I think you’d agree that staying hydrated is crucial for both BJJ training and an optimized lifestyle. The problem is that many martial artists and MMA fighters don’t know how to properly hydrate beyond just drinking water. After one of my Brazilian jiu-jitsu classes, I began to feel dizzy and light-headed. I decided to do some research to find the cause of my symptoms and what I learned was shocking. In this article, I’m going to share with you some uncommon yet effective ways to properly hydrate as well as debunk some popular myths around hydration.
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Dehydration and BJJ Performance
Being dehydrated has been shown to decrease optimal function in the cardiovascular, thermoregulatory, metabolic, and central nervous function. All of these systems are crucial for athletic performance. A lack of hydration can also cause brain fog, confusion, lowered reaction time, dizziness and fatigue. This can be extremely dangerous when you are training or competing in combat sports such as MMA or BJJ.
Maintaining healthy levels of hydration can help you gain optimal performance. Avoiding dehydrating substances and including more hydrating techniques can help you prevent a lowered level of performance.
Symptoms of Dehydration
Knowing the symptoms of dehydration can be a helpful way to ensure you are hydrated regularly. If you are feeling any of these symptoms while training or working on other life aspects, it may be a good idea to take a break and hydrate. (1)
Moderate and Mild Symptoms of Dehydration Include:
- Muscle cramps
- Dark urine
- Dry Skin
Signs of Severe Dehydration Include:
- Sunken eyes
- Rapid breathing
- Increased heart rate
Hydration Myths Debunked
After increasing my training output and having frequent sauna sessions, I noticed some symptoms of dehydration. I realized that I would need to optimize my hydration levels if I wanted to continue with my active lifestyle. After doing some research, I became concerned with how much false information was in the mainstream. Here are some of the most common hydration myths that have been debunked by science.
Myth #1: Drink 8 glasses of water a day. Each individual has different needs for hydration because of different lifestyles. The general guidance of 8 glasses of water a day can be a great way to remind yourself to drink more water but this number will vary due to different training intensity.
Myth #2: You can’t drink too much water. Drinking too much water can be harmful. It can cause symptomatic hyponatremia, a condition where sodium levels in the blood are dangerously low.
Myth #3: Quickly drinking pure water is the best way to hydrate. This common hydration tip can help athletes hydrate, but it forgets the importance of frequent sipping rather than chugging big gulps of H2O (water). If you drink too fast, you risk the chance of causing your kidneys to excrete the water as urine before your body can use it to hydrate. This hydration tip/myth also neglects the need for essential electrolytes.
Myth #4: You are only hydrated when your urine is clear. As long as your urine isn’t dark and smelly, you are hydrated. If it is yellow like lemonade, you are hydrated. Clear urine means you are full and this can cause a quicker release of important electrolytes.
What Are Electrolytes?
Electrolytes can be defined as a substance that creates an electrically conducting solution when fused with a solvent, such as water. Some examples of naturally occurring electrolytes are sodium, chloride, potassium, calcium, phosphate, and magnesium.
An electrolyte imbalance can be caused by sweating which is common in active athletes and martial arts practitioners. Training in a BJJ gi, for example, can cause a tremendous amount of sweat to be excreted causing a dramatic loss of electrolytes. This can be a cause of the symptoms of dehydration mentioned above.
Numerous beverages have been becoming more popular for consumers. However, you should be aware of some simple and natural alternatives before you make a decision that may negatively impact your longevity as an athlete.
Things That Hydrates You
Water is a great start for hydration but for a premium effect, you might want to try some of these proven strategies/beverages. Include these items into your daily routines to improve both your physical and cognitive performance through proper hydration. (2)
Sea Salt, Lemon Juice and Water In The Morning
Being dehydrated early in the day will harm your performance for the rest of the day. It’s best to get hydrated first thing in the morning. A simple and easy way to accomplish this would be creating a simple beverage of lemon and sea salt or Himalayan pink salt. The reason why this is important is that this combination of three simple ingredients can help you gain the electrolytes needed to function optimally.
