Learn how to eat right to fight harder, gain lean muscle weight, burn fat, or just look sexy! This isn’t just a boxing diet plan, it’s a common sense diet plan for anybody to feel and look like a champ!
A NOTE TO THE READERS: I’m hardly an expert on nutrition or dieting. I barely know how to cook! HOWEVER, I did speak to boxing coaches, personal trainers, fighters, doctors, one nutritionist, and even friends that lost weight. If there was anybody that could teach me anything about dieting, I made sure to ask them. Most importantly, I made sure that everything the experts told me did not conflict with anything my trainers told me. The following is a combination of their knowledge and my own personal experience.
Boxing Diet for Lifelong Health
Fortunately for me, boxing was my catalyst to seeking healthy food. I was born with fast metabolism and stayed skinny my whole life. It wasn’t until I tried boxing that I saw the difference between looking in-shape and being in-shape. You must eat well to perform well and it was then that I realized the true value of good nutrition. If it wasn’t for boxing, I might have eaten junk food for the rest of my life.
Poor Dieting Habits of the Modern Lifestyle
I blame recent technology and modern society for creating busier lives and contributing to poor eating habits. It is more convenient, socially and personally rewarding to eat crap as we maintain busier lifestyles in school, work, or training. Time-crunched days often lead to frequent periods of starvation and over-eating. Diet conveniences come in the form of junk food or restaurants more focused on providing a “dining experience” than actual healthy food. The only thing most people know about healthy dieting is “fat is bad and avoid junk food” and yet the average person today eats more junk food and fat foods than ever before.
Proper dieting has become quite the mystery over the years. I’m not sure how it came to be that we humans have lost our ability to eat intelligently, something we were born to do naturally. (Did you know the primary reasons for evolution of vision/smell/taste in humans was to detect and differentiate between food?) Despite those advantages, many individuals that have tried to eat healthy are met with conflicting information and demoralizing results.
The human body has remained virtually the same for millions of years yet there are new diets coming out EVERY YEAR! The way I see it, successful marketing has been repackaging the same facts about proper dieting over and over again to be resold to the poorly-informed (and overly self-conscious) public.
I’ve heard of the protein diet, the atkins diet, the vegetarian diet, the high-carb diet, the low-carb diet, and the SLOW-carb diet. I’ve been a successful athlete my entire life without ever following any of those. At worst, these diets restrict your food intake to ridiculously small amounts. These crazy diets work for a little while, until your body suffers from starvation or deficiencies in essential nutrients. At best, these diets are simply a new name for a good old fashion healthy diet!
I don’t need to reinvent the science of nutrition. The secret to eating right has more to do with common sense than all the science in the world!
Dieting Common Sense:
You need to eat everything.
- Carb, protein, fats — they’re all essential to your body; the key is moderation.
You need to eat at the right time.
- Don’t starve when your body needs energy, and don’t over-eat when you have enough. Timing your meals allow you to stay full on less food.
Your diet should fit your needs.
- Diets are not one-size-fits-all. Everyone’s bodies, lifestyles, diets, and dieting goals are different. A weight loss diet for one person might lead to weight gain for another.
Healthy dieting requires:
TIMING (of meals)
VARIETY (of foods)
BALANCE (of nutrients)
MODERATION (of portions)
The Boxing Diet
As a fighter, eating properly increases your performance, decreases your recovery time, while maintaining a lean (and sexy) body weight. Boxers need more nutrients than the average person to workout, develop and repair the body.
A boxer’s diet must:
- provide energy for physical performance
- provide nutrients for rapid muscle development
- decrease body fat
The boxing diet varies from a normal diet in that you have to center your diets around your workouts. You need nutrients to fuel the intense workout and begin recovery right after. Eating around the workout is what makes the boxer’s diet so hard. It’s easy to under-eat and end up starving during your workout or over-eat because you feel so hungry after the workout. It’s not enough to say that “an athlete requires more nutrition than the average person.” Managing the boxer’s diet is TRICKY! There’s timing, calculation, and balance involved!
The boxer has to eat more, without over-eating!
WHEN to Eat
Knowing WHEN to eat,
is as important as knowing WHAT to eat.
Our #1 problem is figuring out when to eat. (Most people know what to eat. Fruits are good, junk foods are bad, etc) If you’re eating healthy but still not losing weight, it’s probably your timing that’s off. If you don’t eat at the right time, it matters very little whether you eat healthy or not–because the food gets transformed into fat anyway!
