The Olympics showed how far female boxing has come, both in terms of the depth of talent, but also public acceptance of this enthralling sport. Whilst the female physique lends itself towards amateur boxing, the “fairer (?!) sex” being well designed for flightly footwork, accuracy and speed, females face a plethora of problems when it comes to achieving a low body weight.
What happens if females consume too little energy?
Sub optimal energy intakes, as are often typical in females, can decrease oestrogen levels and have a negative impact on bone strength.
·Make injuries more likely; you then cannot train, improve, and succeed!
·Increase the likelihood of stress fractures
·Compromise reproductive health!
·Compromise training adaptation
So… What should you do?
Small compact sources of carbohydrate such as energy bars and sports drinks will play their part, while more nutrient dense alternative will e used to help support good dietary practises – juices, fruits and whole grains.
•Monitor your wellness/illness/mood-with as well as completing a food-diary to see how nutrition impacts your recovery
•Portioning: You need to consume carbohydrate rich foods around training. Using a scoop/set serving to know amounts will ensure you eat for energy, whilst still being in control of the calories!
–A scoop (e.g. a protein-shake scoop – use for portioning!)
High calcium and vitamin D content in combination with protein, low GI carbs and high levels of glutamine. This will help prevent bone and muscle loss.
Iron – lean red meats (beef stir fry) and OFFAL (liver). Dark green veg (with vit C to increase veggie-iron-uptake!).
Endurance athletes have shown greater iron turnover than non athletic populations with females and vegetarians being at a greater risk of deficiency due to menstrual losses and lower intakes of iron respectively. Increasing levels through suitable food choices should support healthy aerobic power production, facilitating oxygen transport while also supporting your immune system.
Canned Fish – Sardines/Salmon/Mackerel
Eating canned fish with bones still included is an easy way to increase your dietary intakes of Vitamin D and Calcium. The small edible bones increase calcium intake.
In weight categorised sports like boxing, Muay-Thai and MMA, fighters need to be “big for the weight”, weighing-in for competition at their lightest possible weight to maximise any size advantage. This has led, however, to the adoption by many of inappropriate “weight-making” (or weight-loss) strategies, such as starvation and dehydration. “Sweating down” is often used as a weight-making strategy, despite risks over performance and health.
Fighters can lose large amounts of fluid and weight in this way, explaining boxers such as Ricky Hatton, and more recently Julio Cesar Chavez Jnr, who can put on over 15lbs following their weigh in. I myself have lost 4-5Kg in this way when I’ve had to. Fighters exercise in non-breathable suits, train in saunas, and sleep in warm, heavy clothing.
This week however I found my first example of such heavy dehydration.
In the sport of Fencing. Occurring… unintentionally.
I’ve just started working with fencers, but thinking about it, it makes sense. Fencing is an explosive “intermittent sport” (explode, recover, repeat), which are notorious for high sweat rates. They are also heavily clad with thick, heavy padding. These combine for massive fluid losses.
The average weight loss was 4% in this group of fencers, with one athlete losing 8% body-mass. That’s right… an 80Kg athlete lost a stone in bodyweight from sweating. For my athletes losing weight, I’d schedule that sort of weight loss to come over 6-12 weeks. He sweat 13lb in a matter of hours.
Needless to say, such actions have been observed to have a negative impact on performance. A drastic reduction in the anaerobic power generated by wrestlers has been observed (Webster, Rutt et al. 1990) following levels of dehydration commonly seen in weight-making (average of 3.3kg). Significant declines are also seen in maximal aerobic power, whilst studies on fighters have also shown that rapid weight-making impairs skill, speed and accuracy and power (Smith, Dyson et al. 2000).
Although aggressive rehydration strategies in rowers can preserve anaerobic/power-endurance performance after 4% dehydration (Slater, Rice et al. 2006, combat sports involve the risk of impact. Perhaps more worryingly, lower degrees of dehydration (2.1-2.6% bodyweight) have been correlated with as much as a 37% reduction in brain-volume (Dickson, Weavers et al. 2005), meaning fencers reactions will be compromised, and fighters increase their risk of brain damage!
