To maintain your energy level at a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competition you need to eat. But eating too much, or the wrong things, or at the wrong times is much worse than not eating enough.
Estimates vary widely, but competing in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu probably burns between 800-1000 calories an hour. So in a 6 minute match the calorie burn beyond normal metabolism is going to be about 100. You will also burn extra before and after the match, but the point is that you don't need to eat 1000s of extra calories during the competition.
Extra food beyond that required for the match isn't going to help your performance. And if you eat too close to the match, your body might have to divert energy to your digestive system that could have been used in the fight. It takes about 4-5 hours to digest a normal meal with lots of protein and fats, and a small meal of carbohydrates can be digested in 2-3 hours. You really don't want any food left in the stomach during your fight so plan accordingly.
Here are some quick tips for eating before and during a competition:
- Dehydration is far more likely, and far more serious than running out of fuel because you didn't eat enough. Make sure that you are drinking plenty of water. Water is just as good as sports drinks for re-hydrating your body. Drink 16oz 2-3 hours before the fight, 8 - 12oz 1 hour before the fight and 4oz just before the fight. Drink as much as you want after the fight.
- Recent studies show that milk is a fantastic post fight recovery drink. Have a serving after your fight, but it can take up to two hours to digest so make sure you have at least that much time before your next match.
- Don't eat new foods the day before or the day of the competition, stick to foods your body is familiar with and that you eat all the time.
- Stay away from lots of proteins and fats the day of the competition. Proteins and fats take longer to digest than carbohydrates.
- Don't eat too much. Stick with a medium size meal of complex carbohydrates 4-5 hours before the first match and then have a small snack of mostly carbohydrate about 2-3 hours before each match. If you eat any food within an hour of a match it won't have time to digest and help your performance but it might cause you stomach pain or worse.
- Blended meals or smoothies can give you the fuel you need and take a lot less time to digest than solid food. You can have a fruit smoothie up to an hour before a match and get some benefit. Stay away from protein smoothies or smoothies with a lot of citric acid (orange juice).
- Fruits like bananas, pineapple, plums, grapes and raisins are high in sugar and can provide a good source of energy but limit yourself to just a couple handfuls at least two hours before your match.
- If you have a nervous stomach or are particularly high strung on competition day, fuel up with a nice huge plate of pasta the night before the event. In the morning just have a few saltine crackers and sip water and Gatorade during the day. After each match try having a banana or some more saltines.
Above all, don’t stress too much about your food, just eat really well the day before and make sure not eat too close to the time you are going to fight. If you gas during a fight it is far more likely to be from dehydration, conditioning, or nerves than from a lack of fuel to your muscles.