Professional Boxing Diet | A Definitive Plan to Lose Weight (2021)

Written by Alistair Knight | 28 March 2020

Whether you’re an athlete, fighter, or fitness enthusiast, this definitive guide is going to show you the best boxing diet and meal plan to help you lose weight ― and maintain that weight loss ― for good.

The contents of what you’re going to read include:

  1. What a healthy boxer’s diet is
  2. What a boxer eats in a day
  3. Types of food boxers eat
  4. Top three weight-loss tips
  5. What Anthony Joshua’s diet is and what he eats in a day

a professional boxers diet for fighters looking to lose weight

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As a boxer and former mixed martial artist myself, I  know that losing weight can be tough, but I’m going to help you reach your goals.

Are you ready?

Then, let’s get into the ring …

1. What Is a Healthy Boxer’s Diet?

weight measurement instrument representing the importance of a balanced boxers diet

A boxer’s diet is a depreciating caloric or low-calorie diet with the goal being the ability to fight at a lower weight category. A boxer’s diet is designed to burn fat healthily as opposed to drastically so that you can decrease body fat while having enough energy for physical performance and muscle development.

To burn fat healthily in a boxer’s diet, you’ll need to maintain a caloric deficit of ~500 calories daily to lose 1 to 2 pounds (0.5 to 1 kilograms) per week. This daily amount of energy or number of calories is called the total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) and is dependent on:

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Weight
  • Height
  • Output of exercise
  • Basal metabolic rate (BMR), which is the number of calories to maintain weight and function at rest
  • Thermic effect of food, which is your body’s ability to burn energy during digestion

The best place to calculate your TDEE is through this trusted calculator, where you can work out what your specific deficit may be.

An Unhealthy Boxer’s Diet

However, if you are aggressive with your diet ― which many fighters are before weigh-ins ―  you’ll eventually reach a physical and mental burnout because of the enormous reduction of energy (calories). This is because starvation or an extreme weight-loss plan will prevent the quantity of glycogen from being broken down into glucose, which helps maintain your blood glucose levels.

Crash diets eventually will make you crash and fail because your body is depleted of glycogen, and you’ll begin to crave unhealthy (meaning high-glucose) foods that cause you to gain more weight than before.

Therefore, this leads us to the question about eating habits to lose weight.

What Does a Boxer Eat in a Day to Cut Weight?

Boxers and fighters eat highly nutritious meals that generally are high in protein and healthy fats while being low in carbohydrates. The amount of food boxers eat in a day depends on the goal of that athlete. As most of you know, every fighter is different. As a result, with different shapes, sizes, weight categories, and genders, the amount of food that one fighter eats varies greatly from the amount another fighter eats.

boxers and mma fighters with different weights and bodies

How Do You Work Out How Much Food You Should Eat?

The best way to track how much food you should eat is by using this highly specific TDEE calculator and get an inexpensive weighing scale on Amazon to track your daily, weekly, and monthly weight.

Now, you can track your weight loss each day by noting what you weigh (as well as keep track of other details like your body mass index or BMI, body fat percentage, muscle mass, and other essential health details). However, the best thing you can do is to track your weekly and monthly weight loss because you’ll:

  1. Be able to set weekly and monthly goals.
  2. Understand exactly how much weight you’re losing.

Whether you have a fight coming up or not, you’ll want to slowly and lose weight gradually because, according to studies and my personal experience as a fighter, this is a more effective method for losing weight and maintaining a healthy body composition ― the level of body fat ― and healthy lifestyle over the long term.

To learn more about cutting weight quickly yet healthily, we have created a complete guide to losing body fat fast here.

Summary: How much you should eat depends on what your TDEE is, which is the number of calories you can consume in 24 hours to maintain weight, and what your weight scales show you each day, week, and month, which goes in line with your weight-loss goals.

Types of Food Boxers Eat: Proteins, Fats & Carbohydrates

The types of food boxers eat often include a variety of protein, fats, and carbohydrates. Let’s look into each type and see what foods you can and cannot eat.

