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The Importance of Hydration for BJJ
The next time you have an intense BJJ class or sparring session in the Gi this summer, weigh yourself before and after class. It is not unheard of to lose 3-5lbs of water, easily during the a hot, humid training session in the Gi. After a tough drilling and sparring session, its not uncommon to have a Gi that is absolutely dripping with sweat.
The intense exercise using all of our muscles, the temperature and the heavy Gi all cause our bodies to turn up the internal cooling system, which includes the use of sweat by our bodies to help regulate our overall temperatures. As we sweat, we are losing precious water, as well as various minerals that are necessary to function properly and work at our peak levels of performance.
If we do nothing to help support the hydration needs of our bodies, we will eventually begin to experience some very detrimental effects. The early signs of dehydration include cotton mouth, dizziness, foggy thinking, irritability and even muscle cramping. If ignored, these things can quickly escalate and get far worse. Extreme cases of dehydration cause the body to stop sweating and temperature to rise unchecked which can cause someone to have seizures or worse.
Our body's are designed to take in relatively small amounts (around 30 oz) of fluids per hour effectively, while they can lose more than twice that by sweating. Therefore it's important to make sure you are extra hydrated before class, while also keeping the fluids going throughout the class and long after the last roll is in the books to make sure that you recover your proper hydration levels.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends a minimum of 20 oz of fluid a few hours before the activity, in this case BJJ class. They recommend another 8 oz about 30 minutes before your class and recommend that you keep filling up with about 10 oz every 20 minutes or 30 oz during a one hour class. Afterwards, it may also be helpful to keep the fluids coming.
Besides the water that you are losing when you sweat through those hot BJJ classes, you are losing minerals like sodium and potassium that are crucial for proper body function. Sports drinks (on paper) are designed for the replacement of those minerals, but beware that they can be laden with a lot of sugar which actually hampers hydration. For the most part, sports drinks become more important during ultra-long activities like marathons. So unless you're training for 2 or more hours straight, you should be fine with water to get your hydration needs met.
The dangers of dehydration are real, but can be managed very effectively by taking in small, steady amounts of water before, during and after your training sessions. If you find yourself feeling light headed or your muscles cramping, take a moment and get some water in your system. You will feel much better and be able to perform at a higher level for much longer.
Check out Travis Stevens "Foundations and Concepts of BJJ" instructional available in both On Demand and DVD formats here from BJJ Fanatics. As both a BJJ black belt under John Danaher and an Olympic Silver Medalist in Judo, he brings a wealth of knowledge and in this series, he shares all of the most important concepts that every practitioner should know. Check it out!