How Important is Protein Intake for Muscle Building in BJJ?

How Important is Protein Intake for Muscle Building in BJJ?

BJJ fighters are usually more physically active than your average person . They need energy and muscle strength to maximize their skills. Strong muscles, along with mental toughness, are needed to defeat the opponent. You can achieve strong muscles by having proper protein intake.

Therefore, fighters have to pay more attention to their diet in terms of protein consumption to build and maintain BJJ muscle mass. Before digging into the significance of protein in BJJ muscle building, it is important to know the basics about proteins.

1. What are proteins?

Proteins are complex molecules composed of smaller units called amino acids. Protein plays an important role in the human body, which is why it is necessary to include it in your daily diet.

Without protein, it is difficult for your body to function properly. Proteins produce enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters, and antibodies, plus they perform muscle repair and growth.

2. Why is protein important in BJJ muscle building?

BJJ fighters perform strenuous workouts during training. Every muscle in their bodies are involved during exertion. So they need strong muscles to stand a chance on the mat. Like every other martial art, BJJ fighters also sustain wounds and break their muscle fibers and tissues during training. Protein helps them to recover, rebuild, and boost their muscle mass and metabolism.

2.1. Protein helps in the repair and growth of muscle mass

Muscle fibers in the human body are made up of muscle proteins called tropomyosin and troponin. Muscle fibers grow well when worked and shrink when they are at rest. Fighters need proper protein intake for maintaining their muscle mass and muscle growth.

Protein intake with strength training in BJJ fighters promotes BJJ muscle building. Protein deficiency causes muscles and tissues to become damaged. Proteins are crucial for muscle repair and growth=. Due to the complexity of movements in jiu-jitsu training when doing aerobic and anaerobic exercises, different proteins in our body become broken down.

Moreover, BJJ complex exercises cause body joints and collagen to become flexible and proteins in the joints and collagen break down with time. So, it is vital to supply a fighter's body with adequate protein to cope with the deficit.

Furthermore, proteins are responsible for hormone production. These hormones trigger BJJ muscle growth by rapid protein synthesis and hinder protein breakdown.

2.2. Heals Skin and tissues after injury

Proteins are the building blocks of bones, muscles, cartilage, and skin. Proteins like fibrinogen are involved in blood clotting which prevent blood loss. Also, they prevent any infections attacking the body through open wounds. A sharp protein intake in BJJ fighters ensures speedy recovery of muscles after an injury.

2.3. Neurotransmitter

Proteins are not only restricted as muscle-building supplements as they can also help in neurotransmission. BJJ is a sport that requires agility and mental toughness and a high protein diet helps fighters to perform well on the mat.

Proteins make enzymes. Enzymes speed up the natural chemical processes in the body. Without enzymes, the chemical processes in the body like the transmission of nerve impulses will slow down and fighters cannot respond actively.

2.4. Helps you feel full longer

For BJJ athlete muscle building, a high protein diet is ideal as it keeps your tummy full. You develop strong muscles and have long-lasting energy without becoming overweight. A high protein diet replacing carbohydrates and fats is digested slowly.

That is why you feel fuller for longer and are not tempted by food as easily, curbing your hunger.

2.5. Boosts metabolism

Metabolism is the conversion of food into energy. In this process, the calories in the food are combined with oxygen, and energy is released. The number of calories used to digest the food is called the Thermic Effect of Food(TEF).

Proteins are complex molecules and have high TEF, which means more calories combined with oxygen to release more energy. That is why the metabolic rate is increased by 15-30% when consuming proteins.

3. How do proteins build muscles for BJJ?

Proteins are converted into smaller units called amino acids which help to form muscles. Along with natural amino acids, our body takes nine essential amino acids from external sources to build and maintain the muscles.

A diet with a variety of amino acids leads to muscle growth. Leucine is the amino acid that provides energy during exercise. Moreover, their presence signals a fighter's body to make muscle proteins.

As described earlier, muscle fibers grow well when exercised, but each exercise you complete in BJJ leaves little tears in your muscles. Amino acids like leucine help to fix and make new muscles. About 80% of your muscles are made from amino acids.

4. Is it possible to gain muscle and lose weight at the same time?

Proteins are indeed responsible for BJJ muscle building, but BJJ fighters lose weight at the same time. Our weight is controlled by the hypothalamus in the brain. Our brain signals when and how much to eat.

When BJJ fighters consume a high protein diet, then at that point, the hypothalamus triggers a development of satiety hormones(GLP-1,peptide,and cholecystokinin) and decreases the creation of ghrelin hormone(hunger chemical).Eventually, this makes fighters feel full and satisfied longer.

Extra calories in our body are deposited in the form of fat or adipose tissue. When a fighter increases protein intake, then these calories are used to break down protein molecules into amino acids (smaller molecules).Then, extra fat in a fighter's body starts melting and amino acids help with muscle fiber growth.

Surely, a high protein diet builds lean muscles. When your body has more lean muscles and less fat, then your body has a high metabolic rate. High metabolism helps in gaining more energy, maintaining weight loss by hindering muscle loss, and better quality sleep.