Protein

high protein meat skewers ready for the BBQ

As your body is made up of different proteins, you’ll want to make this one of your primary sources of food, especially if you train very frequently. To retain lean body mass while losing fat, you’ll want to add clean, unprocessed lean meats, poultry, and dairy to your shopping list.

Types of protein to eat:

  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Cottage cheese
  • Tofu
  • Nuts, seeds, and legumes
  • White meats like turkey and chicken
  • Dark meat on occasion like lean beef (steak)

Unhealthy proteins to avoid:

  • Processed deli meats
  • Large consumption of bacon, sausage, and pork
  • Pizza in large quantity
  • Processed cheese

Note: While some processed food should be avoided at all costs when trying to lose weight, you can eat some of the high-protein, high-fat foods mentioned above in moderation and in combination with your TDEE because the amount of calories you consume is one of the primary factors for losing weight.

Fats

fatty avocado cut in half being presented in a ladies outstretched hand

There are many myths related to fat consumption where the rumor is you should “avoid fat at all cost in your diet.” This is especially hyped up in marketing, where retailers sell “low-fat’ products, which can be secretively loaded with sugar.

Now, while fatty foods are loaded with calories, which make you gain weight very easily, some healthy fats ― for example, monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats ― are very good for you as the biggest nutrients, such as vitamins D, A, and E, from certain high-fat foods, are good for your cholesterol, heart, and overall health.

High-fat foods that can also contain unhealthy fats are also very filling, which is one of the reasons why the ketogenic diet, which has an intake made up of 70 percent fat, 20 percent protein, and 10 percent carbohydrates, can be a highly effective method for losing weight if (and only if) you are sensible with counting calories and maintaining portion sizes.

Healthy fats that you should eat (in moderation) as a fighter can include:

  • Peanut butter, such as those with no palm oil or added sugar
  • All nuts, as long as they are unsalted and unprocessed
  • Avocados
  • Dark chocolate that is 70 percent cocoa and up
  • Nonprocessed cheese
  • Oily fish like salmon, sardines, trout, mackerel, and tuna
  • Chia seeds
  • Hummus

Unhealthy fats that, as a fighter, you can eat if you pay close attention to caloric intake:

  • Butter
  • Cream, including heavy cream, whipping cream, and half and half
  • Certain puddings and yogurts,

There are so many opinions in terms of how much fat you can/can’t have in your diet, but what the majority of studies show is that you can eat some of the “unhealthy fats” listed above if consumed in moderation and on occasion to ensure your boxer’s diet is both successful and sustainable.

Other research has shown that a lack of healthy and unhealthy fats in your diet can lead to an increase in metabolic syndrome and female hormonal disbalances. I used to avoid any unhealthy, highly caloric food and alcohol altogether, even at family dinner parties.

On these occasions, I would always skip the pudding and, although I didn’t show it, I felt frustrated that I couldn’t eat what my family was eating. With many hours of research, I’ve realized that I can eat unhealthy food, which is usually marketed in combat-sports as: “DO NOT EATNO MATTER WHAT.”

How wrong that advice is. Yes, these unhealthy foods don’t always help when you’re trying to lose weight. However, it essentially comes down to ― in terms of weight loss ―  is how many calories you consume every day and what you can find sustainable for the long run.

Carbohydrates

birds eye view of uncooked spaghetti pasta twisted together

In comparison to protein and fats, carbohydrates are a nonessential macronutrient that you can have less of in your diet because your body can still produce glucose with protein and fat on its own, which is known as gluconeogenesis (GNG). Cutting down on your carbs while increasing protein and fat has been proven scientifically to be an effective way to burn fat while maintaining energy for your workouts.

Does that mean you should completely cut out carbohydrates?

Studies show that carbohydrates are a vital part of your nutrition plan because they are much better at producing glucose and glycogen, which fuel your workouts more than protein and fats on their own. Therefore, carbs should remain a part of your diet plan ― just not a significant part of it.

