in various sports are starting to realize that supplements can be beneficial for their needs as well. In the pre-Reebok UFC years, it was common to see companies like MusclePharm and BSN lining the shorts of various fighters. Despite this, there still seems to be a lack of knowledge in the martial arts community as to which supplements would serve them best. As a practitioner of jiu jitsu and someone who’s worked in the sports nutrition industry for years, I feel I am more than qualified to give the low down on what’s legit and what’s not worth the cost of admission.
#5. Branched Chain Amino Acids
BCAAs become vital in long duration exercise, around 90 minutes or so. Many mixed martial arts classes run upwards of two hours and professionals may train two or more times per day. The body uses different energy systems based on the intensity and duration of the exercise. Branched chain amino acids are not necessarily a preferred energy source, but they will eventually come into play and become depleted. There are three branched chain amino acids; Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine. Leucine in particular is vital for its role in protein synthesis. When shopping for a BCAA supplement, look for a product who’s ingredients are not part of a proprietary blend (i.e. the amount of each ingredient is explicitly laid out).
When grappling, we get up close and personal with our opponents. We’re sweating and bleeding all over each other, which doesn’t provide for the most sanitary environment. That in conjunction with the intense exercise is quite taxing to the immune system. I consider a multi-vitamin like an insurance policy. It obviously won’t shield you from every disease or illness, but it certainly will help. Stay away from the cheap stuff like Centrum, they’re cheap for a reason. Some of the better multi-vitamins on the market are Orange Triad by Controlled Labs, Anavite by Gaspari Nutrition, Animal Pak by Universal, and to a lesser degree Opti-Men by Optimum Nutrition.
#3. Beta Alanine
Beta Alanine is a specific amino acid that can be found in pill or powder form. You’ll often find it in pre-workout supplements. It is heavily researched and the results show that it is beneficial for muscular endurance and reducing muscle fatigue. Thus, Beta Alanine is proven to work. The reason it isn’t higher on the list is because the effects shown in research are relatively small. Still, it is a supplement that is nice to have. You should aim to get about three grams of Beta Alanine per day.
Caffeine is a stimulant that effects both mental and physical performance. Studies have shown improvements in both aerobic and anaerobic activity as a result of caffeine ingestion. You can find caffeine in pre-workout supplements, thermogenic supplements, energy drinks, and if you want to keep it simple, coffee. Everyone has difference tolerance levels for caffeine, so I won’t give a recommended amount. You want to find the right balance where your physical and mental arousal levels are optimal, not overly hyped. Jiu Jitsu is particularly interesting because while there is an obvious physical element, it is also important to stay calm and composed when placed in compromising situations. You don’t want to panic when someone mounts you just because you opted for the triple shot of espresso.
Creatine is probably the most researched supplement ever. There are tons of studies showing increases in strength and power as a result of creatine supplementation. Quite simply, it works. Some people report bloating as a result of creatine supplementation. In most cases, they weren’t adequately hydrated or were taking too much. 3-5 grams per day is all you need. Don’t be fooled by all the different types of creatine on the market, creatine monohydrate is all you need. Creatine monohydrate is dirt cheap; you can get several months worth for about 15 bucks.