What to Drink and Eat for Boxing

A boxing diet or athletics diet isn't much different from a normal healthy eating plan. However, before, during and after a boxing session, athletes should eat more to supply energy needs and drink more to maintain hydration.

A plant-based diet is good for boxers. Before, during and after boxing, athletes should eat and drink more. Credit: Thomas Barwick/Taxi/GettyImages

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A plant-based diet is good for boxers. Before, during and after boxing, athletes should eat and drink more.

Best Boxing Diet

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine states that a plant-based diet can support or boost athletic performance. The eating plans are high in carbohydrates, which serve as the primary energy source during aerobic exercise such as boxing. Plant-based diets center on fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains.

Read more: 6 Reasons You Should Try a Boxing Workout

Authors of an investigation published in Nutrients in January 2019 said endurance athletes have a higher risk for heart damage and hardening of the arteries. With this in mind, they reviewed studies that examined the effect of a plant-based diet on performance and heart disease risk factors.

The authors concluded that such eating plans are beneficial for heart health, which is needed for endurance. An additional finding was that the diet may contribute to faster recovery and better performance in endurance sports.

Eating Before, During and After

Experts recommend special dietary practices before, during and after a rigorous physical activity like boxing, reports MedlinePlus. It's easy to think you've burned more calories during a workout than you actually have, so avoid consuming more calories than you expend. On the other hand, don't box on an empty stomach.

If you plan to box longer than an hour, have a little something, such as a cup of yogurt or a glass of fruit juice, beforehand. Limit your fat consumption in the hour prior to boxing.

When boxing longer than an hour, take a break and consume some carbohydrates to refill your energy supply. MedlinePlus recommends eating a 1/2- to 2/3-cup serving of low-fat granola or two to three handfuls of pretzels.

Because carbohydrates are stored in the muscles, eat additional carbohydrates after boxing to replenish the reserves. If your boxing session was longer than 90 minutes, eat more carbohydrates with protein two hours later, suggests MedlinePlus. Examples include yogurt with granola or a trail mix with nuts.

Hydration Before, During and After

Aside from optimal nutrition, sport performance depends on adequate hydration, says the American Council on Exercise. Because the human body is comprised of 60 percent water, hydration plays a key role in temperature and blood pressure regulation, as well as the transportation of nutrients. Dehydration can lead to heat-related illness, injuries and an excessive loss of sodium.

Drink enough to avoid signs of dehydration. Two to three hours before boxing, drink 17 to 20 ounces of water; and 20 to 30 minutes before boxing, drink 8 ounces of water, advises ACE. During boxing, drink 7 to 10 ounces of water every 10 to 20 minutes.

Thirty minutes after boxing, drink 8 ounces of water. In addition, drink 16 to 24 ounces of water for every pound of body weight lost through perspiration during boxing. To determine this amount, weigh yourself before and after the boxing session.

You may have noticed that boxers swish water in their mouths and then spit it out. They give various reasons for this, including avoidance of the discomfort that comes from a punch in the abdomen when it's full of water. Although they have other reasons, this practice can result in dehydration. Swishing water is an effort to relieve their thirst, but unless they actually swallow it, the water lost during the vigorous activity of boxing won't be replaced.

The Caffeine Question

According to the Cleveland Clinic, the role of caffeine in pursuits like boxing is controversial. Studies show the amount of caffeine needed to improve performance is 2 milligrams to 5 milligrams for each kilogram of body weight one hour prior to a sport or workout. On average, a cup of coffee has 85 milligrams, so a 130-pound athlete would need to drink 11 to 27 ounces of coffee to receive an advantage.

While the beneficial effects of coffee involve reduced fatigue and increased alertness, the adverse effects include insomnia, restlessness, dehydration, nausea, headaches, anxiety and gastrointestinal distress, notes the Cleveland Clinic.

A 2014 workshop summary published by the National Academy of Sciences reported on caffeine's effect on the heart during exercise. It cited several small studies that found caffeine ingestion followed by exercise reduced blood flow to the heart. This effect lowers the amount of oxygen reaching the heart during a workout, explains the Cleveland Clinic.

To prevent a heart event, athletes with cardiovascular disease should limit the amount of caffeine they ingest before exercise. Athletes should be particularly careful with energy drinks, which can have a very high caffeine content. The workshop summary notes that cases of sudden cardiac death have been linked to the beverages.

Best Protein for Boxers

Athletes, including boxers, may wonder if maintaining a high-protein diet or taking a protein supplement will lead to muscle growth. Although this is a common belief, it's a myth, says MedlinePlus.

Athletes need only a little extra protein to foster muscle growth, so the best protein for boxers is dietary sources. Because eating a high-protein diet is associated with adverse health effects, eating large amounts of protein or taking protein supplements isn't advisable.

Results of a study published in Nature Metabolism in April 2019 provide evidence of the long-term adverse effects of protein supplements. They cause an amino acid imbalance, which leads to overeating, obesity and a reduced lifespan.

In a review featured in the Journal of Dietary Supplements in May 2018, researchers analyzed the pros and cons of taking protein supplements. The authors said the supplements often don't contain other essential nutrients needed for a healthy lifestyle. People should get their protein intake from natural food sources, they concluded.

Benefits of Creatine for Boxing

Creatine is an amino acid present in the muscles and brain, states the Mayo Clinic. It's found in seafood and red meat, but some people choose to take it in supplement form. Since the creatine stored in muscles is used for energy, some athletes take the supplements to improve performance. Research on the efficacy shows inconsistent results, but some studies indicate it may help athletes who require short bursts of energy.

The supplements are viewed as safe when taken at recommended doses, but high doses could harm the heart, kidneys or liver, reports the Mayo Clinic. Side effects of creatine include nausea, dizziness, dehydration, water retention, fever, muscle cramping, diarrhea, gastrointestinal pain, weight gain and heat intolerance. It may also worsen mania in bipolar disease.

Read more: Side Effects of Kre-Alkaline Creatine

Anyone with diabetes or kidney disease should avoid taking creatine. As with any nutritional supplement, check with your doctor before adding it to your daily regimen.

The University of Rochester Medical Center warns people to steer clear of supplements purported to boost athletic performance. Many who have used them have suffered serious harm, such as strokes, heart attacks and cancer.

Federal law doesn't require manufacturers of supplements to prove to the Food and Drug Administration that their products are safe. Aside from creatine, problems have been associated with anabolic steroids, androstenedione and other substances, adds the URMC.

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