The #1 diet problem
Not eating when the body needs food,
and then over-eating when finally eating.
… so when do we eat?
Timing Your Meals
The body’s daily energy use
- Your body is constantly using energy, spiking its energy use during your workout.
- Your boxing diet should follow your energy use as closely as possible.
Bad diet plan of eating 3 big meals a day.
- over-eating converts surplus nutrients to fat
- fewer meals leaves you hungry & weak in between meals
- starving often leads to more over-eating
One of the biggest diet mistakes is waiting too long in between meals. If you wait till your stomach is grumbling, your body is already starving (decreased energy and recovery rate). Extreme hunger is usually countered with the next diet mistake, over-eating, which increases fat storage. One mistake usually leads to the other, putting your body in a vicious cycle of starvation (decreased metabolism) followed by periods of over-eating (fat gain).
Good diet plan of 6 meals a day
- smaller meals keep you energized and full throughout the day
- snacks keep you from starving during long workouts and in between meals
- smaller meals keep your metabolism high while avoiding over-eating
Eating smaller meals more closely matches your body’s energy use. Your biggest meals are in the mornings and the one before your workout. Smaller meals keep you satisfied without putting extra calories into you.
5 to 6 Small Meals a Day
Eating 5 to 6 small meals a day is the best advice I can give and it really works. 5-6 meals comes out to about one meal every 2-3 hours. Boxers looking to make weight follow this religiously. Every friend I’ve had that lost 50-100lbs of weight (epic miracle style), did it with just this one principle alone. If there is anything you learn from reading this guide, let it be this one:
Eat 5 to 6 small meals a day!
- My friend explained meal-timing in these simple terms:
Start eating before you get too hungry.
Stop eating before you get too full.
Biggest Meal in the Morning
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It’s the first supply of nutrients for your day and kickstarts your body’s metabolism. Once you have a full breakfast, you can make it through the rest of the day on smaller meals to avoid getting hungry. Don’t be silly and skip breakfast as part of your weight loss plan. This leaves you hungry and sends your body into starvation mode (decreasing metabolism), making it stingy for energy and storing everything you eat as fat. You You need to have energy to start your day; you need to eat good breakfast.
Breakfast AFTER Your Morning Run
If you do your runs in the morning, it’s best to eat breakfast after that. First off, running on a full stomach is a terrible idea. Secondly, running on an empty stomach helps you lose weight because your body will be burning off stored fat instead of the food you ate that day. It’s not necessary to do your runs in the morning, but the common belief is that it burns off fat stored from the previous night and energizes you for the day.
The Pre-Workout Meal
Aside from breakfast, the workout meal is the second and only other big meal on your training day. (You don’t need a workout meal on rest days.) Essentially, the boxer’s diet is different from a normal diet because of “the workout meal”. It has to fuel your intense workout without going overboard and storing fat.
You should eat 2 hours before the workout. The workout meal should be big enough to sustain your whole workout. If you’re doing a 30-minute bootcamp sesssion, you won’t need much. If you’re like me and spend 5 hours sweating non-stop in the gym, you need a big meal. Eat light foods so that you’re not training with a half a steak still digesting in your stomach. (Meat usually takes 4 hours to digest completely.) This might slow you down or give you cramps.
If you need, have a SMALL snack before or after the workout, followed by a recovery meal when you get home. Eating within 30 minutes of your workout triggers your body’s recovery phase immediately.
A boxer needs only 2 big meals a day at most;
One for breakfast and another 2 hours before training.
NOTE: if your workout comes early in the day, it is possible to have just one big meal. You would use the same big meal as your breakfast and pre-workout meal.
Smallest Meals at Night
Later meals in the day should be kept small so that you’re not going to bed starving, but also not sleeping with unused calories. Eating before sleeping is one of the easiest ways to get fat. Your biggest meals (like breakfast and before workout) come earlier so that you have all day to burn off the calories.
WHAT to Eat
This is probably the most common subject of dieting. What should I eat?
The nutrients you need in large quantities are:
- water (essential, vital to living)
- carbs (for energy)
- protein (muscle growth & recovery)
- fats (vital to organs, secondary energy source)
Then comes nutrients you need in small quantities:
- vitamins & minerals (boost immune system, support cell growth, organ functions, healthy skin, strong bones)
- fiber (move food through digestive system, keeps your digestive system running smoothly–helps you eat less)
Basically, you need everything. Eating a wide variety of foods is key to proper functioning, growth, repair, and maintenance of your body. Deficiencies, excesses, and imbalances in diet will lead to reduced physical performance, illness, and many other negative impacts on health.
