A good eating regime is essential for everybody in order to maintain good health and normal weight, we all know that. And while that goes for athletes too, their case might be a bit different than just avoiding saturated and trans-fat, cholesterol, commercial sweets and fast food. For example, what should a boxer’s diet be? Let’s talk about that a little…
Why is a good boxer’s diet so important?
Boxers (and especially professional ones) won’t be able to function and perform properly if they were just obviating junk food and eating more veggies and fruits. Similar to other athletes in the sports world, to keep all the requirements of the training process and to be in top shape as much as possible, and as long as possible, pugilists have to stay on a good boxing diet program. They must eat right in order to provide enough energy for optimal physical performance, obtain nutrients for faster muscle recovery and development, decrease excessive body fat, and to minimize tiredness and sluggishness during a match. Boxers fight by throwing punches, they also have to rely on flexibility and agility. All of this takes huge amounts of energy, strength and endurance. Namely that’s why the food regime should be centered around a boxer’s training, and the right food choices can secure sufficient power regardless of whether athletes are having a match or a workout session.
What does a boxer have to eat?
The best diet for boxers has to be in accordance with the recommended ratios of specific food types. A fighter needs enough energy that mostly comes from carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
P r o t e i n s
After a hard boxing match, due to the heavy strain, fighters often have torn muscle ligaments to certain extent, which leads to making them feel exhausted and in relative body pain. Proteins work to regenerate the muscles, every cell and tissue, increase muscle mass, and prevent long term muscle damage, but besides that they’re also an additional source of energy. That’s why incorporating more protein is crucial to a professional fighter’s performance.
Excellent food sources of protein are: lean chicken, eggs, fish (especially tuna, salmon, halibut, cod, and tilapia), lean beef, milk curd and cheese, peanut butter, beans, lentils, hemp, soy, and more. If you eat meat more often, it’s better to buy lean meats in order to avoid extra saturated fat and cholesterol. And to preserve the benefits of lean meat, it’s advisable to choose a different cooking method than frying. Some people tend to avoid red meat saying it has more cholesterol, but the truth is when the meat is lean, it doesn’t really matter whether it’s red meat or white meat. The meat of fish and shellfish is also considered lean meat.
Of course there lies the option to boost your protein intake via protein dietary supplements, although they are recommended mostly for boxers who conduct professional workouts or at least are very serious about their training. Nutritionists advise a boxer’s daily diet should consist of between 30% and 40% proteins. Even athletes who train intensively shouldn’t exceed their recommended protein levels too much, because too much protein can occasionally lead to toxic build up and moderate dehydration.
C a r b s
Another major nutrient type. Keep in mind that boxing is an aerobic kind of sport activity that requires high energy levels, especially for 12 3-minute rounds. A boxer’s goal is to consume the foods that will provide the right proportion of strength, power and body weight that’s maintained best with sources of high energy and low fat. That’s why carbohydrates are so important for boxers, because they gradually release energy in the course of the day. They replenish the depleted glycogenic levels, and increase the fighter’s stamina during workouts and matches. Some carbohydrates, especially the processed ones that originate from white wheat flour, white bread, and other pasty goods, contain “empty” calories that have low nutritional value.
Boxers should eat natural carbs that come from foods like sweet potatoes, beans, lentils, peas, wholegrain bread, oats, rice, honey and fruits, all of which contain a diversity of other beneficial nutrients as well. These foods are effective sources of carbohydrates, and pugilists have to include them in their boxing diet plan. For example, a daily diet that consists of 4000 calories should have 1800-2200 calories obtained from quality carbs, which equals approximately to 550g of food weight. While honey and fruits provide you with low number of carbs, the other foods provide you with high number of carbs. But your major concern shouldn’t be to count high and low carbs, but to choose “good” carbs over “bad” carbs.
Then how to differentiate good carbs from bad carbs? The distinction between the two types is their effect on our blood sugar levels. And to measure that, scientists generally use the glycemic index which is a chart ranking all carbohydrate eatables in that manner. Simple carbohydrates cause considerable fluctuations in blood glucose, that’s why they’re categorized as high glycemic carbs. On the other hand, good carbs are complex. They’re classified as low glycemic carbs because they have lower reflection on our blood sugar levels and insulin.
