Written by Will Mace for UCN.
When people think of boxing or mixed martial arts (MMA), they often think of fighting and training, whether that’s going ten rounds during sparing, performing those early morning runs, or if you’re super old school, chasing a chicken like Rocky Balboa.
However, far too often, one of the most important aspects of both MMA and boxing goes disregarded: nutrition. Without the correct diet plan and nutrition in place, you’ll struggle to adequately recover between training sessions, burn fat, build muscle, and reduce your risk of picking up an injury.
If you don’t currently follow a nutrition plan, this could be the secret sauce you need to take your training and competition to the next level. All of the greats follow a plan, including the likes of Anthony Joshua, Conor McGregor, and back when he was still fighting, Floyd Mayweather.
So, with this in mind, this article will discuss fight nutrition in more detail, including the basics of nutrition, the different foods you should aim to eat, and a few tips on how to maintain your diet throughout your entire training cycle.
Nutrition for athletes and those involved in combat sports such as boxing and MMA is slightly different from that of a normal person. For example, your diet and nutrition should be centred around when you work out.
Our bodies constantly use energy, whether this is walking, eating, working out, or performing any other activity. And yes, that includes being alive. However, as a boxer or MMA fighter, your body needs even more energy, especially in the build-up to your training sessions.
As a general rule of thumb: you should aim to eat anywhere between five and six meals a day, every two to three hours if possible. Eating smaller portions more often helps keep your metabolism and energy levels high, allowing you to feel energised throughout the day and in the build-up to your training sessions
However, you may be wondering: what should I be eating for these meals? Do you have free reign to eat what you want, or should you be following a structured diet and nutrition plan? This next section will discuss exactly that.
As a fighter, it’s important not just to eat enough food to fuel your workouts, but it’s crucial to eat the right foods. For example, whole foods such as brown rice, porridge, and sweet potato are better than unnatural sugars and your classic and unhealthy “snacks”.
To better help you understand the foods you should be eating, let’s highlight the different macronutrients:
Carbohydrates are the body’s main energy source, consisting of foods such as pasta, rice, bread, and potatoes. There are two main types of carbohydrates; these are simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates are found in sugars and syrups, whereas complex carbs are present in foods such as brown rice, pasta, and bread. Where possible, you should be eating complex carbohydrates, preferably wholegrain options, as these are healthier and allow you to feel fuller.
Protein is equally as important as carbs; while it may not directly fuel your training sessions as heavily as carbs, protein is essential for muscle repair and recovery. As a general rule of thumb, you should aim to eat a minimum of 1g of protein per 1lbs of body weight. For example, if you weigh 160lbs, you should eat at least 160g of protein per day. This provides your muscles with the correct nutrients to repair and recover, reducing your risk of injury and allowing you to perform your best in each training session. Examples of high-quality protein include chicken, grass-fed steak, pork, and salmon.
Finally, we have fats. Far too often, fats get a bad rep, but these are just as important as the two other macronutrients. However, your sources of fat are crucial, avoid pastries, cookies, and muffins and opt for olive oil, walnuts, tofu, and fish. These foods contain essential nutrients which are important for keeping you healthy, enhancing recovery, and keeping your body running like a well-oiled machine.
While macronutrients are the bread and butter of any diet, you can’t forget the micronutrients. Micronutrients are fruits and vegetables, and each contains various vitamins and minerals. These help us keep you healthy, reduce your risk of becoming ill, and help keep your body functioning correctly. Oh, and they also taste great, so eat your greens!
Okay, now that we’ve discussed the importance of macronutrients and micronutrients, including the different types you should be eating, let’s talk about how to best maintain your diet throughout your training cycles.
Firstly, when following any diet, it’s important to eat foods you enjoy. If you don’t enjoy your diet, then you’re not going to stick to it. For example, if you don’t like chicken breast but intend to eat this for every meal, then it’s not going to happen (perhaps an extreme example, but you get the point…). Instead, choose foods you enjoy that are healthy – this will increase your adherence to your nutrition plan. Second, you should allow yourself some leniency from time to time. For instance, the occasional takeaway or cheat meal is allowed – this helps you remain on track and prevents binge eating unhealthy foods. One cheat meal for every twenty meals is a good rule of thumb to follow; however, this doesn’t need to be the number.
Third, you should keep track of what you’re eating with notes on how you’re feeling and performing. Once you begin to see results, it’s much easier to stick to your nutrition plan as opposed to going it blind. You can use apps such as My Fitness Pal, or alternatively, keep a log on your phone or by paper and pen, whatever feels more comfortable.
Nutrition is a super important training component that many boxers and MMA fighters neglect. It’s important to fuel your body correctly for both training and competition, allowing you to recover properly. And if done right, take your training to the next level.