Now let’s review the different types of nutrients:
Water is the most vital substance in your body; you need water to live. Over 50% of your body weight is made up of water. From an athletic standpoint, you need water to replace fluids lost through sweating.
- transports oxygen & nutrients
- removes waste & toxins
- regulates body temperature
- facilitates digestion
- endless more important bodily functions.
- It’s no surprise that you will die sooner from dehydration than from starvation.
You must drink water all the time. There is no substitute for water, not even Powerade. I recommend serious boxers to drink 2-3 gallons of water per day, spread out into 1 cup every hour, starting with one right when you wake up and ending with one right before you go to bed. Anytime that I drank any less, I got tired faster or felt weak during intense training.
Keeping drinking water until your urine is clear or light yellow.
Hydrate long before your workouts. If you have a workout later in the day, it’s best to hydrate that morning. Drinking too much water during the workout may give you cramps or make you feel like throwing up when the training gets too intense.
Water also helps you lose weight. How? Your liver is the organ responsible for metabolizing fat. When your kidneys don’t get enough water to function, the liver is called in to help. So drinking enough water reserves the liver to break down as much fat as possible. This is why you must drink water EVEN WHILE YOU ARE SHEDDING WATER WEIGHT to make weight!
Carbohydrates provide your body with its most preferred form of energy. Without carbs, you won’t have energy and certainly won’t last long as a boxer. Consuming too many carbs, on the other hand, will increase your body fat.
Most things you eat that aren’t meat are carbs; grain, pasta, cereal, vegetables, fruits, anything with sugar, are all carbs. Starchy foods like breads and pasta will provide a high number of carbs whereas hard foods like vegetables and fruits provide a lower number of carbs. The focus is not on “high carb” or “low carb” but rather to focus on eating “good carbs” while avoiding “bad carbs.
So how do you tell good carbs from bad carbs?
The key difference between good carbs and bad carbs
is how they affect your blood sugar levels.
The Glycemic Index
The glycemic index is a chart ranking all carbohydrate foods according to their effect on our blood sugar levels. Simple carbs (bad carbs) are considered high glycemic carbs because they cause large fluctuations in blood glucose. Complex carbs (good carbs) are considered low glycemic carbs because they produce only small fluctuations in our blood glucose and insulin levels.
Good carbs = complex Carbs (Low GI),
Bad carbs = simple Carbs (High GI)
GOOD Carbs vs BAD Carbs
High GI carbs (bad carbs), are simple carbs like candy, that break down too quickly flooding your blood with too much sugar. The sugar high forces your body to regulate the blood sugar level by releasing high amounts of insulin into your blood. The insulin triggers the “food coma” effect, causing an energy crash and making you feel tired. (If you do go to sleep, your body will store the unused sugar as fat. This is why it’s bad to sleep after a big meal.) Unless you’re looking to quickly re-fuel your body for a short time, high GI carbs should always be avoided.
Regularly consuming too much carbs (sugar) at once increases your risk of heart disease and diabetes over the long run. If you do eat too much in one meal, walk around and exercise to use up that sugar before it affects your blood glucose or gets converted into fat.
Low GI carbs (good carbs), are complex carbs that take longer to breakdown thereby providing constant energy throughout the day. They keep you energized and reduce hunger without spiking your blood sugar levels.
Eating Low GI carbs (complex carbs):
- reduces hunger and keeps you fuller for longer
- helps you eat less to lose or maintain weight
- improve blood cholesterol levels
- prolong physical endurance
- reduce risk of diabetes and heart disease
Switching to a Low GI Diet
Follow the glycemic index chart and do your best to eat carb foods that rank low on the glycemic index. You don’t have to recount carbs or recalculate anything, just switch off high GI foods like Cornflakes for low GI equivalents like Mini Wheats. Try to get more of your carbs from fruits and vegetables. You don’t have to stop eating carbs, you just have to be more specific.
More info & resources on carbs:
- Glycemic Index Chart
- Official site of the Glycemic Index
- Glycemic Index on Wikipedia
- Good carbs vs Bad carbs
- Problem with low carb diets
Protein is needed to build and repair muscles, cells, and tissues. From a boxer’s standpoint, protein deficiency can lead to fatigue and loss of muscle mass. The body can’t store protein so you need a little of it everyday (especially on workout days). Too much protein (over 30% of your caloric intake) will lead to dehydration and toxic build-up.
