Fuelling the pro's: Boxing

Physiology and Physical Demands


Boxing is regarded as one of the oldest combat sports and consists of stand-up fist fighting, involving repetitive high-intensity movements. The main aim is delivering clean, correct and powerful punches to the opponent, whilst defending any punches in return. Therefore, boxing requires both technical and tactical skills, alongside a high level of physiological fitness. A key emphasis is the need for a high aerobic capacity and well-developed anaerobic system. It is estimated that boxing is 70-80% anaerobic and 20-30% aerobic, with a work to rest ratio of 2:1. To promote fair competition boxers are categorised into a series of weight classes to match opponents’ physical size, strength and ability. The duration, as well as the number of rounds, varies between categories, however the recovery duration between rounds is always 1 minute. Boxers conform to a body mass aiming to maximise the fat-free mass and minimise the amount of body fat.


Training


Training needs to be focused around enhancing cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength and power. The primary objective is to delay the onset of fatigue by increasing tolerance & ATP/Creatine Phosphate (energy) regeneration and increase the efficiency of oxygen use, which leads to an improvement in recovery between rounds. Resistance training strategies have been proven to improve strength, speed, power & endurance, as well as assist in the management and prevention of injuries. Effective training programs consist of weight training, interval workouts ranging in distance, aerobic and explosive training.


Phases of training:

  1. A general strength phase (2-4 weeks)

  2. A maximal strength phase (3-5 months)

  3. Conversion of maximum strength and power (1-3 months)


The chances of injury occurring during a boxing match is significantly heightened due to the high impact forces exerted through varying angles and speeds. It is vital to limit the risk of injury to both the head and neck, therefore strengthening exercises of the neck need to be incorporated into training. Researchers have shown that more resilient neck muscles and connective tissues will help absorb the repetitive stress of high impact forces to the head.


Nutrition


Boxing being categorised into different weight classes creates a culture in relation to weight making practices. Consequently, many boxers achieve their target weight via the combination of acute and chronic means that involves severe energy restriction and dehydration. However, this will impair performance and impose serious health risks, in extreme cases can cause fatality. It is recommended for the coach and boxer to develop a training culture, which promotes adequate hydration before, during and after training. Alongside performing regular measures of hydration status, for example monitoring training-induced weight loss, urine colour, as well as observing drinking patterns of the boxer.


Langan-Evans, Close & Morton (2011) suggest daily carbohydrate and fat intake varying from 2-5g/kg and 0.5–1 g/kg body mass, respectively. Daily protein intake of 2–2.5 g/kg body mass is recommended with the aim to reduce energy restriction. However, every athlete has a different RMR (calories burned at rest), target weight loss, daily training energy expenditure and time to achieve a target weight. Therefore, individual recommendations should be put in place following assessment. It is also important that the timing of energy intake is supported with the daily training schedule to enhance lipid oxidation, training adaptation and the recovery process.


Table 1. Overview of guidelines for timing and composition of nutritional and fluid intake in relation to the structure of the daily training schedule (Morton & Close).

Time

Training Session and/or

Nutritional and Fluid Intake

Training and/or Nutritional Aims

06:30-07:15

Moderate-intensity steady state run undertaken in fasted state accompanied with appropriate fluid intake

Maximise lipid oxidation and promote hydration

07:30

Moderate CHO / moderate protein / low fat breakfast with appropriate fluid intake

Promote some restoration of liver and muscle glycogen and protein synthesis as well as re-hydration

10:00

Low CHO / moderate protein and low-fat snack

Promote CHO availability and protein synthesis

11:00-12:00

Sport-specific training session accompanied with appropriate fluid intake

Development of sport-specific fitness / technique and promote hydration

13:00

Moderate CHO / moderate protein and low-fat lunch accompanied with appropriate fluid intake

Promote some restoration of liver and muscle glycogen and protein synthesis as well as re-hydration

16:00

Moderate protein intake

Stimulate protein synthesis prior to strength and conditioning session

16:30-17:30

Strength and conditioning training session accompanied with appropriate fluid intake

Development of sport-specific aspects of strength and conditioning and promote hydration

17:30

Moderate CHO / moderate protein and low-fat snack (or recovery drink) accompanied with appropriate fluid intake


Promote some restoration of liver and muscle glycogen and protein synthesis as well as re-hydration

19:00

Low CHO / moderate protein and low-fat dinner

Promote protein synthesis and hydration as well as minimising evening fat storage

22:00

Moderate protein intake

Promote protein synthesis prior to sleeping

References


Close, J. P. M. G. L. Making the weight: case-studies from professional boxing.


Langan-Evans, C., Close, G. L., & Morton, J. P. (2011). Making weight in combat sports. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 33(6), 25-39.


Original article written by Ted Munson for https://www.bluefuel.com/blogs/news/fuelling-elites-boxing