Top 5 Supplements for Jiu Jitsu and MMA Athletes

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).

multi1#4. Multi-Vitamin

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.

#2. Caffeine

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.

#1. Creatine

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.


Quickie: I went out for a drink and immediately stopped

At first I thought this was a bit off topic, but it’s still related to health.  I don’t go out too much; I’m trying to run a friggin’ business here.  But a friend of mine was home for Easter and asked me if I wanted to go out for a beer.  I thought what the hell, I haven’t seen him in a long time.  We met up and had a Bud Light.  We finished and he asked if I wanted another one while walking up to the counter (thus pretty much assuming I’d say yes).

beerI don’t know what triggered me to do this, but I stopped, looked around at my surroundings and saw:

  • Red, bloated faces
  • Guts
  • Bags under eyes
  • Overall, a sluggish vibe

I said “Nah man I’m good.”  He had a bit of a surprised look on his face.  I’m not anti-drinking by any means, hence why I accepted the invite in the first place.  But let’s be real, this shit isn’t good for you.  The people I described above were not old men and women either.  Most were in their 20’s or 30’s.  I won’t be joining any straight edge forums but it’s safe to say the booze will be reserved for special occasions.

Cryotherapy Review – Blood Runs Cold

What is Cryotherapy?

In a full body cryotherapy session, the patient stands in a chamber that is filled with liquid nitrogen.  Temperatures dip to about -250 degrees Fahrenheit, thus the user is only in there for three minutes.  Since it is unsafe to breathe in liquid nitrogen, the user’s head sticks out of the chamber.  There is also a less common cryotheraphy method where you enter an entire room that is cold (which I have not done).


Why would anyone in their right mind do this?

The main benefit of cryotherapy is the reduction of inflammation and pain.  The exceptionally cold temperatures active certain reactions in the body like the release of norepinephrine, which not only reduce inflammation, but can also positively affect mood, energy, and cognitive function.  Soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo has a cryotherapy chamber in his home.

The attention grabber when the average person hears about cryotherapy is weight management or fat loss.  While I can see the theory behind this, in my opinion you would have to do it VERY frequently even to get the slightest effect.


My Experience

IMG_9034I attended Health Fusion Wellness in Freehold NJ after a friend turned me on to a promotion they had for two sessions.  The first time they put me on ‘level one’ which is -250 degrees Fahrenheit, and the second time they put me on ‘level two’ which is -270 degrees Fahrenheit.  Honestly, it’s not bad.  In fact, I actually enjoyed the feeling in a way.  Some people report shivering or extreme discomfort, but I believe that is a mental thing.  The nature of the chamber can make some feel claustrophobic, and hearing numbers like -250 degrees will definitely get in your head.  Putting yourself in an uncomfortable situation will make you a better person, and that is a benefit of cryotherapy that is never mentioned.

After the first session I’m honestly not sure if I noticed any physical or mental changes.  But, the second time I did feel more energized and ‘loose’ overall.  This could be because the session was more intense, or because it was my second time doing it in four days and there may be a cumulative effect.  It’s hard to quantify these sort of things, but I think it is safe to say that I don’t feel as tight or stiff in my back.  The interesting thing is that there is somewhat of a delay in the positive effects.  It wasn’t until I got home and started working that I started feeling better from an energy perspective.  I’m currently on a low carb diet so I’ll take all the help I can get!

Overall this stuff can get pricey but I can see myself going ‘as needed.’  I don’t have any acute injuries but working out obviously will wear on you after awhile.  It’s nice to have a different recovery mechanism other than diet, supplements, or massage therapy.

Sean Felenczak, CSCS