Proteins can be found in animal or plants (such as soy, nuts, seeds). Current dietary guidelines recommend a balanced protein diet of lean meats, seafood, and nuts.
Choosing Lean Meats
The right meats for protein are lean meats (meaning little or no fat). By industry definition, “lean meat” has less than 10 grams of total fat, less than 4.5 grams of saturated fat, and less than 95 milligrams of cholesterol for every 3.5 ounces of meat. There is even “extra lean” meat which contains less than 5 grams total fat, less than 2 grams saturated fat, and less than 95 milligrams cholesterol.
You can purchase lean meat or prepare lean meat by trimming off the visible fat. The way you prepare the meat also affects its fat content. Baking, broiling, roasting, and grilling are excellent low-fat cooking techniques that preserve the health benefits of lean meat. Frying and buttering is pretty bad, although tasty! Don’t forget that lean meat is dry meat so try to add some broth or prepare it in a way that retains moisture and flavor.
White Meat vs Red Meat
Eating white meat or red meat doesn’t matter,
as long as it’s “lean meat”.
Contrary to common belief, red meat can be just as healthy as white meat! If you’re just referring to the quality and quantity of the protein in the meat, white and red are equal. Once you take into account the health risks, people will prefer white meat over red meat. Red meat has been linked to many disease with the heart, cancer, etc, because of its high saturated fat content. This can be negated by eating LEAN red meat. Red meat is more beneficial than white meat in many ways because it has more vitamins and minerals your body needs. Sure, you consume more saturated fat with red meat but this is less an issue if you’re exercising.
Note: I’m aware that pork is white-color. From what I’ve researched, pork is being classified as “red meat” because it shares more in common with other red meat than white meat.
Every kind of meat (chicken, turkey, beef, pork) whether white or red has fat. What makes it lean is the part of the animal you eat and how you prepare it. Even chicken (white meat) can be high in fat. Whichever meat you decide, keep your portions moderate.
Many seafoods, such as white fish and shell fish will qualify as lean meat and also provide good essential fats. Some fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids which help protect your body against diseases. Be careful that you don’t eat fish that have too much mercury, which is known for interfering with the brain and nervous system, along with other serious health problems.
- Red meat vs white meat
- Dark meat vs white meat
- Healthy lean meats
- Mercury levels in fish – FDA
- Benefits of eating fish
- Chicken is Unhealthy?
Yes, you NEED fats.
GOOD Fats vs BAD Fats
Not all fats are bad! Good fats serve your body’s essential needs; providing energy, building cells, facilitating vitamin absorption, among other important functions. And then there are bad fats that only clog your arteries, make you fat, and increase your risk to heart disease, cancer, etc. It’s not about how much fat you eat, but the type of fat you eat.
Let’s differentiate between the good fats and the bad fats:
- Good fats - (Poly-unsaturated & Mono-unsaturated) – found in olive oil, canola oil, cashews, almonds, etc nuts & seeds, fish & fish oil supplements
- Bad fats - (saturated fats) – found in animal fat
- VERY BAD fats - (trans fats) – usually found in processed foods, junk foods, fast foods
Don’t avoid all fats
Eating “fat-free” doesn’t guarantee you’re eating healthy. Many fat-free foods are high in sugar, bad carbs, or have too many calories. Fats help you feel full, so avoiding fat could make you over-eat and gain weight anyway. The key is eating more good fats and less bad fats. You can avoid animal fats by trimming any fat you see around the meat. Eat good fats from nuts like cashews and almonds (avoid peanuts). Cook with olive oil or canola oil (instead of coconut oil or butter).
You don’t have to run out and “eat” fats. You might have already consumed enough fats from your carb and protein diet. NOTE: unless it states clearly “POLY-unsaturated” or “Mono-unsaturated”, the fats listed on nutrition labels are usually the bad fats, not the good ones.
Resources regarding fats:
- Healthy fats
- List of trans fat fast foods
- Top 10 foods with trans fats (BAD)
- Why you need fats
- Good and bad fats
- What if saturated fats are GOOD for you?
Vitamins and Minerals
Micronutrients (vitamins & minerals) are different from macronutrients (carbs, proteins, fat) because they are only necessary in tiny amounts. Nevertheless, micronutrients are still essential for good health. Vitamins and minerals are necessary for proper functioning in all parts of your body from bone growth to brain function to producing red blood cells.
Getting enough vitamins and minerals in your diet is pretty easy. A balanced diet including nuts, whole grains, colorful fruits and vegetable will offer plenty of vitamins and minerals. The more colorful your diet, the better. You only need a little, but any deficiency would lead to serious health problems.
