Guide | Your Inner Campfire

Guide | Your Inner Campfire

A how to guide to eating like a top level BJJ athlete.


A lot of people are so jaded or over stimulated with diet talk. Whether it is people swearing by zero fats, claiming carbs are only acceptable in the morning, or that gluten is your enemy. That’s fine and dandy for those who want to be spending a ton of money and losing weight strictly because they are stressing over the fact that they didn’t have exactly 2 oz of coconut oil in their salad. We are not that sort human. We are grapplers and our bodies require much more fine tuned, and don’t get me wrong here this is not a diet plan but more so a way to treat your daily dietary intake to a very simple example that even the thickest headed dude at you gym will understand. I mean hell, if a caveman can understand the concepts of a campfire so can some of the meat heads at the gym. I am assuming you are not as thick headed as the gentlemen within that example, but even if you are and you’ve made it this far than we might as well begin with this guide.

Your Diet is Your Body’s Campfire

The title really says it all,  we are going to look at what we take in over the course of a day in comparison to a campfire.  So what the hell am I talking about? 

When you go camping and build your fire you might not know this but there is a proper way to do this. Ideally you want a consistently burning and controlled fire that lasts through the whole day. How do you achieve that?  Do you want to throw a bunch of large logs on it and try and light it?  No.  Pile a ton of little sticks, also known as tinder,  and set them ablaze?  No.  Or what about using only kindling?  Still wrong.  You want to start your fire off with a happy mix.  A larger log that will slowly burn once lit,  but this log won’t light without kindling,  so you need that. Trying to light medium sticks on fire can be a pain and a slow process too so you stuff tinder in and around the whole lot of kindling and our log. Now we have a proper foundation for our fire. We then set our flame to the tinder and poof we are off to a great start. Now as the day goes on we will slowly burn out of kindling and eventually even our log will die out. We do not want to let this happen. If we just toss another log on our smoldering embers we will accomplish nothing and have to start over again. Or just kindling on our fire will aid slightly but will quickly fade. Now if we toss tinder straight on we will get a large burst of quick fire that dies right out. So we must once again add our materials in layers and with proper timing.

Its all about the details. Easier than passing guard.
Its all about the details. Easier than passing guard.

Build our foundation, as the day goes toss in a little kindling to keep the fire going. Once we notice our first log has started to die add another one in with a little kindling and tinder again to help it catch fire. We keep this process going through the day until night time hits. Then we want to add in a final large log with kindling to draw out our fire as long as possible without tending while we sleep.
The Breakdown
What does this all mean and how does it relate to my diet?
Easy there killer…Now we need to look at how to compare our dietary intake to a campfire. If we look at the fundamental components of a campfire and categorize them as food groups they are as followed:

  • Tinder: carbohydrates and sugars
  • Kindling: protein
  • Fuel logs: fats

Let it sink in…does it make sense yet? I’d say we are about 70% of the way there on this comparison.  Now it boils down to how each of these relate. Then the question becomes how are they are beneficial to our training? Ok guys (insert your best Brazilian accent onto this) time for the details.

I know it does not look like a sweet potato
I know it does not look like a sweet potato

Tinder:  These tiny little sticks and leaves in a fire are compared to carbs and sugars. Carbs and sugars are quickly digested and give us energy spikes, or flares to keep with the analogy. Similar to what the tinder would do in a fire. If you had just these in your meal you would just get a quick burst of energy then be done and feeling extinguished. Just like a fire of just twigs and leaves would be.

Does it taste like chicken?
Does it taste like chicken?

Kindling: The true labor force of the fire, commonly medium sized sticks that won’t last forever but enough time to support the breakdown of our larger logs and lend to the flame that is your energy level. Proteins come in a few different forms. I’m using protein as a general term but if you really wanted to break it down to fast and slow digesting proteins such as the most basic and highly used; casein and whey. It’s simple to look at it as stick sizing. Eating casein would be like adding a few borderline large log sized sticks onto your fire, they will burn slower and longer than smaller sticks but with the same effects. Because they digest at a slower rate. These are ideally placed on your “fire” early in the day and then again right before bed because we are seeking a longer and slower burning fire to keep our bodies warm while resting. Also they aid in muscle recovery as you sleep and will help prevent soreness.

Id rather a PB & J rather than a log & jelly sandwich.
Id rather a PB & J rather than a log & jelly sandwich.