While getting fit, your body will be in a caloric shortage. A portion of the protein you consume is used by the body as fuel, as opposed to simply muscle mass for BJJ. Thus, your body will require more protein subsequently. In those situations, consider adding more protein than usual to your regular diet to encourage more bulk and fat loss.

Is it possible to gain muscle and lose weight at the same time?
Photo credit: @dreamstime

5. Protein intake for optimized performance and BJJ muscle-building

Many people believe that ''more is better'' is a myth when it comes to protein intake in BJJ muscle building. On the contrary, daily protein intake depends on age, gender, level of activity, body weight, and health. Mostly, the protein intake of an adult is measured by body weight. An average person requires just 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.

Due to BJJ involving strenuous activity, fighters require more protein than a normal person. They have to regain the protein they lost at least 45-60 minutes after a BJJ training session. Otherwise, there would be muscle loss and lack of muscle repair. But still, they require 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight to perform well. For instance, if a fighter weighs 60 kg then he will require 120 grams of daily protein intake to perform well on the mat.

5.1. What happens if you work out but don't eat enough protein?

When a fighter doesn't eat enough protein after BJJ strength training, then his/her body faces a deficit of essential amino acids. This deficit may result in health problems and hinders your performance.

Your body needs amino acids to grow muscles, so when you lack them, then you cannot repair your muscles. Moreover, you will feel tired and your body will start to ache. A low protein diet will produce less lean tissue, ultimately resulting in weight gain. Furthermore, protein deficiency causes low immunity, negative effects on the heart and respiratory systems, and muscle loss.

5.2. Does eating protein before and after the workout helps in muscle building?

Eating protein before training boosts protein synthesis and helps with muscle recovery during a workout. Although there is less time to digest all the protein you eat, 20 grams of protein is usually enough to achieve the goal. You can take any protein supplement, mostly whey protein, to boost your energy during a workout.

If the training lasts less than two hours, then no protein intake is required during the training. But if it lasts more than two hours, then 20-25 grams of protein per hour is enough to ensure better performance.

Moreover, after training, it is best to consume protein you lost within half an hour because protein synthesis is highest after the workout and is absorbed best in the body within half an hour. Any protein shake right after your workout will be beneficial. After a couple of hours, a completely balanced diet can be taken to deal with the protein deficiencies.

6. Sources of protein

There are 21 sets of essential amino acids which our body needs to perform bodily functions properly.12 of them are produced by our body and nine of them have to be imported from food sources. Based on the sources of protein, there are the following food categories:

  • Animal-based protein: These are high-quality proteins, including red meat(beef, mutton, and lamb), chicken, fish, seafood, and dairy products (milk, eggs, yogurt, and cheese).
  • Plant-based protein: These are incomplete proteins that usually lack some essential amino acids, including lentils, beans, tofu, and nuts.
  • Other food categories include soy products, quinoa, and seeds of leafy greens who also have all the essential amino acids.
  • Supplements: Protein supplements are also used by BJJ fighters to get muscle mass, build up strength, and improve physical performance. These supplements are plant-based or animal-based protein powders, including whey protein, soy protein, casein, etc. These supplements come in powdered form and are water-soluble.

6.1. Will soy protein help build muscle just like whey?

Whey protein is better than the others as it has all the essential amino acids and is quickly absorbed by the body. Moreover, it is better for losing fat, gaining muscle, and recovering from wounds. Soy protein is also a good source of protein but it does not serve as well as whey help in BJJ muscle building.

The following table entails facts about foods and protein intake based on grams per 100 grams.

Plant-based protein Animal-based Protein
Food Amount of Protein
(per 100 g)
Food Amount of Protein
(per 100 g)
 Chickpeas  7g  Eggs 14g
 Oats 11g  Turkey mince 25g
 Tofu 13 g  Chicken breast 25g
 Brown rice 3g  Prawns 18g
 Quinoa 4 g  Tuna 25g
 Lentils 6 g  Salmon 25g
 Cashews  18g  Pork Chop 19g
 Peanut butter 28 g  Rib-Eye 19g
 Almonds 29 g  Duck 27g
 Avocado 2g  Semi-skimmed milk 4g
 Broccoli  4g  Greek yogurt 9g
 Edamame(immature soybeans) 12 g  Edam cheese 26g

6.2. Effect of a very high protein diet on BJJ Fighter

Excess of everything is bad for the body. Therefore, a very high protein diet exceeding the limit can cause many problems like:

  • Weight gain
  • Bad breath
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea,
  • Dehydration,
  • Heart and kidney failure
  • Osteoporosis

 It is important to follow the complete plan of the BJJ athlete dietto avoid health issues.

6.3. Can a high protein diet affect the kidneys?

Many people believe that a high protein diet damages the kidneys. But the fact is that a high protein diet only affects people with pre-existing kidney disease. If you already have a renal problem, then it will be difficult for the kidneys to remove waste and nitrogen from your blood.

Because amino acids contain nitrogen in them, a high protein diet will cause nitrogen to flow into the blood in the form of urea. And a damaged kidney cannot excrete urea through urine. On the contrary, a healthy kidney can perform its function properly. That is why it is ok to have a high protein diet if you have healthy kidneys.

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