Fiber is a carbohydrate found in whole grains, nuts, wheat bran, vegetables, oats, citrus fruits, apples, barley, beans, etc. Humans can’t digest the fiber so it passes through the small intestine helping to keep the body healthy. Fiber is great for weight control because it slows down the movement of food through your intestines. This slows down your food absorption, keeping you full and allowing you to last longer with less food.
A supplement is a pill you take to remedy a deficiency in your diet. In this day and age, supplements are sold under the illusion that they give you some magical performance boost you could. As long as you are eating correctly, you will need little or no supplements at all. Eating whole and natural foods is the best way to go!
Improve your diet…not your supplements.
There are supplements I do recommend, like fish oil, omega 3, flaxseed oil, and other stuff that’s hard to find in regular food. A well balanced diet will cover just about everything else.
I don’t personally recommend vitamin pills, it’s usually an overload of too much at once and doesn’t make up for a well-balanced diet. I actually noticed more of a difference eating the necessary foods than just taking a pill. Research has shown that it is better to consume vitamins through food than through pills.
- Vitamins and mineral supplements
- Taking vitamins vs eating fresh fruits and veggies
- Benefits and dangers of vitamin supplements
Protein bars, energy snacks, and sports drinks providing quick carbs or sodium (lost through sweat) can be beneficial for long workouts but aren’t necessary. An energy drink is definitely NOT OK!
What about performance booster supplements like creatine? Does the supplement claim to help you grow more muscle or perform at a higher level? Find out what the active ingredient is. Does your body already naturally create this chemical? If not, then why should you be adding something foreign to your body?
Creatine causes your body to retain water weight which makes you bigger and helps your performance because their is more water to transport nutrients throughout your body. From a boxer’s standpoint, creatine is already bad because it makes you bigger.
What if a supplement (like whey protein) claims to help you repair muscle? What if it claims to give you natural nutrients to increase your natural recovery processes? Again, I urge you to find out what this “natural ingredient” is. Are you already absorbing this “magical” ingredient through your diet? And if not, why is it that your normal diet not made up for this deficiency?
Whey protein is not needed at all if you’re eating the right foods in your normal diet. It is better to get your protein from foods because you also pick up the benefits of other vitamins and minerals that come in natural food. Either way, you’re not a bodybuilder so you don’t need THAT much protein.
Cookies? Chocolate cake? Alcohol? Soda? They’re bad because they’re loaded with sugar, bad fats, bad carbs, or toxic preservatives. If the food feels heavy in your stomach, takes long to digest, gives you a sugar high, or makes you drunk, it’s not good for you. Is it ever ok to cheat? Sure, it is. But how often and how much is up to you. Some fighters can eat chocolate everyday and still be on weight. Other fighters have to avoid it completely. It all comes down to how much your weight and performance means to you.
Ok, so you can’t stand a clean diet. You can’t live without ice cream, chocolate, Pringles, whatever. If you must know, I think one cheat meal for every 15 good meals is OK. (I don’t actually live by that, of course. I only cheat like once every 50 meals.) I know other diets allow you to have a cheat day every week but this is fighting. Your body is always busy performing or busy healing. An entire cheat day is probably too much if you want to be serious about boxing.
My first trainer use to have a rule: if he could tell you drank alcohol over the weekend, he wouldn’t train you for a week. If you’re serious about getting better, you’ll have to stay away from distractions and things that get in the way of peak performance. This is fighting, not arts & crafts. The punishment for showing up at less than your best, is physical damage. It’s up to you to prioritize what matters more to you, alcohol or training…and to stick to one. Can you drink once every week? I’m sure some people get away with it. Being talented is not permission to slack off. Pros and competing fighters NEVER drink alcohol during training. Unless you’re more talented than they are, I wouldn’t recommend it.
Some studies to show you the effects of alcohol on athletic performance:
- Alcohol and athletic performance - University of Georgia
- Alcohol effects on athletic performance – Bodybuilding.com
- Alcohol and athletic performance – UC San Diego
- If you don’t want to read, alcohol decreases: testorone, accuracy, balance, reaction time (reflexes), visual tracking, power and muscle endurance, body hydration, absorption of vitamins/minerals, aerobic capacity, muscle recovery, muscle growth potential, etc.
