Nutrition and boxing: what a fight!
Who says “combat sports” says “weight categories”. Judo, boxing and now mixed martial arts are the talk of the game at the official weigh-in. To the uninitiated, this hype around weight may seem a bit abstract.
Since our president and sports dietitian, Mélanie Olivier, had the opportunity to develop expertise in this area by working with professional boxers like Éric Lucas and Kim Clavel, and wrestlers like Martine Dugrenier and Lucian Bute, she knows a lot about it! Believe her, there were no scientific papers on the subject at the time. Even today, studies on these groups of athletes are rare and yet, what a challenge!
The creation of weight classes is aimed at ensuring safety and fairness in combat. These categories differ slightly depending on the experience of the boxer (amateur or professional) and may vary depending on the level of competition. When young, the athlete must choose a combat weight which is advantageous given his physionomy. We will therefore want muscle mass to account for the majority of the weight on the scale. This choice is a key moment when the athlete needs a professional to be guided towards the best strategy.
This is the term used when preparing for a fight. Amateur boxers should keep close to their fighting weight as much as possible. The weigh-in is only a few hours before the fight, and they have several per tournament and per year. This is not always the case for professional boxers who will have a weigh-in sometimes 10 days before the fight and then the day before, which leaves them a good 24 hours before the competition to regain the lost weight.
Why and how to lose this weight?
As complex as the process seems, it’s principle remains simple. Depending on the starting weight, the boxer will have a diet that promotes a gradual decrease in his percentage of body fat. So while preparing for a fight, we want to make sure that we provide him or her with enough energy to give him the maximum in training and increase his strength, power and overall performance. To do this, he will need a diet rich in carbohydrates including whole grain products, fruits and vegetables, legumes, and dairy products, which also contain protein.
To achieve dry weight (combat weight), we will use the water and sugar stored in the muscles and liver in the form of glycogen. In fact, all “miracle” and quick diets work on this principle, whereby people only lose water.
The principle is simple. Imagine that your muscles are like a sponge, soaking up water from carbohydrates and stored water. By gradually eliminating carbohydrates from the diet at the right time and by favoring the ingestion of lean proteins, we empty the muscle (the sponge) of its water, so that the weight is reduced. This is not without danger, because if the weight to be lost is too important, the water lost will no longer come only from the muscles, but also from the blood (circulating volume). Dehydration can then cause symptoms such as dizziness and heart palpitations, and recovery will be much more difficult.
Details, calculations and pleasure …
You cannot embark on an adventure with a boxer without knowing his basic energy needs, his precise training and his total energy expenditure. The time to weigh-in and the data on training water loss are of prime importance. The goal: to continue to eat so as to have energy and pleasure throughout the process and above all to avoid developing eating disorders that can arise from restricting food intake inappropriately.
It is quite simple to understand how one can gain or regain weight so quickly. After weighing, proper rehydration and a diet rich in carbohydrates will fill the muscles (sponges) with water. This very specific science brings the body into a fragile imbalance. These rapid weight changes should therefore not be made without supervision and good reason.
J Sports Sci. 2015;33(5):437-48. doi: 10[MO2] .1080/02640414.2014[MD3] .949825. Epub 2014 Sep 26.
Effects of pre-competitional rapid weight loss on nutrition, vitamin status and oxidative stress in elite boxers.
Reljic D1 , Jost J, Dickau K, Kinscherf R, Bonaterra G, Friedmann-Bette B .