Boost your BJJ performance naturally with nutrition #1

Training in the evening, preparing for competitions, dieting, facing injuries… Practicing Brazilian jiu-jitsu has an undeniable impact on our everyday lives and bodies. So how can we enhance our performance and improve our well-being naturally?

I recently had the chance to meet with Pierre-Xavier Frank, a French doctor of Pharmacy, who has co-written the book “Athletes, boost your performances naturally” (it’s only in French, sorry guys). This book explains how nutrition, micronutrition, aromatherapy, homeopathy and gemmotherapy can increase sport performance. As a result, I fully immersed myself in this book, for you, to deliver some answers to these questions.

The importance of sport and nutrition

When you practice a sport as captivating and intense as Brazilian jiu-jitsu you have to ask yourself what and how to eat to feel good- be it in training, in a competition or outside the mat. “Many athletes are now aware of the importance of a daily diet who are on a quest for better sports results; to be faster, longer, higher, and stronger. Nevertheless, they often have difficulties to find the right book- whether it be incomplete, too complicated, unclear, strictly empirical, or without any real scientific background” underlines Pierre-Xavier Franck. His book looks at all these aspects: (very) theoretical on the one hand and a lot of practical advice for high or low level athletes on the other. Furthermore, all these methods have been tested on high level athletes.

Understanding the impact sports have on our bodies

Body adjustment while practicing sports

“The main key to performing successfully while training or during a competition is to know your body”. An obvious fact you may say. However, do you know the real impact jiu-jitsu has on your body?

Practicing sports requires our body to adapt itself to the physical effort, which results in a slow transformation of our cells into “racing cars” so that greater physical effort seems to us, in time, easier. Despite this considerable advantage, there are also some disadvantages. For example, while resting the body uses 30% of the blood flow to the digestive tract, as opposed to only 3-5% during exercise. Up to 80% of the flow is then used to increase blood circulation and oxygen to the muscles. This reversing mechanism attacks our cells, increases acidification of the blood (increases pH levels), and of course nutritional deficiencies and dehydration. A lot of ugly words to be more specific! Of which have a real effect on our performance, recovery capacity, and even our health in the long run.

Sport: an amplifier for digestive disorder

The intestine is an essential organ that assimilates the nutriments we need to practice sport. It is a living structure made up of thousands of bacteria which only a third is shared among individuals. However, the reversal of blood flow during physical activity amplifies or reveals intestine disorder among certain individuals with consequences on muscles or tendons.

The consequences of sport on mental capacity

Glucose is the exclusive fuel of neurons but also a vital element to create the energy used by the muscle. If the provision through eating (bananas, eggs, meat, and cheese) is not enough, the glucose used for the brain is directed to our muscles during exercise. So the amino acids that normally act on motivation and accuracy are then diverted to make glucose resulting in a decline in mental performance.


The food pyramid inspired by the Cretan diet

In order to limit these effects on our bodies and to meet the energy needs while practicing sport; the authors recommend a balanced diet, inspired from the Cretan diet. It is well-known for its benefits and contribution to the longevity of Cretan people.

A few of its advantages is that it is not restrictive, easy to understand and to implement (yes, you can continue reading :)) It associates dietary restraint with a wide variety of food, especially “pleasure food”. Whether you’re vegetarian or a carnivore, you will find what you are looking for! Let’s have a look- you only have to choose the food you like in each level:

The food pyramid inspired by the Cretan diet


Food pyramid inspired by cretan diet, « Sportifs : booster vos performances au naturel », Françoise Couic Marinier et Pierre-Xavier Frank p54

1st level: fruit and veggies

Fruit and veggies limit the demineralization caused by lactic acid which is produced during exercise, and the loss of magnesium and calcium.

Recommendation: eat 5-6 servings of fruit and vegetables per day

  • 3 fruit or compotes for 2 big portions of vegetables
  • Green vegetables every other meal
  • Dried fruits to provide fast burning carbs and to counterbalance the loss of trace elements while excising.


Second level: Source of carbs

This food group is the main energy supplier for our bodies. It should be noted that the carbohydrate breakdown process varies depending on the type of carb. Food generates fast and slow burning carbs which will not have the same impact on blood glucose levels (concentration of sugar in the blood); this impact varies depending on a parameter called the “glycemic index.”

For example: honey consists of both slow and fast burning carbs (ideal in the morning or after exercise), whereas beet sugar is quickly absorbed (preferred after doing exercise to recharge your batteries).

Recommended food:

  • Wholemeal or multi-grain bread (unfortunately for French people our baguettes have low nutritional value…).
  • Other starches, well-known by athletes: pasta, potatoes, etc.
  • Legumes: lentils, beans (also a source of protein).

Third level: dairy products

Rich in vitamins, minerals and proteins, they contribute significantly to produce energy, to contract muscles and to regulate our heart rate. Dairy products have been the subject of much controversy in recent years. However, this food group is absolutely essential for athletes. For some people, some adjustments should be made.

Recommended food: yoghurt, cheese, and milk.


Fourth level: proteins

Proteins are responsible for muscle growth and recovery, and also contribute to regulating appetite and sleep.

Recommended food:

  • White meat
  • Red meat has to be limited to twice a week because of its acidity and its high content of saturated fatty acids (too high in cholesterol).
  • Eggs (1 portion= 2 eggs)
  • Fatty fish (salmon, tuna, sardines, etc.)


You’ll understand that every kind of food has a role to play! I was surprised by the variety and complexity of the benefits of nutrition to help improve our well-being and athletic performances.

The interest of micronutrition is that it adopts a global approach, both in terms of diet and the individual. It therefore takes into account the differences between each individual and sport.

You will then understand why there is no miracle recipe in this article. The goal is to make you aware of the impact sport has on your body; give you some key elements to overcome it, and to make your own food! Now it’s up to you to go deeper and test it out!


Coming soon: focusing on hydration and other recommendations!

For those of you who speak French and want to know more about the subjects mentioned in this article, you can buy the book “Sportif boostez vos performances au naturel” on Amazon. Follow also the authors Facebook page.