Personally, I think it’s disrespectful to your trainer to drink when he tells you not to. My trainer gave me 100% in and out of the ring, and I feel it’s unfair to give him any less. You have every right to do whatever you want with your body, but do it on your own time and not on someone who really believes in you and trains you hoping you might one day turn pro and give him a 10% cut. (But hey, that’s just me…)
Processed Food (the other kind of bad food)
Any food that is prepared, stored, or transformed into other forms for consumption or storage is considered processed food. Any food that has to be “made” in a factory is probably processed. Gummy bears, cheese, canned soup, instant noodles are all examples of processed food. Processed foods are made of raw foods that have undergone a manufacturing process to make it last longer or taste better. Most junk food, fast food, frozen foods also fall under the category of “processed food”. Anything with a nutrition label and doesn’t grow in the form in which you eat it, is probably a “processed food”.
Processed VS Whole Foods
Here’s are some examples:
- Apples – are whole natural foods, healthy and tastes good.
- Canned apple sauce – is processed food, possibly loaded with unhealthy preservatives to last longer and sugars to make it taste better.
- Home-made apple sauce – is natural and just as healthy as the apple itself (assuming you don’t add stuff to it).
- Canned apple sauce CLAIMING to be “natural” – tough call, now you have to read the nutrition label and see what’s in it. Is it full of sugars (flavor), sodium (preservative), or unnecessary carbs?
Processed food has long been connected to America’s growing health problems. Americans today have busier lifestyles and don’t have as much time to prepare natural foods. It’s more convenient to eat packaged food or fast food. Unfortunately, processed food can have harmful ingredients added to improve shelf life (sodium) or enhance flavor (sugar, MSG). There are also horror stories of other toxins being added to the food without your knowledge.
A dog raised on natural wild food lives longer, healthier, happier, has more energy and a more beautiful coat than a dog raised on man-made “dog food”. I would recommend the same natural foods approach for humans.
Not all processed foods are bad
Some processed foods have only undergone freezing, refrigeration, canning, or dehydration–which only results in decreased nutritional value and doesn’t harm your body. The processed foods you should avoid are the ones made with trans-fats, saturated fats, or large amounts of sodium and sugar. (EX: packaged chips, cookies, cakes, white flour breads and pasta, canned food or ramen with large amounts of sodium or fat).
Vegetarians and B12 Deficiency
Vegetarians need to watch for vitamin B12 deficiency. Strict vegetarian diets that avoid animal foods will lack vitamin B12 unless they eat certain fortified cereals or take pills. Vitamin B12 helps maintain healthy nerves and red blood cells. Deficiencies in vitamin B12 lead to weakness, depression, and other problems with your body. Fortunately, you can take pills for vitamin B12; and all your other essential nutrients can be found in plants.
Diet plans and Recipes
I’m not going to make diet plans because it takes too much time everyone’s diet will vary depending on their culture, religious beliefs, lifestyle, allergic reactions, etc. It doesn’t matter what you eat as long as you get the needed nutrients! I’ve never followed a diet plan and got along just fine without it. (Then again, I’m not a professional boxer.) You can make up a diet plan yourself using the foods that you eat daily. You might have to add some things, remove some others, and make some substitutions along the way. From what I’ve seen, most people need to eat more fruits and vegetables while consuming less processed food, sugars, and fats.
Before you ask me “Is it ok if I eat ____ to get my carbs?”, do some research. See if there are other foods out there that offer cleaner carbs, or higher quality carbs, or come with other nutritional benefits. Look for alternatives that taste better, or take less time to prepare. Make sure your body gets enough healthy carbs and you’ll be fine.
HOW MUCH to Eat
What Your Body Needs
Ok, so you already know what to eat. But what about how much you should eat? Everyone asks me for calorie counts and I can’t answer that. Every person’s body is different from the next. Some people need more calories, others need less. Some people can survive on just 5 hours of sleep while others need a full 10 hours. Some bodies are more efficient than others and this has more to do with your lifestyle than it does with your body type, size, age or shape.
Generally, you have to consume enough to replenish what you spend. If you use 3,000 calories a day, then you probably need to consume just as much (unless you’re trying to lose weight, then eat less). If your muscles need 30g of protein a day to repair worn-out muscle, then that’s the minimum you should consume.
How much should you eat?
This is what your body needs, according to the
American Dietary Guidelines 2010 (from the US Department of Health):
- 2400-3000 calories for active men (reference size 5’10″ 154lbs)
- 2000-2400 calories for active women (reference size 5’4″ 126lbs)
*active is defined as doing the equivalent of walking over 3 miles a day
You see how vague that is? It really depends on so many factors. Aside from figuring out how many calories your body needs to function, you have to figure out how to divide up those calories. How much of your intake should be carbs, proteins, fats?
