“Off the Mats” is a series dedicated to enhancing your BJJ game…off the mats! From strength and conditioning, sports psychology, nutrition, to injury prevention and rehab, we will share ways to improve yourself and your BJJ game from many different aspects of life.
Contributed by Lou Torres*
Going into the summer months we naturally find ourselves sweating a bit more. Perhaps we’re moving more, enjoying more time outdoors, or able to sneak in an extra training session or two; all great things that often leave us feeling a bit depleted. Let’s talk about salt.
Why is Staying Hydrated Important?
Hydration, among many other things, isn’t something commonly addressed in BJJ training. Sure, we may have our water bottles handy for a quick sip or two during class, but do we really consider how effectively we’re hydrating? When taken seriously, proper hydration plays a significant role in increasing performance, focus, and overall health. Most assume that drinking “enough” water is the way to stay hydrated, but when you’re participating in a high intensity sport that produces lots of sweat, you need to replace those electrolytes. Drinking a gallon of tap water alone isn’t always the best way to rehydrate.
Of course, water has many benefits. It 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 hydrated properly, your body cannot perform at its highest level! You may notice increased fatigue, muscle cramps, dizziness, and even more serious symptoms. However, let’s take a moment to address the idea of overhydration, or hyponatremia. Consuming water in excess will dilute the sodium content of our blood which can lead to a lack of ability to think, headaches, nausea, and poor balance.
Many assume that simply consuming copious amounts of water per day will keep them adequately hydrated, but it’s a little more complicated than that. When asking a personal mentor, Dr. Tony Ricci**, about this topic, this was his response:
“Everyone just assumes that ‘right I need to drink 4 liters of water a day’. For someone who weighs 50kg (110 lbs), 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.” Dr. Ricci 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 Keeps You Hydrated
Dr. Ricci continues, “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 might be the last thing you would expect to add hydration, so why salt? Wouldn’t that dehydrate you? Apparently not. Dr. Ricci states, “It’s actually the opposite. Salt actually helps your body retain that water. You’ll tend to find that you will actually feels loads better.
“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 everyone’s 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 much more – you will have a bit of a fluctuation, but that will go after about 5 days.”
What Salt to Use?
Will any ol’ salt do? Because you’re after the sodium, Dr. Ricci states, “Absolutely any. Himilayan salt is better because it has more minerals, but it’s not elite in that sense. Table salt is absolutely fine.”
Before you find yourself feeling depleted, fending off headaches, and overall blah this summer, be smart about your hydration and add some sodium!
*Lou Torres is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Recognized by the National Academy of Sports Medicine as a Corrective Exercise Specialist, Lou also holds many other training certifications.
Since graduating from the Marist University in 2006 with a Bachelors of Science in Exercise Physiology, Lou has worked in the fields of Personal Training, and Strength & Conditioning. He has not only worked with men, women, and children of all ages, but has also enjoyed youth athlete development.
Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s Lou stayed active playing football, baseball, and wrestling. Lou’s exercise programs are molded from his unique experience as an athlete, strength coach, personal trainer, and time as rehab intern.
Lou teaches using a variety of methods that one can utilize within the gym setting while adhering to the principles/rules that govern how the human system works. Lou believes everyone should be conditioned and strong enough to handle and enjoy all of life’s endeavors.
**Dr. Tony Ricci is a BJJ and Judo black belt with his doctorate in Neuroscience and Exercise Physiology. Over the years he has cultivated and tested his knowledge while coaching various fighters from amateur through professional ranks.