In a previous article we discussed the basic mechanics our body uses to properly utilize the food we eat and the nutrients that food provides. Knowing how this system works and how to use it to your advantage will help you design your own pre-fight meal. The goal would be to develop a pre-fight routine that is completely individualized to your specific needs and will help you achieve your optimum performance. The specific components that make up a good pre-fight meal are varied, but fairly basic and easy to understand.
Any food that is taken in prior to a boxing event should be easy enough to digest so it clears the gastrointestinal tract by the time the bout begins. It should enhance liver carbohydrate stores, support hydration and, above all, come from whole food sources. Some general key points are as follows:
Basics of a good pre-fight meal:Food should be eaten at least 2-4 hours prior to the fight. Food should be medium to high in carbohydrate content along with a small amount of fat and protein (examples below.)The foods should primarily be bland. Rich or spicy foods can be irritating to your digestive system, and can cause gas. Foods that are exceptionally high in fiber should be avoided. Meals leading up to the fight should be small. Less than 1,000 calories. Drinks should be non-caffeinated and low in sugar.
Since we want the meal to have cleared our digestive tract before the fight, timing becomes a very important matter. Allowing at least 2-4 hours for your meal to digest is usually enough time for it to clear your GI tract. Although small amounts of fats and protein are alright, you want to primarily opt for higher carbohydrate foods that can be digested easier and provide you energy. Fat and protein (such as steak, eggs, nuts, bacon) is harder for your body to digest, and can be an unwanted burden that slows you down.
Pre-fight Carbohydrate Foods:
Toast and jelly
Keeping the spices and oils to a minimum is important. Foods that are spicy with pepper, chili powder, onions, cabbage, broccoli and beans, should all be avoided. These foods can stimulate the GI tract, bringing on a host of symptoms that are unpleasant and I'd rather not describe.
I am a big proponent of daily fiber and incorporating foods in your diet that have a low glycemic index. However, in this case, eating anything with a large amount of fiber isn't always best and can bring on GI symptoms similar to spicy foods. Although I don't promote avoiding fiber, to the point of eating a loaf of white bread before a fight (which will cause a blood sugar spike), I do think you should go easy on it. Don't make the bulk of your meal fiber rich whole grains or supplements.
As you know, large meals are much more difficult on the body to digest. A large meal eaten the day before a fight is okay, because your body has ample time to digest it. However, large meals the day of or right before a fight is not a good idea. It can, and oftentimes does, result in food still being present in your stomach or small intestine when the time to enter the ring rolls around. Keep your meals at 1,000 calories or less. Even as low as 500 to 600 is okay and may be necessary, if you don't have very fast digestion.
Drinking lots of water the day of your fight is recommended and will ensure that you are well hydrated. Because sports drinks often contain a considerable amount of sugar, if they are consumed, it should be 2 hours or less before the fight. These types of drinks will raise the blood sugar. If consumed a short time before the fight, it can be used to your advantage, in terms of energy. You will then burn it off during the fight. Carbonated beverages should be avoided because they can cause stomach discomfort, belching, etc. Caffeine should also be avoided, as it has a diuretic affect and can increase urine output, possibly leading to dehydration. It seems almost silly to mention that you shouldn't drink alcohol before a fight... but don't. It also has a diuretic action similar to caffeine, and going into a fight with even a slight buzz or hangover seldom turns out good, except for the opponent.
These are some basic guidelines to help you in finding what works best as a pre-fight meal. With some planning and experimentation, you will soon find the optimum foods that work for you as an individual and what yields the best results. So spend a little time trying new foods before your workout. Plan and time them as if it was fight night. Who knows, you may come across the magic grub that makes you feel downright awesome and ready to knock someone's block off. Remember that food is fuel and should be approached as such. Find those foods that keep your motor running and gives you the energy to fight round after round, even when your tank is on empty and you're running on fumes.
Written by TITLE Boxing contributor, Spencer Ward who is a boxer and nutritionist currently residing in Los Angeles, CA.