Every individual needs a different amount of nutrients.
A nutrient ratio keeps your diet balanced and makes it easier to keep track of your diet. Instead of counting every piece of bread and chicken your eat, you can follow a nutrient ratio to make sure you’re getting all your nutrients without over-eat any of them.
A general nutrient ratio would be:
- 45-65% carbs
- 10-35% protein
- 20-35% fats
For example, if your diet requires 1,000 calories to fulfill your normal lifestyle AND boxing workout, then you might get about 500 calories from carbs (50%), 300 calories from proteins (30%), and 200 calories from fat (20%).
Calorie-counting is unrealistic,
it’s easier to follow a nutrient ratio.
There are several ways to figure out a good nutrient ratio….
Rule of Thirds
An easy way to balance your meals is to divide your plate into 3 equal parts of lean protein, complex carbs, and vegetables/fruits. This simple rule of 2/3rds mixed carbs and 1/3rds proteins will most likely cover your needed fats. (Rule of Thirds)
Rule of thirds:
Divide your plate into 3 equal portions of:
lean protein, fruits/vegetables, carbs.
Lowest Calorie Nutrient Ratio
Another way to choose your nutrient ratio, is to find a ratio that helps you consume the least calories. Let’s say eating carbs (pasta) all day doesn’t make you feel full as when you eat protein (meat). This would be a problem because you’ll compensate by eating too much pasta to get full and likely end up over-eating more calories than you need. So it might be a good idea to consume more fats (GOOD fats) and/or protein in order to get full on less calories.
Find the perfect nutrient ratio to meet your needs,
then increase or decrease your overall calorie consumption
to the required amount.
Once you find the perfect nutrient ratio to fit your body type, weight loss goals, performance goals, whatever, you only have to follow your calorie intake. Look at the nutrition labels on your food and see how many calories you’re consuming with every serving. After a week of watching your calorie intake, you’ll be able to estimate on the spot if your servings are too big or too small. Don’t make it too scientific. Just eat but be aware of what you put into your body!
Try to eat as little as possible while still feeling full.
The trick is to consume as few calories as possible while still feeling full. Keep adjusting your nutrient ratio and daily calorie intake until you come up with a complete diet that leaves you feeling energized throughout the day, pumped during workouts, lean in the mirror, and still feels full! (If you’re not hungry 3-4 hours after a meal, you’re eating too much.)
Size of Meals
Your breakfast and pre-workout meals should get you full, but not TOO full. If your stomach is bloated or you feel sleepy after eating it, it’s too much. Your recovery meal after the workout should be about half a meal. All the smaller meals should feel like something between a snack and a half meal.
The Risk of Under-eating
Eat too little and you’ll experience starvation. Your body begins to eat itself, breaking down not just your fat, but the muscle you worked long and hard to build. Your performance will drop as will your motivation. You’ll hate training and maybe even boxing itself. Your body’s metabolism will decrease to an all new low and remain there even after you give up boxing. Many boxers become super-fat after giving up competitive fighting because of this reason. Cut calories but don’t starve yourself!
What do you want out of your diet?
Are you looking to gain weight? Lose weight? More energy during workouts? Or maybe you’re a sumo wrestler and need to be as fat as possible (I won’t judge). Losing weight will require a calorie deficit whereas gaining weight will require a calorie surplus.
If you want to lose weight, eat less than you spend WITHOUT starving.
If you want to gain weight, eat more than you spend WITHOUT over-eating.
Fad diets fail over the long run because they break these simple rules. They either starve you, or deprive your body of essential nutrients for only short-term weight loss. The problem with those diets is not spreading the deficiency or surplus over multiple meals.
Once again, my awesome friend broke it down into these simple steps:
If you want to lose weight:
A diet is more important than working out, for weight loss.
- Maintain a calorie deficit of 500-800 calories per day by eating less and/or spending more energy. Use lower deficits for long-term weight loss and higher deficits for short-term weight loss. It’s usually much easier to create a calorie deficit from eating less than from working out more. Do NOT eat less than 1500 calories a day, adults need this much as a minimum to function.
- Stop eating just before you get full.
- Drinking water will help you feel full.
- Do not go crazy low-carb. Decrease your entire calorie intake, instead of only your carbs (maintain your nutrient ratio!).
If you want to maintain weight:
- Eat until you’re full.
- Keep doing what you’re doing as far as training goes.