Bone Broth For Hydration and Post BJJ Training Recovery
This ancient soup is filled with essential minerals and vitamins that help the body absorb water. It’s added ingredient of sea salt and lemon helps raise electrolyte levels. With the natural collagen found from the bones of this golden liquid, it’s a great way to both hydrate and potentially help in recovering your aching muscles and joints. This is why it's a great post-training recovery drink for combat sports athletes such as MMA fighters, BJJ practitioners, martial artists, wrestlers, boxers, etc.
Regularly drinking bone broth can help hard-working athletes recover faster from training thanks to its essential minerals and nutrients. Drinking bone broth as a Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner should not be ignored as it’s filled with vast amounts of research-proven performance and recovery benefits. (3)
Does Camel Milk Work For Hydration Before/After Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Training?
Camel milk can be a great way to hydrating during dry winter months to prevent skin from breaking during long and tough training sessions. Camel milk has been a staple in cultures living within the desert to stay hydrated for long periods without water. However, there isn't much solid evidence on the efficacy of camel milk for hydration, please proceed with caution and monitor your hydration levels before jumping on the camel's back.
Is Coconut Water Worth The Hype?
This tropical wonder has been used for its benefits for centuries. Its meat is delicious and the water within it is extremely hydrating. Coconut water has been popularized as a healthy alternative to many sugary sports drinks. When shopping for coconut water, I’d suggest looking for brands that carry only one ingredient rather than many preservatives. Coconut water can be a delicious drink that influences you to consume more liquids, however, there aren't any scientific studies to back the claim that it hydrates more than water alone. In fact, there has been a study disproving this theory. (4)
What Is Gel Water H302 (Structured Water)?
This new water type is a gelatin textured substance that is not liquid, vapor, or ice. It can also be commonly called structured or living water. Gel water includes an extra hydrogen and oxygen atom. The idea is that not all water is equal in terms of its ability to hydrate an athlete. Gilbert Ling, (cell physiologist, biochemist, and scientific investigator) explains that water is a part of each cell).
The water quality within the cells is pivotal to the overall function of the cells and in turn your organ functions. Many standard filtrations, storage, and processing standards can destructure the water removing many of its beneficial properties. Ben Greenfield has an excellent podcast on this subject and you can listen to learn more about why you might want to include structured water into your hydration and training routine.
Chia and Water, Be Aware of Lectins!
A great example of a gelatinous beverage that is also hydrating is chia seeds soaked in water. The soaking process helps to eliminate naturally occurring lectins within the seeds to allow for better digestion. This Iskiate recipe can be a great way to include chia seeds and all of its hydrating benefits into the one simple beverage.
Adding fruit to water has been popularized and for good reason. This simple trick can be a fun way for you to include electrolytes and vitamins into your beverage. There are plenty of recipes that you can incorporate into your water to create a refreshing experience while you hydrate. Here are 23 examples of fruit-infused recipes.
Is Overhydration A Problem?
Similar to experiencing deficits from overtraining, balance is important to all aspects of martial arts. This includes hydration. Too much or too little can hurt your overall experience. As explained earlier, being deficient in H2O can result in poor performance both mentally and physically. However, drinking too much water can result in frequent urination causing you to lose electrolytes before your body has the opportunity to absorb it.
Knowing how to hydrate properly is important and sipping water and the other liquids mentioned above throughout the day can be a great way to ensure that you aren’t drinking too much or too little.
Things That Dehydrates You
Now that you know what to include in your lifestyle to prevent dehydration, it is also important to know some of the most common dehydrating factors. Some of these include:
- Some Supplements
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Low Carb-Diets
- Prescription Medications
Hydration and The Fascia Connection
The fascia tissue is essential for MMA fighters and BJJ athletes because it is essentially the tissue and ‘glue’ that holds our muscles, organs, ligaments, tendons, and joints together. This connective tissue requires proper nutrition for optimized function. Allow with providing enough water to this system, here are more ways you can support the fascia connection and prevent injuries.