Quite a few questions have been landing in my inbox lately asking what a boxer's diet looks like. Questions like:
- What kinds and amounts of food should a boxer eat while training?
- What can I eat to increase my stamina and performance in the ring?
- Should I eat before training?
- How important is breakfast?
- What do I think of intermittent fasting, paleo, vegans, vegetarians, etc..?
- Does carb cycling work?
- Should I eat a low carb, high carb, no carb diet?
- And the list goes on...
I've actually been meaning to answer all these questions and more in the full boxer's diet book that I'm working on, but time is not on my side at the moment.
I can answer many of these questions quickly and to the point without going into absurd amounts of detail in this article to get you started in the right direction.
If you can do without a big explanation of the why and trust that I have some idea of what I'm talking about (I don't know everything, but I am Precision Nutrition certified), then I can give you ten ways to start making your diet look like a boxer's diet.
Implementing one, two, or all of these ten recommendations will put you far ahead of any opponent that is not taking their nutrition as seriously as their training.
Please do not try to implement all of these recommendations at once. If you try to do it all, you'll likely fail miserably. Take one and focus on putting it into your daily routine for at least 14 days straight before trying to implement another one. That 14 days is enough to develop the habit so you no longer have to think about it - it just happens naturally and frees up your mind to focus on developing the next habit.
Before long all of the recommendations will take hold almost effortlessly.
So, here we go with the quick start boxer's diet...and this are in the order that I recommend you integrate into your life:
Boxer's Diet Tip #1 - What to Drink
You have three options: water, green tea, or coffee.
- Water - first and foremost make sure you drink plenty of water continuously throughout the day. I have a water bottle that I carry with me and take a few gulps every now and again. When I train, I drink more (usually a lot right after) to replenish what I'm losing by sweating.
- Green Tea - has a whole bunch of health benefits. I will have at least one cup a day - usually in the evenings as I wind down. It promotes fat burning and helps deal with some of the inflammation your body accumulates while training. Don't put anything in it.
- Coffee - as close to black as you can stomach it. A couple cups of coffee per day actually has health benefits. I usually have a small thermos of coffee in the morning when I get to work and another cup about an hour before my afternoon coaching/training sessions which makes me more alert and helps with the reflexes.
Boxer's Diet Tip #2 - Eat Enough
As a boxer, you expend a tremendous amount of calories in the gym (up to 1000 calories/hr or more). If you're not eating enough, your training will eventually suffer. You make far better use of your time in the gym when you have the energy to give it all you've got.
You know you're eating enough when your lean body mass (muscle) is increasing or staying constant and the amount of fat on your body is decreasing or staying constant (depending on your goals). As I'm already operating at my natural fighting weight, I will adjust my overall daily food intake up or down depending on whether I see my muscle mass decreasing or fat increasing. The key is to start with a certain amount of food and then adjust over time depending on what is happening to your body composition.
Boxer's Diet Tip #3 - When to Eat
It honestly doesn't really make that much difference overall. How much you're eating matters more over the course of the day.
It's best to take a look at your schedule and see when it suits you to eat.
I usually eat a fairly large breakfast, lunch, dinner, and evening snack. When I'm training harder or trying to add muscle, I'll add additional protein/calories to the day by adding in mid morning and afternoon snacks. I've also successfully used intermittent fasting to decrease body fat where I would only eat between noon and 2000hrs each day.
I also find that dinner fairly soon after training helps with recovery (as nutrients are available for muscle repair). I do not eat during training and there really is no need to unless the training session goes beyond 90 minutes.
Boxer's Diet Tip #4 - Supplements That Work
I take three (Full disclosure: I get a small commission if you decide to buy from any of the links here, but I wouldn't be making these recommendations if they were not quality products that I personally use myself and with clients to achieve outstanding results):
- Athletic Greens - Before discovering Athletic Greens I took a daily multivitamin as nutritional insurance. Turns out that a whole bunch of recent studies have proven that doing that is both a waste of money and potentially damaging. On the other hand, plants and other superfoods that we rarely eat enough of have so many nutritional benefits so it was a no-brainer when I looked into Athletic Greens as a replacement for the multivitamin. At first, it seemed really expensive to me, but when I factor in not buying multivitamins and the fact that I'm getting optimal amounts of 75 different naturally occurring nutrients every single day, it's actually a tremendous value. You'd spend far more buying each of these nutrients separately.
