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Hydrating with Electrolytes: A Crucial Element in Jiu Jitsu Performance.

Introduction:


Jiu Jitsu is a physically demanding sport that requires a combination of strength, agility, and endurance. One often overlooked aspect of training and competition in this martial art is proper hydration. While water is essential, replenishing electrolytes is even more crucial for optimal performance and overall health. In this blog, we'll delve into the significance of hydrating with electrolytes, especially considering the intense sweating involved in Jiu Jitsu training and competition.


The Sweating Conundrum:


Jiu Jitsu sessions are notorious for inducing copious amounts of sweat. Whether you're drilling techniques or sparring intensely, you're bound to lose a substantial amount of fluids. This excessive sweating not only leads to fluid loss but also results in the depletion of vital electrolytes like sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium.


When exercising in a hot environment, sweating can make you lose up to 1-2 litres of water per hour. With prolonged sweating, you lose more water compared to sodium, which increases sodium levels in the blood. This can draw water out of the cell, leading to cellular dehydration.


Being just 2% dehydrated has can impair coordination and cognitive tasks. However, the feeling of thirst usually doesn’t occur until you’ve already lost > 2-3% of your body’s total water.



The Dangers of Hyponatremia (low salt):


Over hydration with plain water, without replenishing electrolytes, can lead to a condition known as hyponatremia. This occurs when the sodium levels in the blood become dangerously low. Symptoms range from mild discomfort to severe complications, including confusion, seizures, and even coma.


Drinking Plain Water Could Be Worse Than Drinking Nothing


The shorter and higher the intensity of exercise, the more detrimental drinking plain water can be versus not drinking any fluid.


Drinking Plain water (28 - 200 ml of water every 15 minutes for a 70 kg athlete) could impair high-intensity performance. One reason is that exercising at or above 70-75% VO2 peak compromises gastric emptying, whereby fluids can accumulate in the stomach, leading to abdominal bloating, gastrointestinal discomfort, and reduced performance.



Electrolytes: The Unsung Heroes of Performance:


Electrolytes are electrically charged minerals that play a pivotal role in various bodily functions, including muscle contractions, nerve impulses, and fluid balance. In Jiu Jitsu, where muscle control and rapid reflexes are paramount, maintaining optimal electrolyte levels is critical.


Sodium, for example, is crucial for muscle function and nerve impulses. Potassium helps regulate heart rhythm and muscle contractions, while calcium and magnesium contribute to muscle function and bone health. Without an adequate supply of these electrolytes, muscle cramps, fatigue, and diminished cognitive function can ensue, significantly hampering performance.



Dehydration and Power Output

Muscle Function: Dehydration can impair muscle function. When you're dehydrated, your muscles may cramp more easily, and they won't contract as efficiently. This can lead to a significant decrease in power output, which is critical for Jiu Jitsu athletes during takedowns, submissions and scrambles.


Endurance: Jiu Jitsu matches are physically demanding and can last for over 10 minutes or more. Dehydrated players are more likely to experience fatigue earlier in the match. Reduced endurance can result in slower movement, weaker takedowns, and an overall decline in performance.


Strength: Dehydration can also affect strength levels. Studies have shown that dehydrated athletes are not as strong as their well-hydrated counterparts. This could hinder a player's ability to control an opponent or maintain their position.




Electrolyte-Enhanced Hydration Strategies:


To ensure peak performance in Jiu Jitsu, it's imperative to adopt effective electrolyte-enhanced hydration strategies. This involves incorporating drinks or supplements that replenish sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium lost through sweat.


  1. Sports Drinks: Specialised sports drinks are designed to replace lost fluids and electrolytes. Look for those with balanced electrolyte profiles and avoid high-sugar options.

  2. Electrolyte Tablets or Powders: These convenient supplements can be added to water, providing a quick and efficient means of replenishing electrolytes.

  3. Natural Sources: Foods like bananas (rich in potassium), nuts (containing magnesium), and dairy products (good sources of calcium) can aid in electrolyte restoration.

  4. Hydration Schedule: Develop a hydration schedule tailored to your training regimen. This includes regular sips during breaks and immediate rehydration post-session.

  5. Pre-Competition Preparation: Begin your competition day well-hydrated, and continue to replenish electrolytes strategically throughout the event.


Hydration around Competition


Boosting blood volume prior to exercise will provide the body with a larger amount of circulating fluid to offload heat and help cool the body down. Importantly, the absorption of fluid and electrolytes is better at rest than during exercise. Thus, hyperhydrating prior to competition gets ahead of the reduction in gut problems that occur during exercise.


Additionally, boosting blood volume prior to exercise reduces the rise in core body temperature, reducing sweating and water/electrolyte losses during competition. As core body temperature increases, there is a greater shift of blood flow to the skin and less blood flow to working muscles and organs.



Conclusion:


In the world of Jiu Jitsu, every edge counts. While skill, strength, and strategy are critical, one must not overlook the importance of proper hydration with electrolytes. By acknowledging the impact of intense sweating on electrolyte levels, and adopting effective replenishment strategies, you can significantly enhance your performance, endurance, and overall well-being on the mat. Remember, it's not just about staying hydrated; it's about staying optimally electrolyte-balanced.


References:


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  • DiNicolantonio, Dr. James ; Land, Siim; Kennedy, Tristin. WIN: Achieve Peak Athletic Performance, Optimize Recovery and Become a Champion (pp. 47-48). Kindle Edition.

  • Adan, A. (2012). Cognitive Performance and Dehydration. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 31(2), 71–78. doi:10.1080/07315724.2012.10720011

  • Masironi, R., & Shaper, A. G. (1981). Epidemiological studies of health effects of water from different sources. Annual review of nutrition, 1, 375–400. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.nu.01.070181.002111

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