Rehydration in athletes losing these large volumes often revolves around a moderate carbohydrate solutions (4-6%, similar to Powerade “Ion” or lucozade respectively) with heavy sodium intakes (40mM; similar to Powerade Pro sachets or 0.9g sodium per litre; equivalent to ½ tsp salt or 3 commercially available electrolyte tablets).
I’m very proud to announce that since Fighters’ Nutrition started working with the Trad-TKO gym in Canning town, Southern Area Light Welterweight Champion Danny “Cassius” Connor retained his title in the rematch against Chris Evangelou.
First time round, Danny won a close, but thoroughly-deserved decision, looking fitter in the final rounds despite doing many things wrong during his weight-making regime. This time, Danny left no doubt and dropped his opponent twice on the way to a wide points-victory.
Nutrition isn’t the reason for Danny’s performance – it was his hard work and dedication. However, proper fuelling and recovery allowed “Cassius” to maintain a truly Spartan regime whilst staying, fit, strong and focused…
·Danny made weight more comfortably than ever before and was noted as being the strongest he’s ever been in sparring.
oHe dropped Evangelou twice in the 7th round, at which point Chris was saved by the bell…
·Danny seemed the fitter fighter in the the first fight.
oThis time, Evangelou was wary of Danny’s power and work-rate from the start; Danny never let Chris get into the match.
This “before and after” shot sums up the intensity, dedication and success of Danny’s training-camp:
Congrats to Danny, and coach Alec Wilkey for whipping Danny into top shape!
I’m very proud to announce that Fighters’ Nutrition has started working with Team Wilkey, based at the Trad-TKO gym in Canning town.
I have been supporting the performance nutrition, weight-making and monitoring of English Light Welterweight Champion Danny “Cassius” Connor for his upcoming rematch with Chris Evangelou. Danny won a close, but thoroughly-deserved decision last time round; looking fitter in the final rounds, despite doing many things wrong during his weight-making regime.
As this is our first camp together, we’re cracking the basics first, and this is a brief synopsis of how we’re working together (without giving any secrets away)…
oVarying food intake specifically to training
oVaried carbohydrates, fats and proteins for different sessions
oDanny’s loving his food; it seems we’re turning him into Lloyd Grossman, as well as another Lloyd Honeyghan!
·Weight and Hydration Monitoring
o…around different training sessions to get an idea of his specific demands.
oStaying hydrated helps performance and monitoring hydration lets us know if Danny’s too “dry”, and therefore at a natural, or dehydrated weight…
oThis helps guide rehydration strategies
·Blood glucose monitoring
oGetting Danny to maintain energy levels and seeing how his body responds to training
·Lactic acid/training intensity
oEnsuring Danny is properly fuelled and recovered, giving 100% every time
Danny is making weight more comfortably than ever before and has been commented-on as being the strongest he’s ever been in sparring.
The last match was close, but Danny still seemed the fitter fighter in the final flurries.
This time, Evangelou is in for a shock. This isn’t the same athlete.
Next weekend at Legion Wrestling (Sat 9th February), Fighters’ Nutrition is holding a seminar and food-prep workshop to help shape the service provided to this group of Elite Wrestlers.
Areas we will cover are:
•Physiological Demands of fighting and Making Weight
•Combining nutritional strategies specifically to different training sessions
•Monitoring performance to tailor your diet
•Protein, Carbs and Fat
•Before, During, After Training
•Different ways in which a nutritionist can monitor, support and improve performance
•Q&A; tell me how I can help you!
Now, I will be doing a great deal to a allow me to individualise a bespoke and personalised service to each wrestler, but as always we will be re-enforcing the themes of eating specifically for each training session.
Cycling carbohydrate and energy content of foods should be a cornerstone of your nutrition; ask yourself…
·What was my last session?
·What is my next session?
·What are my goals?
Then, according to the timing of different training sessions, shape your plate differently for different times of day, and to respond to your specific needs…
I’m proud to be working with KO Muay Thia, the Bethnal Green branch being the site of a great introductory talk on fuelling, recovery, and weight-cutting this weekend.
