As a society, we have come a long way when it comes to challenging beliefs and myths surrounding nutrition and sports, especially martial arts and boxing. Indeed, the boxing fraternity has traditionally been associated with high protein needs, often in the form of meat and other animal-derived products. This made obvious sense given the need for boxers to be physically strong, and protein plays a key role in the rebuilding of muscle fibres after a workout. Times have changed, however.
The 2018 movie, The Game Changers, which features Ultimate Fighting Champion James Wilks, did a huge amount to dispel this myth. Wilks himself credits switching to a plant-based diet later in life following a serious injury as making him healthier, faster, and stronger. Patrik Baboumian, the world-famous Iranian-born German-Armenian strongman and former bodybuilder, also shows that eating plants is no barrier to building muscle and strength. It is also well established that world heavyweight champion boxer Anthony Joshua eats a plant-based diet during his intensive training period as a means of boosting his overall health, reducing his recovery time, and improving performance. Other vegan boxers include Unsal Arik, Bryant Jennings, Melanie Fraunschiel, Cam Awesome, Emily Jans, and Mac Danzig.
How should the average boxer fuel themselves?
At its core, boxing is a fast-paced, high-intensity sport that necessitates strength, skill, and high levels of both aerobic and anaerobic fitness. Boxing involves high intensity due to the short bursts of activity (which no doubt feel like very long periods when in the ring) of two or three minutes, with gaps of recovery. This is why high impact interval training (HIIT), which builds fitness with a programme of short sharp intensity followed by short recovery periods, is so effective for boxers.
Another key aspect of boxing is maintaining the correct fighting weight – whether a few kilos need to be added or subtracted in readiness for a fight. For these reasons, boxers and those in similar sports need sufficient carbohydrates to ensure their muscles are not depleted of their stored energy (glycogen). They also need sufficient protein to enable their bodies to lay down new muscle fibres after these are torn during boxing, gym work, and other training activities. An excellent source of both high-quality plant-based carbs, protein, and essential amino acids can be found in our Pure Pasta.
Fruit and vegetables (especially green leafy vegetables) are also essential as these not only contain vitamins, minerals, and other essential compounds to maintain an optimal immune system and boost recovery, but they also boost heart and lung function. This is because foods that are rich in nitrates (e.g. beetroot) help to keep blood vessels relaxed, lowering blood pressure and increasing oxygen uptake. Other plant-derived foods that aid lung function include peppers, apples, pumpkin, turmeric, tomatoes, blueberries and green tea.
When it comes to maintaining a consistent weight, reducing refined sugar and alcohol intake are also key. This does not mean that boxers should not eat carbohydrates; rather these should be limited to match your calorie needs and come as much as possible from whole-grain plant-based sources.
Even in the higher weight classes, boxers want to feel alert, quick, responsive, light on their feet, and able to maintain their stamina as each round progresses. A plant-based diet can help achieve all of these outcomes and may result in a significant gain in performance in the ring.
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