Recovery is an often overlooked part of BJJ training. But, being a good athlete requires you to be good at recovering too. After all, if you’re good at recovery, you can train harder and more frequently, and thus become much better at BJJ.
So let’s jump into how you can best recover from BJJ training.
low hanging recovery fruit
The most important recovery methods are actually very simple and hopefully you’re using them already.
If you’re slacking on any of these points, correct that first. That’ll give you the biggest impact on your recovery for the least amount of effort.
Water is important for recovery because it helps to flush out lactic acid and other waste products produced during training. Therefore, you need to replace all the water you’re losing through sweat during training. And keep in mind that in BJJ you sweat much more than in other sports, because during training you’re also wearing a jacket and cuddling other sweaty people and the floor.
One great hydration tip is to drink extra water before training, because during training you often can’t keep up with all the water you’re losing.
Sleep is the most important recovery tool you have. During your sleep your body repairs most of the damage that you’ve done to it during training. Also keep in mind that most people need to sleep more on a training day then they do on a resting day. For myself, I feel I need to sleep 8 hours on resting days and 9 on a heavy training day.
For optimal recovery you need to pay some extra attention to what you eat after training – I’ll elaborate on post nutrition later in this article. But, if you’re generally eating healthy foods (non-processed whole foods, not too much) you’re already doing 80% right. And there’s no point in taking post training protein shakes if the majority of your diet consists of fast foods.
Your body adapts to your training schedule, so if you start to train more your body becomes better at recovering from trainings to keep up with your new schedule. So keep in mind that recovery is usually hard when you missed a few classes and then jump back in, of when you start to do BJJ more often. Give your body the time to adapt to your training schedule and try to keep your schedule consistent.
optimizing recovery from bjj training
post training nutrition
Like I said, an overall healthy diet is much more important than optimizing what you eat directly after training. However, there are a few things to be done here.
First off, the often cited 30 minutes anabolic window doesn’t really exist. But, it’s probably good to have a meal within 2-3 hours after training. And it’s a good idea to pack some extra protein in this meal.
Generally speaking, you don’t really need a protein shake after BJJ training – you can get all the nutrients you need from a healthy meal. However, protein shakes can be a very convenient way to get your nutrients, especially if you train kind of late at night. And you don’t need to go fancy with your shake either – a lot of people I know actually just drink chocolate milk, which contains roughly the same amounts of carbs and protein as many post workout shakes.
Personally, I try to avoid protein shakes and the like, and just eat enough whole foods instead. That way I also get the vitamins and minerals that are packed in real food. The only times I make an exception is when I train twice a day and I feel it’s hard to eat enough, and when I train late at night due to convenience.
Active recovery is light activity that increases blood flow to your muscles and tendons. This helps to deliver nutrients to them while removing waste products, which speeds up recovery.
Anything from walking, biking, swimming to light jogging is a form of active recovery. As long as you get your blood pumping without actually becoming tired. Probably my favorite form of active recovery for BJJ is a light yoga session, because it also improves my mobility and flexibility so it helps out my BJJ game.
salt and other minerals
Since you sweat so much during BJJ training, you lose a lot of salt. This salt needs to be replaced for your body to function optimally.
However, if you’re like 99.99% of people, you’re eating salt a little bit too much anyway. So you probably don’t need to take action to replenish your salt levels. However, if you normally take great care to avoid salt in your daily diet, you should ease up on your restrictions on heavy training days.
other recovery methods
Other popular recovery methods such as sauna, ice baths, cryotherapy, compression and hydrotherapy also lack scientific backing. They all sure can feel nice, which is reason enough to do it, but they probably don’t significantly improve your recovery.
Scientific research on the effects of foam rolling on recovery is quite sparse. This 2015 meta-analysis only includes 2 studies on the topic. Both of them indicate that foam rolling decreased muscle soreness after training, which is promising. However, since these 2 studies were both very small, their results can easily be coincidental.
Furthermore, in scientific literature, absence of evidence is often evidence of absence. To see this you have to put three facts together.
The first is that foam rollers are very popular which makes them an interesting topic to study.
The second is that it’s relatively easy to study the effectiveness of foam rollers. All you have to do is let people try out foam rollers and see if they perform better than a control group on your measure of choice.
The third is that scientific experiments with negative results almost never get published. This publication bias towards positive results is widespread in science and well documented.
Given that foam rolling is an interesting and easy to study subject, my guess is that there have been many studies towards them. But, I think we never got to read these papers because they didn’t show any positive results and therefore were never published. Therefore, I think foam rollers probably aren’t a very effective tool to improve your recovery from BJJ training.
CBD is hyped up right now like it’s the next tumeric or ‘Superfood’. I know there’s some promising research that CBD might help with recovery, but it’s very sparse still. I’m going to wait this one out and if the hype persists for another two years I’ll jump on board. (Of course the alternative is to just try it out for myself now, but with personal experiments I’m never sure if I’m Placebo-ing myself or not, so I end up learning nothing…)
best bjj recovery advice
So 80% of recovery consists of a generally healthy lifestyle with a lot of sleep and good diet.
And another 15% consists of post exercise nutrition to replenish water, salt and protein.
I think there’s another 5% that’s specific to BJJ that I didn’t talk about yet, which is recovering from small injuries and general pain from people laying on you. I’ll cover that in a future article – stay tuned!