Simple carbs such as sweets are assimilated too rapidly, thus flooding the blood with excessive amounts of sugar. The sugar rush forces your body to regulate the blood sugar level by releasing high amounts of insulin into your blood. Insulin for its part triggers the “food coma” effect, causing an energy crash, thus making you feel exhausted. And if you decide to go to sleep, it gets even worse, because then the body will store the unburnt sugar as fat. Consuming much high GI carbs at once regularly increases your risk of heart disease and diabetes over the course of time.
Complex carbs (slow carbs) take longer to absorb, that’s why they provide long-lasting energy for hours to come, that’s why it’s even better if you consume them in day time, plus they don’t spike the insulin levels that much. The perks of eating low GI carbs are: helping you lose weight or maintain you current weight, they keep you satiated for longer and reduce food cravings, they improve blood cholesterol levels, reduce chance of diabetes and heart problems, and increase physical endurance.
F a t s
Moving on to fats. People who aren’t much into the subject of nutrition may be a bit perplexed, but not all fats are bad and lead to weight gain. In fact, there are fats labeled as “good”, and similar to any athlete’s diet, a boxer’s nutrition plan must include good fats.
Beneficial fats help the body maintain key internal body functions such as cell building, energy supplying, vitamin and mineral absorption, and more. Good fats are usually the unsaturated ones (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated). To boot, there are fats categorized as “essential” and they can’t be made by our bodies, so we must obtain them through nutrition. Those are called omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. They’re also important for keeping healthy bones and joints, as well as stimulating good brain health. Besides that, omega fats are necessary for the production of prostaglandins, a type of hormone that helps the body preserve its overall good condition. Excellent food sources of omega fatty acids are: seafood, olives and olive oil, coconut, avocado, nuts (like walnuts, cashews, almonds), and seeds (especially flax seed which is regarded as one of the best omega fat source), as well as high quality, organic oils like macadamia oil, canola oil, or coconut oil. You can take flax oil or fish oil supplements to boost your omega-3 and omega-6 intake.
Bad fats that should be avoided are saturated fats. They’re found mostly in meat (especially in pork, fatty beef, lamb, poultry with skin), lard, and milk products like butter, cream and cheese. Saturated fats become even more noxious when they get processed. Then they become what we call trans-fats. They’re mostly found in fast food and junk food.
According to dietologists, 15% of the daily diet should consist of essential and monounsaturated fat. If you take a lot less, then side effects of essential fatty acid deficiency could start appearing. That’s why sports people shouldn’t avoid all fats at all cost, thinking they’re going to become leaner and healthier if they do, because good fats actually help you lose weight and feel fuller for longer when you eat. Also, many fat-free snacks are full of sugar and empty carbs that can cause weight-gain all the same. If you’re curious about what your body fat percentage should be and how to measure it, click [here].
W a t e r
Some people don’t even suspect that water is crucial to maintaining optimum health and that it plays a role in whatever physical initiative they’re planning. Water is absolutely mandatory in order for a boxer to stay strong, focused and energetic. So if you’re a pugilist, you need to make sure you’ve drunk enough water hours before a workout, during, and after workout, or else in an intensive sport such as boxing, dehydration may be very likely. In the spirit of that, we have to note that the best diet for a boxer can’t be legitimate without sufficient amount of water on a daily basis, somewhere around 8-10 cups of water along with their food intake, plus some extra water during training sessions.
F i b e r
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Fiber is a type of carbohydrate typically found in whole grains, nuts and seeds, wheat bran, vegetables and fruits, oats, legume foods and more. Fiber passes through the small intestine, thus helping with digestion, bowel movement and keeping the body healthy. This macronutrient is also great for regulating weight, as it slows down the motion of food through the gut. This slows down the overall food assimilation, thus keeping you feel satiated for longer. So in that reference, a diverse diet of a professional fighter should deliver adequate amounts of fiber.
