Romulo Barral On Discipline
Hyperfly (HF): You’ve stepped away from competing as much as you were but it looks like you’re still in incredible shape, how do you do that?
Romulo Barral (RB): It’s just part of me. I live a life with discipline. I enjoy being disciplined and I like to feel good. A lot of people look up to me, my students, the fans, and I like to keep the ball rolling. I’ve been doing it for my whole life, even when I was living with my parents in Brazil. I would always wake up and get my stuff done. I was always different than my friends and my brother. I just kept it going and I think I’ll be disciplined for the rest of my life.
HF: Is discipline something that comes easy to you or do you have to actively work at it?
RB: Actually it comes pretty easy to me, it’s actually hard for me not to be disciplined (laughs). When I go on vacation, not having my workout or diet routine, it’s very hard for me. After like three days it bothers me. The discipline is easy for me, it’s natural. That’s why its unlikely to find people like me, but its just the way I like to live.
HF: If someone wasn’t disciplined, do you think it could get easier if they start working at it everyday?
RB: I believe you need discipline, you need to have a goal, something to reach or accomplish. When you do that then I believe you can develop discipline and eventually get used to it.
HF: So the first step is creating a goal?
RB: Yes, the goal can be simple too, it doesn’t have to be winning a tournament. We all know without hard work and discipline you can't accomplish big things. But when you set a goal you develop the discipline to accomplish it. For example, with jiu-jitsu if you set a goal to get better and have the discipline to show up regularly and work, you will improve way faster than other people. But, your goal shouldn’t be something short term to accomplish quickly and forget about it. Discipline is a long term commitment.
HF: So should you always create new goals or should you have long term goals?
RB: I believe long term goals are the real goals. Short term goals should only be there to connect you to your long term goals. In jiu-jitsu, for example, a goal of a stripe on your blue belt is a short term goal for the long term goal of getting your black belt. This will help create a vision for the long term. Things don’t happen over night. When you set long term goals you will be disciplined for way longer. But those short term goals are there to help you stay on track because it’s easy to get frustrated.
On His Training Routine
HF: Let’s talk about your routine. What does your day and week look like?
RB: Well, this week for example, I have a super fight coming up so I wake up early, hours before I have to be anywhere so I don’t have to rush. I have competition training at my school 9:30-11:30 then I shower and teach a class at noon to 1pm. Then I come back home and stay with my kids until 6pm, then I go back to the gym and I teach and train again. I also do a cardio session while Im at home in my garage sometime during the day. That’s Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
On Tuesday, its the same routine but I change the cardio session for a lifting session where I go to the gym and work with a coach for an hour. Then I go to a different school that I own at night and teach and train again there.
So basically, I do three training sessions a day except Wednesday. Wednesday is my rest day where I do one training session only. Then on Saturday, I do one conditioning session and Sunday I do active recovery.
I work out every single day of the week, I don’t take one day off. I don’t like to feel like that, feel lazy. I don’t like days off.
HF: That’s a crazy schedule! Do you ever get tired?
RB: I do get tired, yes. I use this fitness tracker called Whoop, it shows how stained you are. The max is 21, no one gets there. I was at 20 on Monday and 20.5 yesterday. So luckily today is Wednesday, my light day, just one session. So I will use it to recover for more hard training later this week.
But I don’t do this for my upcoming super fight, I do this because this is who I am. None of my students, even the ones 10 years younger than me can keep up with me. They try sometimes, but they always get hurt or sick. This is something that I’ve built up over years. It's not like “oh let me catch up with Romulo,” No. You won’t catch up with Romulo. It’s miserable! (Laughs)
HF: That sounds intense!
RB: It is intense! Im not going to lie. (laughs) But it’s my life and I can’t do it any other way.
HF: What are your cardio sessions like?
RB: I used to run 3x a week but I stopped that around 2014 to take the stress off my body. Lately I’ve been doing a lot of rowing and assault bike on my cardio days. I actually challenge people in the BJJ community to do my cardio workouts but no one can do it. Lovato is pretty good, but besides him everyone struggles to do them.
I have a few different challenges. One on the rowing machine is to row 2000 meters under 7 minutes. It’s only 7 minutes but you want to drop on the floor after, it’s tough. The other on the Assault Bike is to burn 100 calories as fast as you can.
Then another on the rowing machine is 10 sprints of 500 meters with 1 minute rest between but you have to do all of the sprints in under 1 minute and 40 seconds. If you don’t do all 10 under 1:40 you lose.
For my active recovery day I bike for 45 minutes to one hour but not intense, just moving and sweating.
