A BOXER’S TRAINING DIET
Whether you’re interested in someday fighting in the ring or you’re training boxing at home for physical fitness, staying properly fueled and hydrated is key to getting the most out of your boxing training sessions. Dehydration can cause muscle cramping and fatigue, leading to poor performance and an increased risk for heatstroke. At the same time, an improper diet (one that lacks nutrient-dense or muscle-rebuilding foods), can lead to muscle fatigue and extreme weakness during a workout. A lack of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory foods can result in increased inflammation and oxidative stress in the body which in turn delays the recovery process after exercise.
So how can you easily avoid these common dietary issues? Here are a few tips on how to consume a healthy and balanced diet as a boxer:
Follow the healthy plate guideline when building your meals:
Fruits and vegetables should fill half of your plate
Whole grains should fill one-fourth of your plate
Proteins should fill one-fourth of your plate
Consume a minimum of eight cups (64 fluid ounces) of fluids, preferably water, each day
Avoid added sugars, highly processed snacks, fried foods, and red and processed meats
Limit alcohol consumption, as alcohol can adversely affect energy supply and lead to dehydration, both of which affect exercise performance
Incorporate nutrient-dense snacks in between meals, especially before and after exercise
Prior to a fight, it is critical to consume adequate energy-producing carbohydrates such as whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables. It is especially important to consume these foods in the days leading up to a fight so that your body creates a storage of energy that will later be used to fuel your exercise. Boxing legend Mike Tyson is reported to have had a training diet that incorporated lean meats, like steak, veggies, fruits, as well as a few cheat meals, like ice cream and cereal. Right before stepping into the ring, his classic pre-fight snack was a chocolate bar and some orange juice--”just to get a quick sugar rush.” (Source)
If you need a pick-me-up before your boxing workout, opt for fruits as these contain easily digestible sugars, providing quick energy for your muscles. Although carbohydrates are the primary focus to consume pre-workout, research shows that adding a source of protein along with carbohydrates before resistance exercise can better stimulate protein synthesis. (Source)
During a workout, you create small tears in your muscles. Your muscle fibers undergo “trauma” which is also called muscle injury. In order to rebuild and recover, cells known as satellite cells become activated and join together to repair the damage, resulting in increased muscle mass. This is the process by which your muscles grow, called muscle protein synthesis. Amino acids, the building blocks of protein, are an integral part of this process, which is why protein intake must be adequate in a boxer diet and is especially crucial after a workout.
Although carbohydrates don’t play a direct role in muscle repair, they are also important after a workout in order to replenish the body’s glycogen stores. Historically, it was believed that the post-workout window to replenish protein and nutrients used up during a workout was only 30 minutes. Recent evidence has shown that our muscles are able to successfully rebuild and repair for hours post-exercise, some studies even suggest the window to be up to three (3) hours. Whether you have a post-workout snack or a full meal, just ensure that you consume both protein and carbohydrates, along with plenty of water and fluids to replenish electrolytes lost in sweat. (Source 1, Source 2)
Now that we understand how nutrition supports a boxer’s performance—even if your boxing ring is your home, FightCamp fam—let’s talk about foods!
Here are some pre- and post-workout snacks as well as foods to stock your pantry with:
1 banana, apple, pear, or orange*
1 cup diced pineapple
Fruit + 1-2 tbsp. nut butter
1 medium cooked sweet potato
¼ cup dried fruits + ¼ cup nuts
1 cup milk of choice + ⅓ cup whole grain granola or cereal
½ cup oatmeal + ½ banana, sliced
1-2 homemade energy balls
1 slice of wheat toast + ¼ cup hummus or ⅓ avocado
2 rice cakes + 1 tbsp. nut butter
Small fruit smoothie
*All fruits contain simple sugars, known as monosaccharides which are highly absorbable and therefore serve as a quick form of energy for the body. Most fruits will work as a pre-workout snack.
Protein shake + small banana
Green smoothie: 1 cup coconut water + 1 scoop of protein + 1 banana + 2 cups leafy greens (spinach, kale or both)
Berry smoothie: 1 cup milk of choice + 1 scoop of protein + ½ cup frozen berries
1 apple + 1-2 tbsp. peanut butter
1 slice of whole wheat toast + 1 tbsp. nut butter
1 slice of whole wheat toast + eggs or tuna
1 slice of whole wheat toast + ⅓ avocado + seeds
1 cup greek yogurt + 1 cup blueberries
½ cup cottage cheese + ½ cup mixed berries
1 cup tart cherry juice + protein bar
1 cup vegetables + ¼ cup hummus
Boxing is a high-intensity sport that requires endurance and strength. Fueling your body with high-quality foods that provide optimal nutrition can support you during training, improve your boxing performance in the ring (or at home!), and optimize your recovery. By following these healthy eating tips, you will not only be improving workout performance, but you will also be paving a path to a healthier future, lowering your risk for disease and increasing your quality of life.
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