With the holidays coming to a close, now is the time of the year many people start making resolutions. One of the most common resolutions is to lose weight. Even for fighters, weight is a constant topic since everyone is divided by weight classes in boxing and MMA. Because of this, fighters are always trying to figure out an ideal weight for their bodies. This can involve losing weight to drop down a weight class, packing on muscle to move up a division, or trying to be in the best possible shape for their current weight class. One way to have a significant impact on your weight goals is through nutrition. Nutrition can be a very expansive topic but I’ll cover some of the basics to start you off on the right foot.
Protein: proteins are made up of chains of amino acids. They can be found in animal products like meat, dairy, and eggs. As well as in certain plant products like nuts, legumes, and seeds. Proteins help your body recover from training, are used to build muscle, and are needed for immune function.
Tip: It’s important to get an adequate amount of protein but more is not better. Your body only needs to consume around 20-30 g. of protein at a time for peak protein muscle synthesis to take place, in most studies doses higher than that did not illicit any larger responses in muscle synthesis.
Carbohydrates: carbohydrates are typically classified as simple or complex depending on their chemical structure. Simple carbohydrates are absorbed quicker whereas complex carbohydrates take longer to be broken down and absorbed. You can find carbohydrates in a variety of foods ranging from fruits and vegetables to soda and candies. Carbohydrates are our bodies preferred fuel source for exercise because we’re so efficient at converting them into energy. This is especially beneficial for endurance sports and glycogen depleting sports where you have a mix of maximal and sub maximal intensities (like boxing).
Fiber: fiber is part of the carbohydrate group but of special importance because commonly people do not consume enough. A target range usually recommended is 25-30 g. daily. It’s best to ease yourself into consuming that amount if you don’t eat much fiber currently. Fiber is divided into soluble fiber (absorbs water during digestion) and insoluble fiber (unchanged during digestion, promotes healthy bowel movement). You can find fiber in food sources like fruits, vegetables, legumes, oats, and barley, among others.
Tip: Try scheduling your carbohydrate intake around your workouts, so that you eat more of the quick digesting simple carbohydrates around the time you need quick energy. And during other times of the day place more of an emphasis on complex carbohydrates that are higher in fiber content.
Fats: fat is made up of fatty acid chains and glycerols. You can find fat in a variety of food sources like animal products, nuts, seeds, and most processed foods. Fat is needed for things like proper hormone function and as a storage site for certain vitamins (A, D, E, and K).
Tip: Try consuming most of the fat in your diet from sources like nuts, seeds, and animal products while limiting the amount you get from processed foods.
Water: or H20, it makes up around 60% of our bodies. We obtain it both from the fluids we drink and the food we eat (like fruits and vegetables). Our hydration status is critical to our health, performance, and weight. Dehydrated athletes have been shown to be more susceptible to injury and have lower overall performance levels. Likewise for weight loss even slight dehydration can cause people to overeat as it’s difficult to distinguish our bodies’ thirst signal from it’s hunger signal. In fact in one study placing participants on a low calorie diet, the participants that drank 2 glasses of water prior to each of their meals ended up losing significantly more weight than the others in the study.