Power To The Pasta

Meet your new pre-competition training partner, carbohydrates.

It’s the finals match in your weight division. You’ve had three matches before this one. You’re down by an advantage, in bottom side control with a big guerilla of a man (or woman) on your chest. You can hear your coach screaming at the top of his lungs from the side, but you don’t need to hear what he’s saying, you already know what you need to do…big bridge. You gear up and every ounce of energy left in you is in the center point of your hips, you have the space, your opponent is just as damn tired as you, you look over to make one last check…20 seconds left. You’ve been in this position a thousand times and the bridge is second nature to you. You know this is the time to give it your all, this match is yours to win. You go for it and pfffft. You fail, not fart. It feels like your opponent has an anvil on their back and nothing happens, besides the sound of a buzzer, followed by the haunting hush of your teammates not believing that you couldn’t reverse your opponent since you’ve reversed them countless times. I know this feeling, because this was my experience in the 2013 Pan Ams. Let me tell you, this feeling sucks. But as the saying goes, we learn more from our losses than we do our victories. The most important thing I gained from this experience is a new training partner going into all competitions who has given me that extra edge to compete at the highest intensity, not just within my first match, but every match. My training partner’s name is Carbohydrates and it’s about time you let him in and train with him the night before a competition.


Eating correctly the night before a competition can give you that one last umpa or sweep that is worth its weight in gold, not silver.

Eating correctly the night before a competition can give you that one last umpa or sweep that is worth its weight in gold, not silver.

The Low-ed Down

Carbohydrate loading is a practice most human beings associate with marathon runners. Carb loading is what gives runners the ability to maintain their energy level throughout a race that takes just under 3 hours, and that is if you’re fast. When partaking in endurance sports, such as running, or as we are more familiar with, Jiu-Jitsu, our bodies utilize our energy stores. The two major stores of energy found within us are in the form of fats and glycogen. Fats are much harder for our bodies to convert, making glycogen king. So where do we get this miracle energy-boosting-roll-24-hours-a-day “glycogen?” Have any clue yet? Take a second and think about it…yes! Carbohydrates!

When a marathon runner carbohydrate-loads properly they are getting 90% of their calories in form of carbohydrates. They are also eating like this for the entire day before, if not a few days before and up until race day. What’s the difference between a runner and a jiu-jitsu competitor? Besides the fact that one will beat the other in a race and the other in a fight, a runner does not have to make weight the day of competing. Carbohydrate loading the same way a runner does will pack on at least 4 – 5 lbs, which would be 4 – 5 lbs more than we can afford. Then why the hell am I talking about carbohydrate loading? Well, with a few modifications on the concept, we can still gain an edge, and not 4 – 5 lbs by doing a mini carb load.



The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

“You may run the risks, my friend,
but I do the cutting” – Tuco

Picking the right carbohydrates for the load can make or break you. Normally fruits and beans would be good carbs, but due to their fiber content, for the load they need to be limited.



The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Carb-load

Knowing that most of us during competition month are trying to keep our carbohydrate intake to a minimum, that is fine. We can avoid them for the majority of the time, but when we do have carbs the day before or a couple nights before we are not all of a sudden going to balloon up. We will be more hydrated, and have better energy and endurance the next day instead. I bet you are kicking yourself for having a crappy salad the night before a competition instead of something more enjoyable, you know, like anything that has a solid source of carbs, like pasta. Proper carb loading the day before does not just mean eating one carb heavy meal. We should be eating carb heavy the entire day before. Knowing that we have to do this, we need to follow a few Golden rules.

The Golden Rules of The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Carb Load


• Plan Ahead:

When managing your weight, always budget in a pound or two so you can afford to have a nice day of eating that will help you push the pace not push the dial on the scale the day of competition.

• It’s Not a Race: We are not running a marathon, so our carb load will be the day before rather than the last couple of days. Cut carbohydrates out a week out if you really need to cut, but know the last day before


your competition you will be adding them back in.

• Pick and Choose: Just because something contains carbohydrates does not mean they are good for you, use the good, bad and ugly list as a point of reference and eat accordingly. Fruits and other high in fiber carbohydrates can affect your stomach that is already queasy from competition jitters.


• Do the Math:

I am not giving you homework here, but you should be getting 85-90% of your calories from carbohydrates the day of your load.

• Enjoy it: Eating is about survival, but taste is about pleasure. When you are going to finally be having delicious carbohydrates again, you should enjoy them. Don’t eat boring, but don’t eat like a trash compactor.



Why it works

Carbohydrates are digested and then converted into glycogen. Glycogen is then stored in our liver and resting muscles just waiting to be used when we need it. Our bodies are pretty cool, huh? Have you ever not eaten well, gone to class or to the gym and just felt weaker than usual or had low energy? That is because your glycogen levels were low. This is also why high carb-protein ratio drinks and supplements are ideal for recovery. Because during intense training we deplete our body’s stores of glycogen and need to refuel, aka load up with some carbohydrates. So when we are in the thick of competition or everyday rolling and we hit “the wall” that is because we do not have enough glycogen left to burn. Will carb loading the night before make you a super human? No. Will it give you the energy to push the pace of the early rounds, feel fresher in the finals and get that last sweep you need to win? It just might!

Meal Ideas
• Egg and avocado over rice, waffles or bagel with jam
• Yogurt with fruit
• Banana and orange juice

• Peanut butter and banana wrap, baked sweet potato or toast with jam
• Granola
• Protein shake or chocolate milk

• Pasta with non-cream based sauce (hmm maybe butter nut squash pasta?), chicken burrito with rice and beans or quinoa with baked tofu
• Baked sweet potato

• Granola bars
• Protein bars
• Pita with hummus
• Bananas
• Oranges
• Gatorade


Butternut Squash Past-ya-guard-because-I-ate-carbs
Back break fall into…fall flavors with this power pasta.

1 Butternut squash, peeled, seeded, diced small
1 Shallot, minced
2 Garlic cloves, sliced
1 tsp Salt
1/8 tsp Pepper
1/8 tsp Allspice, ground
½ lb Whole wheat spaghetti
1 – 2 dozen Sage leaves, chopped
1 Lemon, juiced
2 Tbsp Pine nuts
Olive oil
Salt & black pepper

1.    Preheat the oven to 375 °F

2.    Using a peeler or sharp knife remove all of the skin from the squash, cut it in half and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Dice the squash small.

3.    Toss squash, shallots, garlic, salt, pepper, allspice with 3-4 Tbsp olive oil in a large bowl until coated.

4.    Lay out in an even layer on a baking sheet and place in the oven for 30 – 35 minutes until the squash is soft and has developed some color.

5.    While the squash is roasting bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil for the pasta.

6.    Once the squash is roasted transfer it back into a large bowl.

7.    Now is the time to drop the pasta into the water and cook according to the packaging. Once cooked transfer the pasta directly into the bowl with the squash, add lemon juice, pine nuts and sage then toss or stir to combine.If the pasta looks too dry add a little of the pasta water a spoonful at a time.

8.    Enjoy right away and get ready to crush it tomorrow!



MacKenzie Arrington is an award-winning chef based in Buffalo, NY. Off the mats, he is the team chef for a professional sports team, runs a healthy meal prep company and is a culinary knifemaker. On the mats, he is a purple belt out of Lake Effect Martial Arts - Checkmat Buffalo. Connect with MacKenzie on Instagram.

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