Fuel wood: These are the larger logs that are the backbone of your fire. They will be the slowest burning, or in our case, digesting, logs. These large logs will not ignite by themselves and require a good balance of kindling and tinder in order to start. The same is similar with fats. If you eat fats alone they will not digest well and just sit and store. Think of our campfire, if we just throw fuel logs into the fire pit without any of the other sticks while trying to light it what will we have? A pile of un-burnt logs…aka fat bellies. This is why it is ok to eat a candy bar or cookie here and there without getting fat, it’s when you eat 20 in one sitting when you run into issues. While on that point I am not saying “oh so you need fats to start your fire…Ill have a snickers for breakfast!” Wrong. Have good fats that are naturally occurring and contain other compounds such as natural peanut butter that is a fuel log that comes with kindling in form of protein, the same goes with 2 – 4% yogurt.  These are essential in the morning to start your fire so it will last until mid day when you need to toss another log on. Then as your mid day fat log burns out after a long day of work and training and it’s time to get your solid 8, have a cup of cottage cheese to get your log and slowly digesting “kindling” to carry you through the night.

How to start and maintain your fire

Here are some listings of what common foods would fall into what categories.

Carbohydrates: Rice, bread, sweet potatoes/yams, grains such as farro, pasta,

looks shockingly similar to tiny little sticks.
looks shockingly similar to tiny little sticks.

Sugars: All fruits and berries are acceptable here, honey, agave is a very good source too.

Mother natures best sweep...I mean sweet.
Mother natures best sweep…I mean sweet.

Quick digest: 100% Whey powder, egg whites, chicken, salmon, lean beef, and any animal protein really.

Wheres the beef?!
Wheres the beef?!

Slow digest Fattier meats, nuts, quinoa, cottage cheese, yogurt, milk, cheeses, whole eggs, and 100% casein protein powder.

Fats: Olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil

Slick like no-gi but tastes better.
Slick like no-gi but tastes better.


Living by example

Now that we have touched base on the basics of what needs to go into our fire lets piece them together in a structured format. This example is based on my day where I work in the mornings and train at night.

Goal: establish a consistently even burning “fire” that starts with our first meal of the day and lasts well into that nights rest.

Step 1: Morning meal: our first order of business is starting our fire from scratch. You will need all three components here: fats, proteins, carbs and/or sugars.

Step 2: afternoon snack: after a few hours our fats are still digesting but we have digested all of the carbs and sugars and most of the protein we have started with. Since we do not need to kick start a log it is best to just add some kindling(protein) in to keep a steady burn.

Step 3: lunch: now would be a good time to replenish our fizzling fuel log. Here is our chance to have another fully rounded meal with fats, proteins, carbs and sugars.

Step 4: pre-training snack: our fires still burning nicely at this point and could use more kindling (protein) and some tinder (carbs and sugar) to get a nice blaze going for some training. I train in the evenings primarily so I like to go in with my fire blazing but not piled high with logs. Aka no heavy fats but rather light foods that will give me a good burst of energy.

Step 5: post training/dinner: during training the fire was burning and using up a vast amount of its resources and before it goes out and needs to be restarted we need to replace what we used and quickly. I personally use ATH nutrition recovery for my post training for its carb : protein ratio. This adds a good amount of flame back that will last long enough for me to get home, shower and get dinner into my fire. Dinner will be consisting of more kindling and tinder but also some “on the fence” fuel log fats. What I mean by that is strictly the quantity of fat, they are present but not in large quantities, similar to a stick that could be considered a small fuel log or large kindling.

Step 6: right before bed: here is one of the key times of our fire. Imagine you are camping in the woods on a cold fall night huddled next to your fire(an actual fire, not your diet that would be a weird thing to handle next to in the woods.) Do we want to just go to bed next to a fire that is flickering since we haven’t tended to it in awhile and wake up cold or would you rather throw one last large log on that bad boy with a little kindling and sleep comfortably next to your nice warm fire and wake up feeling refreshed? I agree. Let’s eat some cottage cheese and introduce some fats with slow digesting proteins before we hit the sack.

A better way to be put to sleep.
A better way to be put to sleep.


Keep in mind that there is a lot of cross over here to work with. For instance a great breakfast could be 4% yogurt with granola and honey. You get your fat, slow digesting protein, carbs and sugars all in one shot. Most slow digesting proteins contain fat and/or fiber which is what slows their digestion. So use this rough guide line when looking at what you are eating at what time of the day. The impact of just switching the order of what you eat could be tremendous. But most importantly, eat.

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2 Replies to “Guide | Your Inner Campfire”

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