Hydration (among many other things I’m sure) in BJJ just isn’t really focused on. We’ve all got our water bottles on the side, and we will have a quick sip, but we don’t really tend to think about hydration as such. However, when taken seriously proper hydration can massively help to increase your performance, focus, and overall health. The average person usually assumes that drinking (‘enough’) water is the way to stay hydrated, but actually when you’re doing a high intensity sport where you’re sweating a lot, you need to replace those electrolytes and drinking litres of tap water isn’t always the best way to stay hydrated.
Why Is Staying Hydrated Important?
Water helps to regulate your body temperature and lubricate your joints. Water also has nutrients to give you energy and help keep you healthy. If you’re not properly hydrated, your body can’t perform at its highest level. You may experience fatigue, muscle cramps, dizziness, or potentially even more serious symptoms. However it’s also important to be wary of overhydration: too much water can lead to hyponatremia, which is when excess water in our bodies dilutes the sodium content of our blood which can lead to lack of ability to think, headaches, nausea, and poor balance.
Grappling Insider spoke with Dean Kirk, nutritionist and BJJ purple belt who agrees that hydration is usually the least thought of thing in BJJ, and that many assume they need to be drinking copious amounts of water a day in order to be adequately hydrated, when it’s a little bit more complicated than that.
“Everyone just assumes that ‘right I need to drink 4 litres of water a day’. For someone who weighs 50kg, they would literally be drowning their body weight in water – equally for someone who’s bigger – that might not be enough. But predominantly around training especially now we’re going into the summer months, we’re going to be more active and we are going to be sweating a lot more – you need to make sure you are using an electrolyte supplement.”
Kirk continues, “I recently got into long distance running and hydration is one of the key things. You go into decathlon and all these running shops and there’s just all these electrolyte supplements, and it’s like you talk to anyone in BJJ – no one’s got any idea.”
Salt Helps to Keep You Hydrated
“As a general rule of thumb, if training more than one hour, put a little bit of salt in your drink. Just a quarter of a teaspoon. That’s a really basic entry level thing to hydration.”
Adding salt to your water/juice would be the last thing you would expect to add to hydration, so why salt? Wouldn’t that dehydrate you? Apparently not. Kirk continues, “It’s actually the opposite, salt actually helps your body retain that water. You’ll tend to find that you will actually feel loads better.”
Kirk continues, “There’s a guy who does what I do but with bodybuilders and he has a protocol where he makes his athletes have a quarter of a teaspoon directly before they train, straight on the tongue. I’ve used this before with general population clients who just go to the gym to lift some weights and they do feel loads better. The thing with salt is that everyones terrified it’s going to make them gain loads of water weight and it will do if you’re eating this much salt then you’re suddenly eating this much – you will have a bit of a fluctuation, but that will go after about 5 days.”
Can You Add Any Salt to the Water?
Sodium is mainly what you’re after, so yes you can use any salt. Kirk states, “ Absolutely any. Because it’s the sodium that is inside of it. Himilayan salt is better because it has more minerals but it’s not elite in that sense. Table salt is absolutely fine.”
Follow Dean Kirk on Instagram @deankirknutrition
Read my most recent interview with BJJ Black Belt World Champion Claudia Do Val here