Examples of good complex carbohydrates you can eat:

  • Brown wholemeal bread
  • Wholemeal pasta (brown pasta)
  • Fruit (non-dried is best as dried fruit is high in sugar and may contain sulfites)
  • Oats
  • Quinoa
  • Sweet potatoes

Examples of bad carbohydrates: 

  • White bread
  • Sugary drinks
  • Fruit juices
  • Chips
  • Ice cream
  • Pastries
  • Cookies
  • Cakes

Research also shows that the minimum amount of carbohydrates you can consume is 5 percent, which is most common on a keto-style diet. While lowering your carbohydrate intake, particularly refined carbs, could make a sound impact on your diet, you don’t have to follow a low-carb diet because, as we’ve mentioned, the only way to lose weight is by maintaining a caloric deficit or eating less than your TDEE.

Summary: A mixture of protein, fats, and carbohydrates should all be consumed when dieting because of the wide range of nutrients each possesses. When you’re creating a caloric deficit ― eating fewer calories ―  the one macronutrient that you can cut down on is carbs because your body isn’t dependent on carbs to produce glucose, which provides energy for your workouts. Fats and protein are imperative because they play an essential role in retaining LBM, balancing hormones in your body, and giving you plenty of energy for your training.

Top Three Weight-loss Tips for Fighters

Why We Eat Too Much

Losing weight is challenging and unnatural for nearly everyone. Our brains are wired to overeat, and we can feel undernourished emotionally. We eat more when we feel less connected, less understood, and not in touch with our feelings.

The solution to this big weight-loss problem is simple. We need more:

  • Friendship: to talk about the biggest struggles we face
  • Help: in calming down when needed to feel reassured

We all know that biting into that last burrito isn’t the solution but, sometimes, there isn’t anywhere else to turn. It’s a simple short-term solution.

So, what’s the biggest thing we can do to lose weight?

Find the right psychological and emotional things to nourish our brains.

The following are more easy-to-apply tips that will help you stay on your diet.

1. Drink Water Before Every Meal

three large glasses of water with lime chunks in background

There has been a persistent myth around drinking water before meals as water has been “claimed” to “dilute digestive juices which affect the breakdown of food, meaning nutrients aren’t able to be absorbed.” Thanks to science, we now know from the various studies [1,2,3] that drinking water before every meal can be a great strategy that can help with weight management as water consumption before a meal reduces the energy density (space) within your stomach.

What this means is when you increase your water intake before (and during) a meal, you’ll increase your satiety ― the feeling of fullness ― that, in turn, helps you put down your knife and fork earlier or helps prevent cravings that might cause you to reach for seconds or thirds.

Secondly, drinking water before every meal not only helps with calorie reduction but can also help with your digestion, according to Michael F. Picco, M.D. This is because water can help break down chunks of food that can slide down your esophagus (throat) and into your stomach easily.

Lastly, a study shows that drinking water (more than 16 ounces or 500 milliliters) before meals could also speed up your metabolism by 30 percent and help you lose an additional 24 calories. This may be because your body needs to warm up your drinking water to body temperature, which requires energy, although research on the impact of water and metabolism is limited.

Summary: Drinking water before meals has been proven to help reduce caloric consumption, increase metabolism by up to 30 percent, and could help you digest food.

2. Make Unhealthy Food Invisible to Your Eyes

mini chocolate chip muffins on display

Let’s face it, eating and drinking foods high in sugar, fat, and salt can be detrimental to losing weight because we can all very easily overconsume what we eat. What’s worse, these unhealthy, frequently processed foods are addictive due to sometimes unnatural or highly caloric ingredients.

