Although Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is first and foremost a system for ground fighting, BJJ is an incredible method to support weight loss and a healthy lifestyle.
If you have tried to lose weight in the past, you are undoubtedly familiar with the frustrations, difficulties, and other troubles that come with attempting weight loss.
In the era of fad diets, endless Instagram workouts, and questionable supplement gurus, it is quite easy to feel hopeless and overwhelmed when it comes to planning your weight loss. While BJJ does not remove the need for discipline, planning, and sacrifice for weight loss, it still remains an incredibly effective addition to your weight loss plan.
In the following article, you will learn the top reasons why BJJ can be a great solution to help you lose weight.
Disclaimer: this article is not medical advice. Always talk to your healthcare provider before beginning any weight loss program.
The reason losing weight is so difficult
You probably know someone who struggles with their weight. Despite trying ‘everything,’ they just cannot seem to keep the extra pounds from adding up. When they do manage to burn off some fat, they have trouble keeping it off.
The truth is weight loss is both simple and difficult at the same time.
From a scientific standpoint, losing weight requires consuming fewer calories than you burn. Every pound of extra body fat represents roughly 3,500 calories of extra energy you consumed but did not burn off.
Therefore, for every pound of stubborn fat you want to lose, you need to burn about 3,500 calories more than you eat in a given time period – this is known as a ‘caloric deficit,’ which is just a fancy way of saying using more energy than you consume.
That is the simple part. Now for the complicated bit.
Maintaining a caloric deficit for long enough to see consistent weight loss is difficult. It goes against our very wiring as humans. If you tend to enjoy your big portions, snacks, or after-dinner treats, you are not alone. You are simply behaving according to biology.
In a situation where food is scarce or requires hard physical labor to acquire, this natural tendency to overeat, especially the ‘good stuff’ (aka sugar and fat), does not pose as big of an issue.
However, we as humans now have access to so much food and at the same time have drastically decreased the amount of physical activity, including in both leisure and recreation, that maintaining a caloric deficit can be a sizable and difficult task.
In a nutshell, the key to weight loss and maintenance is living an overall lifestyle that results in your burning more calories than you eat or breaking even if your goal is weight maintenance.
This is where BJJ plays a key role your weight loss solution.
The top ways BJJ helps you lose weight
When it comes to maintaining a caloric deficit, you essentially have two methods of action. Specifically, eating fewer calories and burning more calories.
BJJ effectively addresses both sides of the proverbial weight loss coin. The following are the top ways that training BJJ will help you lose weight.
BJJ burns calories
If you have already attended your first BJJ class, you are aware of how physically intense it is to roll live. With that intensity comes some serious calorie burning.
As far as how many calories you burn in BJJ?
That will depend on how intense you are training and the overall duration of your BJJ class. With that in mind, in an average 1.5 hour class, including warm up, technique training, and live rolling, you can expect to burn between 700 and 1000 calories.
Training BJJ three times per week with no additional exercise or dietary changes puts you at a deficit of 2100-3000 calories per week compared to your baseline.
While losing half a pound per week may seem like a small amount, given that BJJ is a lifelong journey and long-term pursuit, this estimate puts you at around 25-45 pounds lost per year with BJJ training alone.
By the time you are a blue or purple belt, you could potentially have lost hundreds of pounds.
BJJ reduces eating-based leisure time
Let’s face it. It’s all too common to get off work and join your friends at a bar, brewery, or restaurant for some after work drinks and food (probably not healthy food either).
If you aren’t outgoing, it may be an evening Netflix marathon or other sedentary activity.
If you do this a few times a week, the added caloric intake from just one or two drinks and an unhealthy meal or two really adds up quickly. That’s not even mentioning the fact that you are burning very few calories when on the couch or at the bar.
On the other hand, if you are training BJJ three times per week, you are probably spending less time at the bar or on the couch, and you are certainly not eating during BJJ class.
This small habit change results in drastically reduced calorie intake over time, without factoring the other weight loss benefits of BJJ.
BJJ will discourage you from eating unhealthy foods during the day
One thing is certain about grappling. When you grapple live, you will feel the consequences of whatever you ate leading up to practice.
If your lunch was healthy, you will have more energy during training and will not be puking in the trash can when the gym heavyweight gets knee-on-belly in live rolling.
On the other hand, if you had pizza, soda, and ice cream (or whatever dense unhealthy food you choose), you will pay for it at practice.
Most of us long-term practitioners have learned this lesson the hard way, possibly more than once.
Eventually, the idea of eating a Big Mac and Fries with the prospect of training just a few hours away will become so repulsive that you may lose the desire for these foods altogether.
At the very least, you will be more likely to stick with chicken, rice, and broccoli on the days you plan to train.
BJJ culture (generally) encourages healthy habits
One of the saddest parts of modern social life is the mocking of people who want to improve their health.
Often, telling your co-workers you are trying to lose weight results in them mocking you with the unhealthy foods ‘graciously supplied’ by management to improve office morale. If you work a trade or other physically demanding job, cutting back on alcohol and other unhealthy habits might get you derided or laughed-at on the job site while your co-workers light up a cigarette and crack a can of coke on their lunch break.
On the other hand, most people at your average BJJ gym are very interested in optimizing health and well-being. When it comes to athletic performance, you cannot cut corners with your overall lifestyle. Particularly when ‘losing’ means being physically dominated and submitted by potentially smaller opponents, you certainly won’t get mocked for telling training partners about your health and weight loss goals.
The attitude of those around you affects your behavior over time. Surrounding yourself with other health-minded individuals will help you stay on the path for sustainable weight loss.
The Bottom Line: BJJ for Weight Loss
Weight loss is a difficult task for even the most disciplined individuals.
With the deck stacked so hard against you, you must adopt a long-term, sustainably healthy lifestyle to achieve and maintain your weight loss goals.
While BJJ is not a silver bullet for weight loss, it offers many direct benefits for participants when it comes to losing weight and keeping it off.