A boxer's quest for optimal performance never ends - and a huge part of that quest is maximizing the amount of power you can generate.
Maximum power depends on muscle. It requires you to build the right kind and amount of muscle without exceeding your optimal weight limit and then training that muscle how to work properly and explosively.
What you eat can propel you closer or take you further away from that optimal level faster than any other variable.
It's akin to walking versus taking the car - if you're in the car you're getting where you're going (whether you want to go there or not) a hell of a lot faster than if you're on your own two feet.
Because of that, I took a nutrition certification course offered by Precision Nutrition - to learn the science behind the food. As a coach and trainer I feel it's important to continue building up my base of knowledge to enable me to be a more effective mentor to my clients.
One of the tenets of the Precision Nutrition philosophy is to be your own human guinea pig. Try things and see if they work for you vice putting blind faith in the research.
Nutrition is one of those topics that can confuse the hell out of you. A staggering amount of often contradictory information is available that leads to information overload and paralysis.
Sometimes you just need to cut through the bullshit and see if it works or not.
Unless you live under a rock - you've heard of the Paleo Diet, Paleo Solution, Paleo Plan or whatever clever marketing name someone has come up with to promote their new diet plan based on a Paleo lifestyle.
In a nutshell - Paleo living is supposed to simulate the good things about living like a caveman. Eliminate any type of grain, legume, dairy, or processed food and eat only meat and veggies. Sleep a lot and keep your stress levels low - or at least ensure any stresses are short lived (like getting chased by a hungry tiger - it ends one way or another real quick).
On first glance a Paleo diet looks a lot like a low carb diet. It definitely is much lower carb than a traditional Western diet full of grains, but it isn't carb free and it doesn't strive to be carb free. You can eat as many carbs as you like - just in the form of vegetables. Getting a lot of carbs through vegetables is just naturally hard to do.
I challenge you to try Paleo for the next 30 days and let me know what your results are.
I've unknowingly tried Paleo before - I've tried eating like this.
Out of necessity, I was pretty close to living Paleo during the year I lived in Pakistan. I simply did not have access to a lot of the processed and refined foods you can get in the West so I lived on a lot of meat, a few veggies, and rice.
Now rice isn't Paleo and I was not consciously trying to eat Paleo style so every opportunity I got I ate my share of junk - but my diet was a lot closer to Paleo at that time than what it is now living back in Canada.
I found that I was, on average, about 25lbs lighter in Pakistan. After arriving I quickly dropped in weight (partly because of the diarrhea I contracted..TMI?) to 155lbs from 180lbs and found it super difficult to work my way back up.
After almost a year of weight training I managed to add about 10lbs but I was not able to eat the quantities of food required to support a lot of muscle growth.
When I got back to Canada, I effortlessly saw my weight shoot up past 180lbs. Part of it was the 10lbs of muscle I added in Pakistan - but a lot of it was fat around my midsection that started to obscure my abs. The quantity and type of food was the only thing that changed.
Anyways that whole experience peaked my interest in what a full on Paleo diet might do which brings me to the start of this Paleo for boxing challenge.
I might add that I'm not the only boxer giving Paleo a try. Much better pro boxers like Andrew Flintoff and Adriana Lima eat Paleo.
Now I don't expect Paleo to automatically and magically turn people into better boxers. What I'm curious about are the claims that a Paleo diet will give us more energy, help with recovery, eliminate any excess fat we're carrying while replacing it with muscle, and generally just make us feel good.
More energy and muscle plus less recovery time = more power = a better boxer (or someone who just looks a lot better naked).
To understand the whole Paleo diet more, I bought and read The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet by Robb Wolf. I followed Robb on Twitter and let him know that we were going to put Paleo to the test to see what effect it might have on our boxing performance.
Robb kindly replied to me with some tips for modifying the baseline Paleo diet in the book to accommodate high intensity training volumes like boxers have. He suggested that we increase our intake of taters, fruits, and yams to provide enough of a carb boost to meet our energy demands.
Athletes and boxers who train intensely need carbs. Super low carb is not the way to go and Paleo does not mean no carbs. Paleo diets rely on your body to do its thing to make the glucose it needs to fuel everything - boxers simply need to up the starchy carbs to supplement those processes to see the benefits and still maintain their level of training.
Before deciding to offer you this challenge I also took a look at what Precision Nutrition had to say about Paleo. While they do point out some issues - in their words...
They came to these Paleo conclusions in this article:
- The foods that a Paleo diet emphasizes are a massive improvement over the usual Western diet.
- Paleo diets have been extremely effective at improving several chronic diseases.
- The Paleo movement has been effective at making people realize how crappy we've been eating.
I already eat pretty good - no sugar, limited dairy and a good dose of lean meats and veggies so I'm not expecting it to be too difficult a transition to simply eliminate all grains and legumes from my diet.
That said - I already know that my major obstacle is going to be deciding what to buy and eat each day - so to make things easy, I'll be looking for some Paleo Meal Plans.
The less you have to think about - the easier it is going to be to stick to this for the next 30 days.
So today is D-Day should you choose to accept the challenge.
This post will likely be the start of a series of posts on my experiences with the Paleo diet to improve boxing performance. I'll aim to provide an update at least weekly on the challenges and benefits (if any) that I'm experiencing and hope you do the same.
Anyone out there already make this transition? Any tips or experiences you want to share? Leave a comment and let's do it. Boxon.