Note: Some scientists also think that sugar is equally as addictive as the class A drug cocaine. Could this be the reason why the United Kingdom’s obesity rate for adults age 20 and older is 28.7%, and it’s 39.8% for the United States? [4]

Making unhealthy food invisible to your eye can be easy for some. However, for others, it can be hard, especially if you’re surrounded by people who buy and share these foods, such as your colleagues, friends, and family. If you keep eating unhealthy foods, you’ll start to develop bad habits where you subconsciously reach for these caloric foods without consciously thinking about what you’re doing. Making them invisible is going to be one of the best ways to reduce your cravings, according to James Clear in his book: “Atomic Habits, An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones,” which is worth reading to aid in your quest for diet success.

Reaching for unhealthy food can be easy to do because it’s a fast and cheap way to eat. However, if the price of food is an issue for you, I’d recommend meal prepping. Meal prepping is where you cook, prepare, and freeze all of your meals in advance for the days and weeks ahead. You’ll be able to control how much you spend on the ingredients and access healthy, ready-to-eat meals right from your refrigerator and freezer. Watch the following video for a high-protein vegan meal prep recipe lesson that I use on a weekly basis for my lunches and dinners.

HIGH PROTEIN VEGAN MEAL PREP | @avantgardevegan by Gaz Oakley

Summary: The problem for most people on a diet is the cravings for foods they’re not allowed.

This is normal, but to prevent yourself from reaching for these foods is by making them invisible to your eyes. Meal prepping can also help you avoid walking into supermarkets or fast-food chains and buying unhealthy food.

3. Eat Meals on Smaller Plates

orange pumpkin soup in a small bowl

The visual aspect of a meal, such as how much food is on a plate, has been proven to influence how much we eat. In a satiety study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) called “Bottomless Bowls,” a group of 54 participants between the ages of 18 and 46 was asked to sit at a table and eat a bowl of soup.

Half of the participants involved ― (let’s call them Group A ― had bowls that would be refilled automatically by an unknown tube attached underneath the table as the soup was consumed. The other group ― Group B ―  had a bowl that was the same size but didn’t have a tube refilling the contents.

The result from this study was Group A consumed a massive 73 percent more soup than Group B, who refilled the bowls themselves. After the meal, Group A did not feel any more satiated than Group B.

What does this mean for you?

It means that even if someone isn’t secretly refilling your food from under a table, it’s likely you’ll eat more no matter how much food is on your plate. Secondly, research has also shown that, to some extent, eating meals on smaller plates can trick your brain on a psychological level to make you think you’ve had more food than you’ve already eaten. What we’ve learned from the above information is that visual senses alone do not determine when you are or aren’t full, so you may well keep eating until you’re stuffed.

Summary: Eating food on smaller plates can impact how much food you think you’ve had as it tricks your subconscious mind into seeing an overfilled plate of food. However, it can be hard to determine when you feel satiated, as noted with the soup experiment.

Anthony Joshua’s Diet Plan

I’ve been following Anthony Joshua as a fighter for many years now as a fighter fan and boxer.

The man is a warrior, a kind person, and a gentleman. He inspires, loves, and gives back to others, especially his local community.

Like all athletes, AJ has to work incredibly hard week in, week out, and to perform like a champion, he needs to eat like a champion.

What Does Boxer Anthony Joshua Eat in a Day?

Since winning his rematch with Andy Ruiz Jr. in 2019, Anthony Joshua has dedicated himself to an even stricter meal plan. Joshua lost 10 pounds between his Ruiz fights, weighing 247 pounds for his first fight with Ruiz in June 2019, then weighing in at 237 pounds for the rematch in December 2019. The most recent information we’ve heard from Joshua’s diet was from December 2019 when he announced in Men’s Health what he ate to build his lean physique and beat Ruiz in the rematch.

Breakfast

 

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A post shared by Anthony Joshua (@anthonyjoshua) on

Joshua wakes up, and the first thing he has is a tall glass of water.

After doing his bits and bobs, he then has:

  • A piece of fruit
  • Bowl of porridge

This gives Joshua enough energy to get through his morning workout, which begins two hours after eating.

