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Is Jiu Jitsu Good For Weight Loss?


As you probably know, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is an incredibly physically intense activity. Although many people train BJJ for self-defense or other personal reasons, BJJ is also a great method to help you lose weight and improve the overall health of your lifestyle. 

If you have ever tried to lose weight, you are likely familiar with the difficulties, frustrations, and other troubles that come with trying to shed those stubborn pounds. 

BJJ For Weight Loss

It is quite easy to feel hopeless and overwhelmed when it comes to planning your weight loss.

Particularly in the era of modern era of fad diets, Instagram workouts, and questionable supplement marketing, planning your healthy lifestyle can be very confusing and disheartening.

Jiu Jitsu does not remove the need for discipline, planning, and sacrifice for weight loss. However, it remains an incredibly effective component of your weight loss plan.

Below, 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.

Why losing weight is so difficult

You probably know someone who struggles with their weight. They have probably tried ‘everything,’ but still just cannot seem to keep the extra pounds from adding up. When they do manage to lose a bit of fat, they have trouble keeping it off.

The truth is weight loss is both difficult and simple at the same time. 

Scientifically speaking, losing weight requires consuming fewer calories than you burn. Every pound of extra body fat stores roughly 3,500 calories of extra energy you consumed and did not burn off. 

Therefore, to lose a pound of bodyfat, 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 simply means using more energy than you consume.

That is the simple piece. Now for the hard part.

Maintaining a caloric deficit for long enough to see consistent weight loss is tough. It goes against our very wiring as human beings. If you like your big portions, crunchy snacks, or after-dinner treats, you are not alone. You are simply behaving according to evolution.

In a situation where nutrition is hard to come by or requires demanding physical labor to acquire, this natural tendency to overeat, especially sugar and fat, is actually beneficial to ensure our survival as humans.

However, now that we have access to so much food and at the same time have drastically decreased the amount of physical activity we perform, including in our work lives and recreational activities, that maintaining a caloric deficit to lose weight can be a daunting task.

In a nutshell, the key to weight loss and maintenance is living a lifestyle that consistently results in your burning more calories than you eat, and eventually breaking even if your goal is to maintain your weight.

This is where Jiu Jitsu plays a vital role in your weight loss plan.

The important ways BJJ helps you lose weight

When it comes to maintaining a caloric deficit, you essentially have two methods of action. 

You can eat fewer calories and you can burn more calories.

BJJ effectively addresses both sides of the proverbial weight loss coin. The following are the a few of the major ways that BJJ helps you lose weight.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Burns Calories

With the intensity in live BJJ training comes some serious calorie burning.

But how many calories do you actually burn in BJJ? 

That depends on the intensity of your training and the overall duration of your BJJ class. 

With that in mind, in an average 90 minute class, including warm ups, technique drilling, and live rolling, you can expect to burn between 700 and 1000 calories.

Running with those numbers, training Jiu Jitsu three times per week puts you at a deficit of 2100-3000 calories per week compared to your baseline, with no additional exercise or dietary changes.

If losing half a pound per week seems like a small amount, think about the fact that BJJ is a lifelong journey and long-term pursuit. 

Over time, this estimate alone puts you at around 25-45 pounds lost per year with Jiu Jitsu training alone.

By the time you get promoted to blue or purple belt, you may theoretically lose hundreds of pounds.

Training BJJ reduces eating-based activities

Let us be honest…

It is all too common to get off work and join your friends at a bar, pub, or eatery for some after work drinks and food – and its usually not spinach salad and salmon. 

If you are not the ‘bar type,’ it may be an evening Cobra Kai marathon or other sedentary activity.

If we do a little bit of math, the added caloric intake from just one or two drinks and an unhealthy meal or two really adds up quickly. 

That is not to mention the fact that you are burning very few calories when on the couch or at the bar compared to a Jiu Jitsu class.

On the other hand, if you are training three times per week, you are probably spending less time at the bar or on the couch, and you are certainly not eating in BJJ class. 

This small habit change results in drastically reduced calorie intake over time, even without considering the other weight loss benefits of BJJ.

BJJ discourages poor eating habits throughout the day

One thing is for sure about grappling: when you grapple live, you will feel the effects of whatever you ate before practice.

If you ate a healthy lunch, you will probably feel okay during training and won’t be throwing up in the trashcan after the gym heavyweight mounts you.

On the flipside, if you had fried chicken, soda, and French fries (or take your pick of junk food), you will pay for it at practice. 

Most of us long-term practitioners have learned this lesson the hard way, and likely more than once.

Eventually, the idea of eating fast food with the prospect of training within a few hours will become so repulsive, you will probably lose the desire for these foods altogether. 

At the very least, you will be more likely to stick with lean steak, quinoa, and salad on the days you plan to train.

BJJ culture tends to encourage healthy living

One of the saddest parts of modern social life is the mocking of those of us who want to improve our health.

Often, telling your co-workers you are trying to lose weight results in them mocking you with the unhealthy foods ‘generously supplied’ by management to improve office morale. 

If you work construction or other physically demanding job, cutting back on alcohol and other unhealthy habits might get you derided or laughed-at on the job site as your foreman lights up a cigarette and cracks a can of coke on his lunch break.

On the other hand, most people at your average BJJ gym are interested in optimizing health and well-being. When it comes to BJJ physical performance, you cannot cut corners with your healthy habits. 

Particularly when ‘losing’ means being physically dominated and submitted by smaller, weaker opponents, you certainly will not get mocked for telling Jiu Jitsu friends about your fitness and weight loss goals.

The attitude of those around you affects your behavior over time. Surrounding yourself with other health-minded people will help you stay on track for your weight loss.

Is Jiu Jitsu Good For Weight Loss? Yep.

Weight loss is a tough task for even the most hardened, disciplined people. 

With the evolutionary cards stacked so heavily against you, you must adopt a long-term, sustainably healthy lifestyle to reach and sustain your weight loss goals.

Jiu Jitsu is not a magic solution for weight loss. However, consistent training offers many direct benefits for participants when it comes to losing weight and keeping it off.

Jordan Fernandez

Jordan Fernandez 

Jordan is a 10th Planet Purple Belt, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, and personal trainer. When not on the mats or at the gym, he writes about all things BJJ and fitness and aggressively stretches and foam rolls on the living room floor.

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