- Creatine - simply works to increase the intensity of your training. It gives you the ability to push just a little harder for 1-2 seconds. That may not seem like much, but it is those 1-2 seconds when you're already fatigued where the real adaptations take place. Being able to push out one more rep matters. I take 5 grams every morning. There is no need to load or cycle it and anything more than 5 grams is money down the drain. Creatine is also fairly cheap - so good value for what you get.
- Omega 3 Fish Oil - I take one capsule a day which contains 600mg EPA and 300mg DHA.
Boxer's Diet Tip #5 - Stop Eating Sugar
Just go cold turkey. I can't honestly say I never eat sugar or foods that contain sugar but I make a conscious effort to eat things that don't have sugar in them (not including fruit - nobody gets fat eating bananas). Sugar is worse than crack cocaine when it comes to addiction and does absolutely nothing for you. When you replace the sugar laden nutrient free foods with nutrient dense foods your boxing performance will skyrocket.
Boxer's Diet Tip #6 - Don't Drink Alcohol
I know, I know - first no sugar, now no alcohol - I obviously have no idea how to have fun and enjoy life. Again, I will have the occasional drink, but when I do I fully acknowledge that I'm poisoning myself and affecting my overall performance and quality of training for at least a day or two. If I am going to drink, I'll be sure to eat a few extra servings of vegetables, decrease my calorie intake, and increase the amount of water I drink during the day and during the party. I'll also stick to clear liquor, often with club soda or tonic water and lime.
Boxer's Diet Tip #7 - Get a Solid Sleep Every Night
What does sleep have to do with nutrition? Well, if you're sleep deprived you'll end up eating more and what you will eat will be more crap food. A good seven hours of sleep each night will do wonders for your performance in the ring and make all the other nutritional changes you're making extra effective.
Boxer's Diet Tip #8 - Integrate the Superfoods
Some foods are just plain better for you than others. Some have nutrients and good stuff - others don't. These 21 superfoods should work their way into your diet in one form or another. I'd suggest picking one or two a week, buying them and trying out a new recipe that includes them. You'll not only experience some new tastes, but you'll end up eliminating other foods that you may have been eating that aren't giving you the same level of nutritional benefit.
Boxer's Diet Tip #9 - Eliminate Dairy
The performance boosts associated with cutting all forms of dairy out of your diet vary from person to person. I find that I'm someone who does benefit from it not only in terms of quicker recovery and fewer inflammation issues, but it also has side benefits such as clearer skin.
I'm not sure if it's still the case, but I was brought up believing milk was essential for strong bones (calcium). It's not. You can get plenty of calcium from vegetables such as broccoli and other sources. I've had little to no dairy for years now and my bones certainly are not brittle.
I would suggest taking a couple of weeks, eliminate all dairy, and see how you feel. If you notice any positive improvements, keep it, if not, feel free to go back to the milk if you so desire.
Boxer's Diet Tip #10 - Eat More Nuts
Some fats are good for you. The fats in nuts are good for you and do things in your body that need to be done. They are a good source of protein as well. Eat more plain nuts - almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, etc... Be sure to factor in the calories though as nuts are calorie dense. I usually have a small handful of assorted mixed nuts as an evening snack.
There is a whole lot more I can and will eventually say on each of these boxing diet tips and more in the book I'm working on, but I didn't want to delay getting this information out to you so you can start working the recommendations into your overall training plan.
I know I'm asking you to take a lot of this on faith as I didn't exactly go into any of it in much detail. I assure you that detail is coming in the not too distant future and in the meantime you can ask any questions you may have in the comments below where I'll do my best to answer each of them.
Enjoy and boxon.