If where one lives influences nutrition choices, then for boxing’s living legend Juan Manuel Marquez, Mexico’s cuisine is numero uno. At the beginning of training camp for his fight against Mike Alvarado on May 17, 2014, red meat was banned because of a contamination risk. This set constraints on the diet trainer Angel Heredia created for Marquez’s training. So instead, Marquez relied on a favorite meal from a different culture he discovered while fighting in California -- sushi.
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"I train two to three sessions daily and the level of intensity is so high. I need the protein and simple carbs from sushi."
Juan Manuel Marquez
Best Training Meals for Marquez
“I eat sushi at the beginning of training camp when I need more than 4,000 calories because I train two to three sessions daily and the level of intensity is so high. I need the protein and simple carbs from sushi,” says Heredia, translating for Marquez.
Temaki, known as hand-rolled sushi, is a Japanese meal made from a sheet of seaweed rolled into a cone, which is stuffed with raw or cooked tuna, rice, avocado, cucumber, daikon radish and spicy mayo or wasabi. “White rice gives the body fast energy because it metabolizes quickly before training,” Heredia says. “Tuna’s protein supports his punching power.”
But sushi became off limits as the fight neared. “Sushi can’t be a habit, because white rice is a simple carb and has a harsh effect on the pancreas in terms of insulin release. That affects blood sugars,” Heredia says. Marquez has racked up 474 rounds of boxing in his 21-year career and credits Japanese food as a contributing component of his enduring strength in the initial phase of training. But he understands why sushi got shelved in favor of slow-burning meals that sustain hours of hitting speed bags, punching combinations with sparring partners and running trails.
The Meal Plan
Heredia, who has trained the fighter since his third fight with Manny Pacquiao, discontinued Marquez’s practice of drinking urine by disproving it as natural medicine and introduced science-based nutrition habits as the weeks of workouts progressed. For example, the meal plan for Marquez during training camp in Toluca was designed to maximize results. Each meal had a purpose.
“When he was at the track at 6 a.m. doing exercises, he drank a protein shake from my line of supplements created with a formula for athletes available at Ringside Promotions. These were mixed with water or lactose-free milk within 30 minutes of completing a workout,” Heredia explains. “Then, at 10 a.m., Marquez ate egg whites mixed with tomatoes and nopales (the firm green vegetal pads of a cactus) and a piece of bread. He drank coffee or green tea with honey and had fruit. Later Marquez had another protein shake. Lunch was either salmon with olive oil, broccoli, carrots and more hot tea or pasta in olive oil with chicken. Dinner was chicken salad. An hour before lights out, Marquez drank a protein shake, which kept his body anabolic while he slept.” Sleep is the magic time during which muscles recuperate after the punishment of a training day.
It’s fight week in Inglewood, California, where Marquez will spend the remaining days before the bell rings. Once again, Heredia dials in the diet. “We now do a simplified routine of jogging and sparring. We avoid strength training at this time, so Marquez doesn’t need the amount of food he did at the start of camp,” Heredia said. Because the training tapered down, calories follow suit: Marquez trimmed his intake to 2,200 calories. “Overall, the combination is complex carbs with protein,” Heredia says. “Portion control keeps him at his weigh-in weight of 144 pounds.”
On May 17, for the 64th time, Marquez entered the ring, having again passionately sacrificed himself for this violent craft. Marquez had a frustrating split-decision loss to Timothy Bradley in October of 2013, and a win would make Marquez the first five-division world champion from Mexico. A win would mean a fifth fight with Manny Pacquiao after having landed that sensational right-hand blow that knocked the Filipino cold.
Even with 56 wins and titles in four weight classes, Marquez has the hunger for victory. “If you ask me how many fights I have left, it’s probably 10,” he tells Heredia. Regardless of the decision, Marquez celebrates the end of a fight the way he begins training for a fight -- with family, friends and a meal of tuna temaki.
Why He Loves It
“A sushi chef makes it special, so I go out with my three kids and my wife on weekends. Sushi is something we all enjoy after my training ends. I like Chomp in California.”
What Makes It a Healthy Meal?
Protein-packed yellowfin tuna is low in harmful saturated fat, making the meal a muscle-building and heart-healthy choice. Additionally, tuna’s omega-3s, specifically eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids, help Marquez fulfill his body’s daily needs. These essential fats may help improve heart function, muscle tone and blood pressure.
Avocado is high in healthy monounsaturated fat, a lipid that supports cardiovascular health, and contains vitamin E, an antioxidant that improves cell function by reducing wear-and-tear inflammation, which in turns speeds recovery from punishing workouts.
Wasabi, a condiment known as Japanese horseradish that’s made from combining roots and leaves into a pungent, pistachio-green paste, delivers bactericidal activities against pathogens. Allyl isothiocyanate, a phytochemical compound in wasabi, is antimicrobial.
How to Make the Meal Even Healthier
Skip the soy sauce. One tablespoon has nearly half the recommended daily amount of sodium, which is less than 2,400 milligrams.
Order brown rice to reap digestive benefits of bran’s fiber that can lower bad cholesterol and maintain blood glucose levels instead of causing insulin spikes, which leads to fat storage and energy crashes.
Heredia offers one final bit of advice: Add a mixed-vegetable salad or soup. “Marquez has soup often because it’s hydrating.”