V i t a m i n s a n d M i n e r a l s
These micronutrients are absolutely crucial for many body functions (for instance brain functioning, proper bone growth and producing red blood cells) and physical performance as well. They’re usually needed in very small amounts, and the majority of them are relatively easy to obtain through nutrition. Just try to vary your diet by making smart food choices such as fruits, veggies, wholegrains, nuts and seeds, and if needed, supplements that can boost your intake, especially for certain nutrients that you have to go out of your way to obtain.
What foods should a boxer avoid in general?
So in conformity with what we said about bad carbs and fats, we can conclude that a boxer’s diet shouldn’t include: fried foods, fast food, high sugary foods (like sweets, pastry and soft drinks), saturated fats, and processed edibles.
know that not all processed foods are bad. For instance refrigerating, freezing, dehydration and jar canning are consumer-friendly and even have their benefits.
What about cheat meals?
Well, we’re human after all, and it’s only natural that we can’t help ourselves every once in a while. Many diets have determined 1 cheat meal a week or an entire cheat day. It’s a common approach, so you might try it and see if it works for you. But keep in mind that if you’re serious about your training, a whole cheat day may be a little too much, since you’re constantly exhausting your body, and it needs recovery. Having an entire cheat day can get you deprived of the essential nutrients the body needs to heal. Experiment a little and observe your results. Food restriction however needs to be approached delicately. Some people don’t tolerate tight food diets in the long run and they start answering their strong food cravings by stuffing with whatever they see more often than their diet permits them. That’s one way to develop food addiction, so you need to be cautious over this. If you find yourself feeling the urge to devour a non-healthy snack or meal, try to eat just a little to satisfy your mind rave and taste receptors. Try decreasing such situations progressively in time.
Alcohol is another substance you’d do well to avoid almost at all cost if you’re aiming at being on professional level, and you don’t even need boxing nutritionist to tell you that. Hard workouts, tough sparring and official matches cause serious body tension and damage, so alcohol beverages really shouldn’t have a place in your eating regime, especially strong spirits. They would harm your efforts to reach your physical peak and you definitely don’t need that. There are exceptions of course. There’s nothing fatal in having a beer once or twice a week, especially after an evening workout. Beer contains amino acids and can help you relax your muscles and nervous system, just don’t abuse by drinking a few beers and more. A glass of red wine in the weekend is also a good choice, but other than that, it’s strongly recommended that you keep alcohol at bay.
What food should a boxer eat before a fight?
The food a pugilist eats prior to a sparring match or an official one is of critical importance for their performance in the ring. To reduce the feeling of exhaustion during the fight, boxers should eat food that supplies them with energy, assimilates easily and maintains the blood sugar during physical strain. Some dietitians recommend fighters to gradually reduce their food intake as the fight approaches, eating mostly starchy foods like light, brown bread sandwiches, fruits, and cereals. Most bulky fruits, vegetables, beans and lentils should be avoided, because they could cause diarrhea, especially in such a moment when a boxer is nervous before a match. Beans, cabbage and nuts for example can cause bloating too, and that’s not in favor of anybody just when they’re about to have a boxing match. If you’re about to have a match, don’t try new foods you haven’t eaten before, because you don’t know what the reaction of your body might be. You should drink 400-600 ml water two or three hours before the fight to keep the body hydrated. On the other hand, drinking too much water just before the fight may backfire.
What food should a boxer eat after a fight?
After a match, the goal is to accelerate the body’s recovering process as much as possible by replenishing glycogen levels, thus preventing the body from using its own muscle mass for energy production. If you’re a boxer who’s just had a fight, you should aim for food high in carbs and protein, and low in fiber, and should have the same type of meal every 2 hours for the following 2 hours. For good digestion it’s even better if a meal is taken with water or is liquidized in the first place. The carbohydrate and protein combo speeds the recovery of muscle tissue, hence it helps a fighter return to their training sessions sooner rather than later. After 6 hours have passed, a boxer can return to their original diet.