If you want to gain FAT weight:
- Eat as much as you can, as often as you can.
- Staying active can help you build up the appetite to eat more.
- Go to sleep right after you eat a giant meal (that’s the sumo wrestlers’ secret to rapid fat gain).
If you want to gain lean muscle weight: (THE HARDEST DIETING GOAL)
- Workout to build your body’s demand to grow bigger muscles.
- Workout to build your appetite for eating more.
- Eat sufficient protein. Consume between 0.5 and 1 times of your bodyweight in grams of protein. Example: if you weigh 100lbs, you need 50-100 grams of protein per day. (If you are overweight, then calculate using your TARGET body weight). Keep in mind that your diet must stay balanced. You cannot just increase protein, you have to add carbs and fats to balance your overall diet.
- The average person only needs 0.25 to 0.5 times their bodyweight in protein. (This would be fine for a recreational boxer.) Don’t eat too much protein, you’re not a bodybuilder! Extra protein doesn’t help you, it hurts you.
- The trick to gaining muscle weight is to consume more calories than you use WITHOUT OVER-eating! (What?! Did that make no sense?) Basically, if you eat too much in one sitting, the extra will be thrown away as waste. What you want to do is spread the extra food across your 5-6 meals giving your body more chances to absorb all those extra calories.
You just need more energy?
- Eat a little more (more carbs, proteins, fats, everything).
- More tiny snacks throughout the day, especially before your workout (nuts, crackers, apple).
- Try more protein for breakfast.
The Perfect Boxing Diet
How do you know you’re eating right?
The cheap way to analyze your diet
- Keep track of how you feel. Does your energy level stay up throughout the entire day or does it fluctuate up and down? Do you feel tired or sleepy throughout the day? Do your workouts feel flat? What you put into your body definitely affects what you get out of it. I can usually feel the difference within 1 or 2 days as soon as I start eating on a cleaner diet.
- How does your body look? Did you gain or lose weight? If so, did your lean muscle mass increase or decrease? Do you look better or worse? What does your doctor say during your physical examination?
The expensive way to analyze your diet
- See a nutritionist and pay for a blood test. It will tell you everything about your blood. What nutrient deficiencies you have. What you have too much of and what you need more of. Repeated consultations will help you fine-tune a personalized diet.
What About Metabolism?
Fast metabolism only means you won’t get fat eating junk food.
It doesn’t mean you can perform well on junk food.
Does it matter if you have fast metabolism or slow metabolism? Not really, because boxing is about physical performance, not physical appearance. You have to eat healthy no matter how amazing your metabolism is. Every athlete, fast metabolism or not, must eat as clean as possible to maximize their performance.
I will even use myself as an example. I’m one of those guys that everyone in my gym hates. I can eat half a pint of ice cream for breakfast. Then a bowl of cereal (1/3rd the box) and instant noodles an hour later. I’ll devour a large pizza for lunch, then go out and have thai food for dinner, washed down by soda. It’s freaken disgusting but my body was genetically advantaged. I sported a six pack no matter what I ate.
I never ate healthy until I joined the Army. The new food allowed me to exercise for hours without getting tired. When I first got home from the Army and tried normal civilian food like hamburgers and pizzas, I felt my arteries clogging right away. My magical endurance had vanished overnight. Ever since then, I swore to eating healthy and never looked back. Even now, I can easily run 5 miles on any given day without having been running, and I owe it to having a clean diet.
A proper boxing diet Is NOT a Secret
Use your common sense!
You might have came here for a chart of eating schedules, foods, and recipes. Although I’m sorry I didn’t provide that, I feel I’ve given you much more than that. Using the right healthy diet principles above, you’ll be able to create a very healthy boxing diet to fit your lifestyle, diet, and workout habits!
Recaps on the common sense boxing diet:
- 5-6 small meals a day, every 2-3 hours.
- Drink water until your urine is clear (or light yellow).
- Eat a big meal for breakfast and another 2 hours before your workout.
- Eat before you get hungry, and stop before you get full.
- Good carbs are Low GI carbs, good proteins are LEAN meats + nuts, good fats are mono and poly fats (nuts, fish, olive oil).
- Balanced diets make supplements unnecessary.
- Balance your nutrients (carbs/proteins/fats), and limit your calorie intake.
- If you need to eat less, do it without starving. If you need to eat more, do it without over-eating.
- Your diet should fit YOUR needs, and not the other way around.
- For a complete boxing diet plan, check out my 30 Day Fighter’s Diet ebook!