What wasn’t that surprising wa that even a group of intelliegent, dedicated fightters had traouble (like all of us) with implimenting theire strategies and carrying out their good intentions. Even the most knowledgeable nutritionist will still slip, as we’re all human!
So, eating right isn’t just about skill but about will. This often means putting strategies in place to make sure we don’t over-eat, over-indulge, or under-recover.
Here are some good basic strategies to stick to…
Prepare and Pre Portion: Portioningand resisting a second helping…
We all need to exercise more control on portioning! Whether we’re trying to bulk-up and forcing down those extra grams of protein, or (more likely) we’re trying to reduce our energy intake to drop some body-fat…
For an athlete in training, portion control is vital for performance. This will enable a sports-person to eat enough carbs to support intense training, while still consuming few enough calories to keep body-fat in check.
This is hard – but there are some ways we’ve had success with when working with our various groups of elite athletes…
The Paradigms of Portioning – ACTION POINTS
•A set size bowl…
•A scoop (e.g. a protein-shake scoop – use for portioning!)
–Know amounts, e.g. 1 scoop oats = 45g
• 28g carbs, 150 Kcal
•Only 2 pieces of fruit at a time
•Don’t eliminate carbs from later meals – cycle according to intensity
–GI and amount
Low GI carbs (slow release) from fruits, vegetables and whole grains (brown and wholesome!) should be your main energy source, portioned according to training load. Only use sugars for competition/intense sessions.
•Make a cup of tea!
–Give the “fullness” time to sink-in
–Step on the scales – what’s the reality of the situation?
•Motivate yourself – YouTube, memories, cues
•Fill up on fluids
–Replace part of your meal with soup, and drink plenty of water to feel full…
Keeping your nutrition simple helps to keep it consistant, but is also often all that’s needed.
Overcomplicating things often has a negligable effect in comparison to the massive strides that can be made by properly fuelling and hydrating for each session. What Ryron Gracie has taken (and misinterpreted a little, in my opinion) as his own novel, individualised pre-fight nutrition, is a pretty standard pre-fight carb and electrolyte mix. Sugar (in this case fructose from honey) and electrolytes (salt water).
Sugar and sodium support each other’s transport across intestine (being co-transported by the SGLT1 and SGLT2 symporter proteins). Salt is required, therefore, for carbohydrate transport into the body. Carbohydrate also helps hydration by increasing water retention, whilst carb is the fuel of choice during the high intensity exertion of competition.
Ryron Gracy finds that honey before competition helops his performance. In longer bouts this may be due to therestore and maintain and support the large volume of glycogen that will be accessed from the muscles…
Previous studies have explained the fast acting nature of sugars during exercise by illuminating the neuropsychoigical effects of carbs. Simply swilling sugar in the mouth can increase sprint performance by 3% as it "lights up" motivational areas of the brain such as the cingulated cortex and nigronstriatal pathways.
Swilling salt water may not be such a good idea, as it can leave your mouth feeling dry, and may also dehydrate the skin around the mouth, increasing the risk of sores and cuts. I’d advise experimenting to find you own optimal carb+salt solution before fight-night.
Okay, I’ve blogged on tapering before, but if you’re competing regularly, this is a really useful topic to keep returning to. I’ve recently done a Podcast with Fergus Dullaghan (pictured below), the Commonwealth Judo Silver Medalist, and a nutritional disciple of the Fighter’s Nutrition Stable… This podcast combines nutrition for tapering, with a discussion on the conditioning strategy used by MMA supremo John Hathaway. Nutrition and Training in unison – a
Mixed Media Approach (MMA)!
The biggest factors in staying well and recovering from injury are maintaining good levels of hydration and glycogen levels (carbs) in the muscle. However, if we’re tapering for competition or rehabilitating from illness, we’re training less. Excess carb calories can increase body-fat and undermine endurance-training adaptations!
So… for a useful solution, be sure to consume a variety of different fruits and vegetables to top up carbs in a more moderate manner. The complete spectrum of colours will be accompanied by a rainbow of antioxidants to help you keep performing at a high level, and your immune system firing on all cylinders!