HF: Wow, okay, and how about your strength training, what does that look like?
RB: I do 70% of my max on Tuesdays and 90% on Thursdays. Its usually three exercises of some sort of push, pull, squat, etc. all related to the sport of jiu-jitsu of course. Then on Saturdays, I do a high intensity CrossFit style challenge workout. They’re usually short and intense like 15 to 20 minutes of high intensity moves as many rounds as possible. Then I rest for maybe 10 minutes and then lift weights, heavy deadlifts, squats, bench press, stuff like that.
For Saturday I like to do the intense CrossFit style stuff first so Im fresh and can give it my best effort. I like to get close to the times and reps of the pro CrossFit athletes (laughs) and I can’t to that if Im not fresh.
On Diet And Nutrition
HF: Okay, that’s insane! Lets talk about food because you must need a lot of fuel for all these workouts!
RB: The diet and staying hydrated is very, very important. If you don’t do that properly you won’t be able to do even one day of my routine. I have two people who I work with for my diet, a doctor in Brazil and a nutritionist here in the US.
People have to understand I use my body like a high-performance machine. Every four months I get blood work, I change my diet, and I change my supplements. It’s not that easy to be almost 40 years old and still be at a peak level of performance.
I have a great team who is constantly monitoring my food, supplements, hydration, blood levels, etc. and I can ask them for help whenever Im not feeling right. Hydration was a big problem for me last year. I sweat a lot because I train so much and I was drinking two gallons of water and I was still dehydrated. So I changed my hydration program which is very unique and detailed.
So what Im trying to say is that people look at me and say “steroids,” but they have no idea. This took a lot of time and work to get here, and I am constantly monitoring and changing things to reach my peak.
So my program is very specific to me, but anyone can invest in their health and fitness.
HF: Does your nutritionist follow any specific type of diet like Ketogenic or low carb, high protein, etc?
RB: You know what, not really. We do eat carbs (laughs). There is no way to do what I do without carbs. People are always looking for something new, some new diet. I’ve tried it all. I’ve tried Keto, low carb, high fat, everything out there. My diet is actually pretty simple. I don’t like to eat in the morning or before jiu-jitsu so I drink a shake. It has protein, carbs, electrolytes, and creatine, everything I need to perform the morning training sessions.
I eat 3 meals per day and at each meal I eat protein, carbs, and fiber. Lunch, for example, brown rice or sweet potato, red meat, chicken or fish, and vegetables like carrots, beets, asparagus, broccoli, or mixed greens. Dinner is the same idea. For my afternoon snack, because Im Brazilian, I like to have acai.
Another thing is, I only eat enough, I never eat until Im full. I’ve been doing that for the last eight years. I only eat what I need. I learned that from Carlos Gracie Jr. Since he told me that I’ve been doing it and I feel great. People don’t realize when you eat too much your body is always working to digest.
HF: Do you ever eat cheat meals?
RB: Yes! You have to. I’ve been strict before, like 100% perfect, but that brings its own type of stress. Now if I want to eat a burger and drink a beer, then I eat a burger and drink a beer. No problem. I actually drink a beer on Wednesday and one on Saturday. You need to relax. I think 90%/10% works well for me.
I don’t like to eat a cheat meal if I don’t work out that day. If I work out really hard, like on Fridays, then I earned a cheat meal. Plus, its just one meal, Im not cheating all day. A mistake people do is they get to the weekend and have their cheat meals but don’t do anything that day to burn it off. Have your cheat meal during the week! Then at least you worked for it and can burn it off. On the weekends I actually try to eat less.
HF: How about recovery? Anything you do to promote recovery?
RB: Yes! Recovery is a very important part of my routine that I neglected for a long time. I have a great physical therapist, he’s a magician! I work with him once a week and that’s a big part of my recovery. In my new house Im going to have a recovery center with a sauna, ice baths, etc.
Also, I listen to my body. If I feel like Im going to get hurt, I don’t train. People shouldn’t think Im crazy (laughs). I do rest and I do listen to my body. I try to find the right balance.
HF: Well you've given so much great advice already, Romulo, but is there anything else you want to share?
RB: Everyone needs to find their own pathway. With respect to fitness, jiu-jitsu, and health, I believe you have to find how you can maximize those things. It doesn’t have to be like me or my path, but there are ways to improve. Don’t settle. Find those little details that will help. Vitamins, hydration, rest, whatever it is, find those things that will help you improve. Small changes can have a tremendous effect.
HF: Great advice, thank you Romulo!
RB: I appreciate it guys, thank you so much.
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