Protein Packs a Punch



For many athletes, especially fighters, building muscle and muscle recovery is a crucial component in preparing for a fight. Appropriate recovery not only leads to more productive workouts, but also ensures a much smoother road in the weeks of training before a big fight.

Most athletes understand the importance of protein, but when it comes to knowing what particular variety to choose, the recommended dosage or why it is even needed in the first place, that's where the waters get murky for some.

Protein is often referred to as the "building blocks of our bodies." It is an integral part of growth, development and the repair of tissue in the body. Contrary to popular belief, protein is not just for your muscles. It helps athletes by boosting the nervous system, keeps hormones levels properly balanced and assists in fighting disease by enriching the immune system. Protein is made up of chains of amino acids and studies have shown that these amino acids are broken down for energy while exercising your muscles. When your glycogen stores start to dwindle during intense training, your body will break down fat and a little muscle. This is why rebuilding is so crucial during post recovery. Some of these amino acids cannot be created by the body so it is important to obtain them from high quality sources elsewhere. Beef, chicken, and fish are all high in protein and will help provide your body with what it needs to rebuild. Looking for varieties that are organic or free range will also greatly improve protein absorption by reducing the toxic load on your body. Other great options are bison/buffalo, elk and emu. Although not as common or readily available, these types of meats are very high in protein and low in fat. For the average person, consumption of protein can be obtained through eating the right kind of diet and taking-in the right types of food. Because of the unique demands of the sport, boxers require more protein than what they can easily consume through whole foods.

Protein shakes and meal replacements can also be a good substitute, but is a broader topic that will be discussed more in depth in a later article.

While sedentary people only require about 0.8 grams (per kilogram of body weight) of protein each day, athletes are a different story. Duration and intensity are two factors that help determine the amount of protein needed for fighters who train at higher levels of intensity. If you train hard, you’re absolutely going to need more protein than the average person. For people who regularly engage in high intense aerobic sports, like boxing, 1.2 to 1.4 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day is necessary. (To find your weight in kilograms, take your weight in pounds and divide it by 2.2.) The total goal is to get your protein intake to about 12 to 20 percent of your total caloric intake. It is not even uncommon for some athletes in heavy training to need as much as 25 to 50 percent more than the RDA in order to maintain peak performance and best health practices, based on their individual physical demand.

Throwing out all these numbers can get a little confusing, but don't stress. Simply use this as a model, a rough guide to help you better understand your basic protein needs. Nobody has the same biochemistry. We are all very unique individuals with different needs and will have a variety of physical responses to supplementation. As long as you use this as a base, you will likely see or feel noticeable gains. You can always add or take away depending on how you feel and how your body responds. In some instances, fighters (and athletes of any sport) seem somewhat nonchalant about what they eat on a daily basis. But those are typically the athletes who are more prone to injuries, fatigue, and poor recovery. By being a bit more attentive to your diet and, in this case, protein supplementation, you will get results.

As an athlete, it's important to understand what a healthy diet entails, how you can use food and basic supplements to maximize your efforts in the gym. With all the work that boxing demands, the last thing you want is to be held back from reaching your potential due to a poor diet and an inability to perform at your very best every time you step into the ring. When your path to optimal physical health could start with something as simple as adding a protein shake, it would be a shame to not stir up your diet a little. It could have you toasting victory instead of tasting defeat, so knock one back...with a double scoop of protein.

Written by TITLE Boxing contributor, Spencer Ward who is a boxer and nutritionist currently residing in Los Angeles, CA.