I’ve bought Four Week Fat Loss… Why Fighters’ Fat Loss?
Low carb diets have a great impact on many people. There have been many trials to show improved insulin sensitivity, enhanced weight loss, and greater fat reduction following low carbohydrate diets. What’s more, for an athlete, “depleted-state training” may also provide greater training adaptations for endurance exercise…
However, fighters are a different breed!
An athlete can only do so much “depleted-state training” before exercise intensity and combat-specific training is compromised – fighters shouldn’t be training solely for endurance, but need that explosive “top gear”. Get some “pop” in your punches!
A fighter training for intensity rather than endurance needs carbs; but also needs to make weight!
Gradual weight loss in combat athletes, supported by moderate carb intakes showed an improvement in power compared to acute, low-carb weight loss (Fogelholm, 1993).
Carb intake was 31% higher, but athletes were able to train harder with better energy-levels and still lose weight.
Eating a meal including carbs before exercise has been shown to allow a greater amount of fat-burning in recovery (Paoli Et al., 2010)!
Moderate carbohydrate intakes have been used throughout demanding weight-loss programmes to good effect in boxers, allowing preservation of strength and power (Morton, 2010).
Four week fat-loss ends up getting an athlete to a “maintenance” phase where they’re no longer purely “low carbing”, but carb-cycling. Fighters’ fat-loss is the next step…
Loads of tasty recipes – don’t get bored with the same routine!
Creatine is much like an amino acid. It binds phosphate groups to form creatine-phosphate (CP). This provides the body with a source of fast-release energy by helping to replenish ATP. This is the energy-currency of the cell, almost like an electrical current that powers-up our cells’ machinery.
How does it work?
ATP (adenosine tri-phosphate) is a chemical containing 3 phosphate groups – by losing these groups, energy is released. This energy can then be used to contract muscle.
Our body synthesises this chemical by harnessing the energy from food, after “burning” carbs, fats or protein.
Creatine helps by storing phosphates in a readily available form; creatine-phosphate (CP), offering the speediest method of ATP regeneration.
This makes it the preferred fuel for explosive, powerful movement. However, CP is present only in amounts able to sustain about 6 second of explosive exercise before needing to be replenished. Supplementation effectively increases muscular stores, helping to quickly reload ATP.
This works directly to enhance power, or indirectly enhancing training intensity to support adaptation.
The majority of combinations thrown in stand-up, or shooting-attacks in wrestling, last around 1-6 seconds. This is the type of exercise supported by cp metabolism.
Creatine reserves in the body frequently correlate with an athlete’s power; look at this destructive example of explosiveness!
Training with Creatine:
Blocks of fitness training or metabolic training “lasting 6 to 30 s with 30 s to 5min of rest recovery between sprints” will benefit from supplementation according to the literature.
Strength will benefit due to the increased capacity for work in the gym – faster recovery between reps and sets means you can train harder – as well as a possible stimulatory effect on muscle growth.
Creatine does have a knack of increasing lean mass – both stimulating growth, and increasing water retention, meaning lighter weight fighters should exercise caution. However, studies often report only gains in maximal strength, with no increased mass, when creatine is taken in only lower “maintenance doses” to support strength training (Larson-Mayer et al., 2000).
Recently, working with an amateur boxer, his one punch power was increased whilst supplementing with a low dose of creatine. This allowed him to cut down to 60Kg, despite increasing his power. Not one with a great stoppage record, he won his first fight after a 2 year absence from the ring by KO!
Optimum absorption seems to be reached around insulin concentrations invoked by around 50-80g carbohydrate, although this may be excessive for smaller fighters when cutting weight.
·Look for a product that provides around 3-5g of creatine (mono), perfect for a maintenance dose, or a dose that can be repeated over the day for faster loading.
·Carbs will be needed in quantities of around 60-80g for optimum uptake,but…
·Combining with individual amino acids or whey hydrosylates may also help to maximise the insulin spike from a given amount of carbs.
·As always, a single ingredient is a good idea, as this enables you to tailor your recovery nutrition depending on your immediate goals; just be wary that you won’t be maximising your creatine loading if you are compromising with carbs.