Why Am I So Exhausted After BJJ & What To Do About It

Why Am I So Exhausted After BJJ & What To Do About It

So you always feel wiped out after Jiu Jitsu? Always sore the next day barely able to perform? In this article we will analyze some of the factors that cause you to be wiped out after Jiu Jitsu (both during, between and after the rounds).

Let us start with why you tire out during the rounds:

Physical conditioning.

Although it is not the most important, we will start with this one to help build a point for the later factors. Physical conditioning is obviously an important factor when sparring and a  few points have to be taken into account. First of all, Jiu Jitsu is a much harder sport to prepare physically for. That is because it is a sport that uses all the available energy systems (aerobic, anaerobic lactic and alactic) in different proportions all the time, depending on your opponent, depending on your used techniques, etc. Considering a basic 5 minute round, it usually is aerobic for the most part but with short bursts of power. So what can we conclude from this? First of all, pace yourself. It doesn’t matter what your leveling of conditioning is, if you go all out intensity-wise for 5 minutes, you will gas out (there are very few elite competitors who can keep this intensity for 5 minutes).  Pace yourself, only use bursts of power when you need to (eg a takedown, sweep, etc). The second point to take away is that you should find time to better your physical conditioning. Increasing your strength means you will use less energy to move the same weight as before. Increase your power – endurance so that you can repeat explosive efforts for longer period of times. Increase your aerobic capacity so that you can keep a higher pace overall. These all help and will add up to improving your overall sparring quality.

Figure 1. Andre Galvao, one of the most physically conditioned athletes in Jiu Jitsu.

Technical inefficiency.

Another element that will cause you to tire out is performing your techniques inefficiently. What does that mean? Well, the more you perform a move, the more your body learns that move and performs it with less energy expended. This is especially important for transitions. If you just learned a transition, although you may be able to perform it fast, doing so will certainly consume more energy out of you than someone who drilled that move 100 times.

Using strength and power to cover up for technique.

You remember that time where you got the Kimura grip and you just pulled and pried away on the arm with all your strength to break the grip? That is one example of situation where you use your physical attributes to overcome the lack of technical knowledge. Although you may pull it off, it usually comes at a much higher energy expense than if you would know how to break the grip from a technical point of view. Think armbar spider web position as well, it’s the same situation. But this doesn’t only happen with submissions. It happens with sweeps too and pretty much every available technique. Whenever you try to muscle your way through, it will mean wasted energy, that will eventually contribute to you gasing out and being tired.

Now that we’ve got that covered, when we’re talking about recovering between rounds it actually is pretty simple. First of all, it matters how much effort you spent in the last round (which ties with the previously presented points). Second, it’s obviously the rest time you’re usually given. At most gyms it’s usually 1 minute between rounds. Third of all, your aerobic system is the one that affects your recovery between rounds the most. The better your aerobic system is developed, the faster your heartrate will go down and your muscles will recover.

If we’re talking about recovering after the workout in order to not feel wiped out, there are multiple points here as well to consider.

Post workout nutrition. A very important factor in recovering from your workouts is the post workout nutrition (as well as your nutrition overall). A lot of people only eat protein after training. Eating only protein after a workout will make the body use that protein for fuel instead of repairing muscle tissues. It’s usually a good idea to add carbs as well in your post workout meal, as they will replenish your glycogen stores in the muscle and keep protein from being used as fuel. When it comes to supplementing, a vitamin & mineral supplement along with some creatine will definitely speed up recovery. Be careful however as creatine will result in water retention and that will increase your body weight (it’s good for your health but bad if you want to stay in the same weight class for competing).

Sleep. A huge aspect in recovery is obviously sleep as it helps recover both your central nervous system and your muscles, not to mention the importance it has for optimal hormonal balance. Look to get an 8 hour sleep per night (uninterrupted if possible). If for some reason you are going through a period in your life where your sleep time is severely limited by other responsabilities, look to dial down training volume, a subject we will talk about next.

Training volume and intensity. These are 2 variables that can be manipulated easily and will make a very big difference in your recovery. First of all look at your training volume. How often do you train grappling each week? How intense? How many sparring rounds or time you spend sparring? How many strength sessions you do? How many cardio sessions you do? How intense are these? If you are feeling underrecovered, dial down on the sessions that are the most intense, at least for a while. Usually while strength is good for you, strength training is  really taxing as well if you’re not on point with your nutrition and sleep. If you’re doing 3 sessions per week, cut down to one or two for a while for example. If you feel like you’re sparring too much, dial down on the sparring and add some drills. Cardio (eg light running) is usually easier on the body, however if you go the circuit route, be careful as those are taxing as well. Generally, you’ll want to cut from the strength and conditioning side, rather than Jiu Jitsu. The basic norm is that doing Jiu Jitsu will get you better at Jiu Jitsu faster than anything else, although conditioning is important as well.

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