Boxing is an incredibly demanding sport that requires its participants to dedicate their lives to the craft- a singular mental focus, unbelievable sacrifice, unfathomable discipline, not to mention supreme physical and mental conditioning. Boxers have to possess a competitive desire that rivals any athlete in the world because of the inherent hardship and implicit danger associated with the sport. At the highest level, the difference between the winners and losers is infinitesimally small. Any advantage, no matter how minute, can be the difference between a Champion and a struggling contender...
“Hard work beats talent, when talent doesn’t work hard”
This quote is synonymous with what we see so often in boxing gyms all over the world. This is especially true when it comes to what the boxer puts into his/her body in the form of fuel. I don’t care how much talent you have- if you are malnourished, dehydrated and under fueled- you will never come close to seeing your true potential.
A well-rounded nutrition program is essential for anyone to reach their potential in the gym and in the ring. More and more attention is being shined on the importance of sports nutrition and performance. Boxing, which is often quite antiquated when it comes to contemporary training methods, is finally catching on. This makes obvious sense since boxing is a weight category sport, and also one that is undeniably dangerous and damaging to its participants.
As a Performance Nutritionist, I take on the task of helping individuals become the best version of themselves through dietary and lifestyle changes.
This article highlights and explains each of the 5 nutrition behaviours to maximise performance for training and everyday life. Follow these guidelines to stay fueled during training, enhance recovery between workouts, and maintain a healthy body composition year-round.
5 Nutrition Behaviors to Maximise Performance
Eat at Regular Intervals
Choose a Varied and Balanced Diet
Meet Your Protein Needs
Cannot stress enough the importance of proper hydration. This is the one thing that you can change immediately- hydration is an ongoing daily routine and forming the habit is vital for adherence. The going rate for fluid consumption is 30-35 ml/kg of bodyweight. Calculate for yourself and adjust according to ambient temperature, individual sweat rates and exercise intensity/duration/frequency. Important for every cellular process as well as proper metabolism and assimilation of nutrients.
- Compromised Temperature Regulation (feel hotter/colder)
- Makes you “work harder” at lower exercise intensities
- Can cause headache, dizziness, and fatigue
- Leads to muscle cramping and increases risk of injury
Drink consistently throughout the day
Aim to drink half your body weight (lbs) in fluid ounce (ie. 150 lbs.: drink 75 oz fluid)
Drink 16-20 oz water before training
Take sips as needed during training to maintain hydration be sure to drink adequate fluids post-workout to aid recovery (20 fluid oz./lbs. bodyweight lost)
- Urine colour - Clear to pale yellow colour and frequent need to urinate signal adequate hydration.
Infrequent, dark urine reflects dehydration- may take several hours/ days to recover.
Weight loss - Weighing yourself before and after training allows you to estimate fluids lost in sweat.
- To replace carbohydrates (preferred energy source during high-intensity movements) used for energy and to build glycogen (storage form of carbohydrate in muscle tissue) stores for the next workout
- To provide protein (amino acids) to aid in muscle repair and growth
- To replenish water losses from training.
The critical time to refuel is within the first 30 minutes after exercise when your body is able to maximise the absorption of carbohydrates and protein.
The recovery window continues for hours after the workout and it is important to supply carbohydrates AND protein (+ hydration) to promote recovery and growth.
- Water: at least 3 cups of fluid plus an additional 2 cups for each pound of weight loss
- Carbohydrates: 50-100 grams
- Protein: 15-30 grams
Recommended Food Combinations
- 1 scoop of whey protein powder in coconut water and a banana fruit smoothie with whey protein, almond milk, baby spinach and blueberries
1 tbsp almond butter in half cup cooked oatmeal
Almond butter on half an English muffin
8 oz. of nonfat and greek yoghurt mixed with 1/4 cup granola cereal
2 hard-boiled eggs and 6 oz hummus
- 1 oz beef jerky and an apple
3) EAT AT REGULAR INTERVALS (2-3 hours)
To maintain blood sugar levels for constant energy throughout the day
“Undereating ALWAYS leads to overeating”
To encourage protein synthesis (for recovery/growth) instead of fat storage
Increase fatty acid mobilization as an energy source (burn fat)
- Aim for 3-4 balanced meals daily
- Begin your day with a meal, even if it is not a traditional breakfast (ie. smoothie, bar, yoghurt)
- Regardless of your schedule, make sure to include a lunch **This may require packing food ahead of time (use leftovers from dinner)
- Prepare or purchase a dinner that is about the same size as breakfast and lunch
- The further you get from a workout and closer you get to bed- the less carbs you need!
Starving all day and binging at night will sabotage both weight loss and recovery efforts
- If you are going to binge- Load up on lean protein and non-starchy carbs (dark leafy greens), and limit or avoid carbohydrates (fruit included) and fatty meats. Aim for 2-4 snacks daily
- Including a small snack in between meals will control your hunger
- Eating a high-carbohydrate snack pre-workout will provide quick energy
- Refuelling after exercise is an essential snack for all athletes
4) CHOOSE A VARIED AND BALANCED DIETFollow these three steps to ensure you reach nutrient recommendations.
Step 1: Eat antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables Goals
Aim for 2-3 pieces of colourful fruit per day
Aim for 3-5 servings of vegetables (non-starchy) per day **1 serving is 1 cup raw or 1/2 cup cooked veggies.
- Search out the most brightly coloured and deepest greens you can find when choosing fruits and vegetables.
Step 2: Eat energy-supplying carbohydrates
- Carbohydrates fuel workouts and aid recovery
- Keep carbohydrate intake to early in the day and around workouts
Step 3: Eat muscle-building, lean protein sources Goals
Protein keeps you full longer, slows blood sugar spiking, aids in recovery and muscle growth
- Include a source of lean protein in every meal and snack
5) MEET YOUR PROTEIN NEEDS
PROTEIN IS KING!!!! Protein needs of sedentary people are very different than those who train, and especially those who train HARD. The Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) for protein for sedentary humans is 0.8 g/kg BW. This modest amount is to keep you from wasting away and does not take into account muscle tissue breakdown from training. Recent research has shown unequivocally that the upper limits of protein are WAY higher than originally claimed (some argue there is no ceiling if you are eating the right amount of total calories and getting enough other nutrients in your diet).
At the end of the day, performance is always at the cornerstone of our goals related to nutrition and training. Consuming enough calories for workouts, recovery and growth is always paramount. The majority of your calories on higher output workout any activity days should come from carbohydrates. On days when you are less active- your carbohydrate needs will be lower. Protein is important for overall health, recovery and muscle growth. Fat is also extremely important for health, as well as recovery and the sensation of feeling full.