Other Basic Tips
- You know what to eat and what not to eat, but “how much?” is also an inevitable question that comes to mind. Many people know about the calorie counting method, but it’s actually pretty relative, since every individual has a different body than the person next to them. So some people need more calories, other need less. Some bodies are more efficient than others, some burn fat and build muscle faster than others, though that does depend to a certain extent on your lifestyle, rather than body type, size, shape or age. Overall, you need to restore what you’ve spent. If you use 3000 calories daily, then perhaps you should consume the same amount, unless you’re aiming at losing pounds, in that case you have to consume less. If your muscles need 50g of protein to regenerate, then that’s the absolute minimum you have to take. According to the American Dietary Guidelines, active men (reference size 5’10” 154lbs) need somewhere around 2400-3000 calories, and active women (reference size 5’4″ 126lbs) need 2000-2400 calories, but an active person is considered one who walks more than 3 miles a day, so again, calorie intake is pretty relative.
- Keep adjusting your own nutrient ratio between carbs, protein and fat, and keep experimenting with calorie count until you find the sweet spot. The goal is to consume as little calories as possible with each meal, yet still feeling satiated, energized throughout the day and working like a beast in the gym or in the ring. The breakfast and pre-workout meals should get you full, but not too full. In case you’re feeling tired after a meal or bloated, it’s probably a sign that you’ve eaten too much. The recovery meal should be about half a portion of a regular meal. Careful not to make this a two-edged sword by undereating. If you eat too little, your body will enter into a starvation mode. The body will start breaking down not just the fat, but the muscle as well, and muscles are much harder to restore, unlike fat that can be gained effortlessly. Performance levels will drop instantly and tremendously, you’ll feel exhausted and it’s possible even to start hating training and boxing. That’s why you must not allow yourself to starve, especially in the long run. Try having 5 or 6 meals a day by controlling your portion size and food choices.
- Try eating every 3 hours without overeating or undereating. Thus you’ll keep feeding your body and you’ll preserve optimal levels of insulin.
- Do your best to eat a good variety of foods, but if you feel like you’re not getting enough vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients, you can opt for a multivitamin supplement.
- Drink enough water to stay hydrated all day long. Drink until your urine color is pale or light-yellow. Dark yellow or orange-like urine can be a sign of dehydration.
- If you want to decrease weight: Keep a calorie deficit of 500-800 calories. Use higher deficits for short-term weight loss, and lower deficits for long-term weight loss. It’s usually easier to have a calorie deficit by eating less rather than working out more. Stop eating before you get full, and drink a lot of water to help you feel satiated. Try not to go under 1500 calories daily, because that’s the minimum and adult needs to function properly.
- If you want to gain fat: Eat as much as you can, as often as you can. You can even go to sleep right after a big meal. Being active can help you get hungry faster and eat more.
- If you want to maintain current weight: Eat until you feel full. Keep training as usual.
- If you want to build lean muscle: Exercise regularly to have appetite. Workout to build your body’s need of growth. Consume enough protein – you should eat 0.5 – 1 times of your body weight in grams of protein each day. For instance, if you weight around 45kg, you would need 50-100g of protein. In case you’re overweight, calculate using your desired body weight. Don’t forget, that you must maintain a balanced diet, so if you modify your protein intake, you have to alter the carbs and fats too. An average person needs 0.25 to 0.5 times their body weight in proteins, which would be okay for a recreational fighter. Eating extra protein wouldn’t help you more than you expect, after all, you’re not a bodybuilder, if anything, consuming too much protein can have its downsides too. If you want to increase your lean body mass, you should consume a little more calories than you use by avoiding overeating. Distribute the extra food amounts across all your 5-6 meals. That would make it easier for the body to absorb all the calories. If you decide to take a high quality protein supplement to cover your protein needs, you can make that experience a lot more fun and a lot more delicious by preparing some amazing protein smoothies.
- Do you need an ounce of extra energy to cope with your boxing sessions or weightlifting? Just eat a bit more of everything – proteins, fats, and carbs. Fuel your vigor by having a nutritious snack before workout, like nuts, a wholegrain snack, a fruit, or a few blocks of premium dark chocolate. Eat more protein for breakfast.
Well, if you’re on your way to becoming a boxer, or you’re one already, and you want circumstantial tips on what a boxer’s diet should be we hope we managed to be of help!