Recovery is a major aspect of the Brazilian Jiu-JItsu lifestyle, regardless of whether you’re a professional grappler or a hobbyist, you need a recovery routine.
Typically your body will feel like you've been in a car crash the morning after a BJJ session. The goal is to get your body back to being as close to normal as we can, and as soon as we can, so that you can push it to the limit once more in your next training session.
There are a bunch of recovery methods out there for grapplers that are helpful. From yoga to foam rolling to having some weird hippy lady sticking cups all over your back (jokes), there’s just so much you can do.
Hence it can be a little overwhelming...
So we're going to boil it down for you today and just discuss one extremely effective recovery tool that all BJJ athletes, and hobbyists alike, should be using BUT MANY AREN'T!!!
We call it the 'Secret Weapon' and it's...
So rather than trying to sound like an expert myself I'm just going to give you the experts opinion...
The expert we're going to refer to mostly is a certain:
Dr. Rhonda Patrick
She has done countless episodes on the (infamous) Joe Rogan Experience Podcast - which I'd highly recommend checking out, not just for information on the sauna but to benefit your knowledge on health and lifestyle choices in general!
Anyway she said this:
"Heat stress via sauna use elicits hormetic responses driven by molecular mechanisms that protect the body from damage." (1)
You may be wondering what the fancy word, 'hormetic' means and don't worry - me to! According to my studies with professor Google, Rhonda is referring to the biological process of hormesis:
"Hormesis refers to adaptive responses of biological systems to moderate environmental or self-imposed challenges through which the system improves its functionality and/or tolerance to more severe challenges." (2)
In layman terms:
Receiving a small amount of stress can actually result in a positive (rather than a negative) reaction so long as you don't over do the amount of stress that you subject yourself to and so long as you give yourself enough time to rest and recover from the stress.
In the case of the sauna the stress we put on ourselves is heat stress.
And heat stress produces these wonderful little compounds that they call 'Heat Shock Proteins'.
The heat shock proteins induce a series of benefits that increase our ability to recover from our rigorous BJJ training!
To name a few:
- Increased levels of Growth Hormone IGF-1, responsible in large part for our recovery.
- Reduced inflammation, which is at the core of the joint pains and aches that we can suffer following BJJ training.
- Increased 'Oxidative Capacity' of our muscles, allowing the muscles to consume more oxygen and aiding in recovery.
Not to mention the soothing effect that the heat has on your tired muscles, combined with the relaxing effect of just chilling out with no goal other than to rest and recuperate.
A word of caution:
Dr Rhonda Patrick also mentions that:
"Proper hydration and electrolyte balance are critical to maintain the body's fluid balance and to promote normal muscle contractility and nerve function." (1)
This is important to know because in the sauna, as you might have guessed, YOU ARE GOING TO SWEAT!
And as the sweat pours out of your body so the electrolytes and fluids go with it! Potentially resulting in dangerously low levels.
In the same article Rhonda goes on to say that:
"The average person loses approximately 0.5 kg of fluid as sweat during a single sauna session.
Sweat rates vary between individuals and even between sessions, however, and some people may lose considerably more.
Accompanying the fluid losses are losses of electrolytes, especially sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium, and calcium.
Skeletal muscle cramps and fatigue are associated with dehydration and electrolyte deficits."
And so if we don't properly fuel ourselves with electrolytes and fluids pre and post sauna we could actually be doing more harm than good!
BUT DO IT RIGHT AND...
"Acclimating your body to heat through using something like a sauna either in conjunction with or independent from exercise can induce physiological adaptations that can help to improve your endurance performance and acquisition of muscle mass." (3)
So BONUS - not only will it aid recovery but it could actually aid in performance as well, a topic for another time perhaps...
Other precautions that are worth taking are to take a heart rate monitor in with you to check your heart rate as you go. Aswell as going in accompanied by a friend just in case you need a hand to get out (although this would suggest you've done far too long!). Last but not least using a timer to track how long you've been in!
How to Sauna...
Please consult your doctor first, especially if you have underlying conditions that could effect things for you.
Start with 5-10mins then build that up to 15 and then 20 and it is said that the greatest benefits can be achieved around the 24 minute mark.
With that said it definitely depends on the heat of the sauna and the acclimation of your body to the heat, as well as other factors too - so take all this with a pinch of salt - but generally speaking...
20+ Mins around 80 degrees centigrade is a good goal to build up to.
If you are using a heart rate monitor it is usual for your beats to increase to 100-150 beats per minute (4) beyond this and you should seriously consider calling it a day for that particular sweat session!
FIND YOU A FACILITY NEAR YOU WITH A SAUNA AND USE IT REGULARLY! (check with your doctor first)
Ensure you are properly fuelled for it and are taking precautions like using a timer and a heartrate monitor to do it safely, perhaps accompanied by a friend and then go and sweat your boots off!
It's a secret weapon!
For optimal recovery from your BJJ training schedule you simply must (if possible and safe) implement a sauna regime!
Do you use the sauna regularly? Does it help? Let us know in the comments and as always thanks for reading!