Note: Joshua doesn’t always eat the same food every day. Sometimes, he’ll enjoy fruit and smoothies as a preworkout breakfast.

Snack Number One

 

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A post shared by BULK POWDERS® (@bulkpowders) on

After his workout, Joshua would then refuel with a:

  • bulk powder protein shake
  • Fruit

These provide a great source of protein, vitamins, and minerals and keep him going until lunchtime.

Lunch

 

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A post shared by Anthony Joshua (@anthonyjoshua) on

For lunch, Joshua is a hungry man. By now, his morning of oats, fruit, and recovery shake has long been burned off.

While his portion size increases, Joshua still eats clean, healthy food. such as:

  • Wild salmon
  • Rice
  • Lots of vegetables

He announced that he would “usually eat that again” and pile seconds onto his plate ― as he deserves.

Snack Number Two

 

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A post shared by Anthony Joshua (@anthonyjoshua) on

If Joshua is training hard on a particular day, he has said he would sometimes treat himself to:

  • One or two millionaire protein bars
  • Alternatively, a recovery protein shake
  • More fruit

Generally, he will eat these foods right after his second workout as a way to “get something in post-workout,” but he can “sometimes eat these foods preworkout” as well.

Dinner

 

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A post shared by Anthony Joshua (@anthonyjoshua) on

Dinnertime is a time of relaxation with his family. To celebrate another day of good living, Joshua’s favorite dinner is his “mother’s Nigerian cooking.” Joshua announced that a significant part of his success as a fighter has been due to the “Nigerian dishes he ate when growing up.” Some of the dishes he indulges in include:

  • Egusi soup and eba (manioc) with jollof rice or banana
  • Side of bean and plantain pottage
  • Lots of green vegetables

Before Bed

Anthony Joshua's before-bed-meal with honey, yoghurt, oats, and berries

If Joshua’s worked hard that day, he has also said that he enjoys:

“A bowl of yogurt and honey,” which goes down a treat before bed.

Cheat meals

 

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A post shared by Anthony Joshua (@anthonyjoshua) on

Joshua also announced he does have the “odd cheat meal on occasion.” How often does he have it? We’re not sure but, as a boxer myself, I enjoy one small cheat meal each week on my rest day ― if I’ve lost enough weight, which is:

Homemade chocolate chip pancakes (usually two) with whipped cream and melted dark chocolate.

How Many Calories Does Joshua Eat Every Day to Lose Weight?

To answer this question correctly, we’ve got to invert it to: how many calories did Joshua eat every day to lose 10 pounds between his fights against Ruiz?

The short answer to how many calories Joshua ate every day is: 4,835 kilocalories (kcal)

Here Is How We Worked Out Joshua’s Daily Intake

We used an excellent TDEE macro calculator, which calculates exactly how much he can eat in a day to lose weight between the dates of his two Ruiz fights in 2019 (June to December or six months).

We inputted Joshua’s BMI:

working out Anthony Joshuas BMI in June 2019

We also answered specific questions about his training, such as:

working out specific details of Anthony Joshua's energy consumption limit

  • How Joshua spends his time outside of training
  • How many minutes of exercise ― cardio and weight training ― he does on training days

The results that came back were as follows:

data showing how many calories Anthony Joshua can eat in a day

For Joshua to lose 1 to 2 pounds of weight per week, which is the recommended amount, he could eat a massive 4,835 calories per day, which is likely the amount he had before his rematch with Ruiz in December 2019.

Does This Mean You Can Eat Over 4,000 Calories Per Day and Lose Weight?

a boxer training his abdominal muscles on the gymnastic rings

It depends on your BMI, exercise frequency, weight class, and lifestyle. The reason Joshua can eat so much is that he works out a lot, and he’s a big, strong heavyweight who requires a lot of fuel. To work out exactly how many calories you can consume in a day to lose or maintain weight, check out the same macro calculator we used to calculate Joshua’s caloric deficit here.

Conclusion

A boxer’s diet is like any other successful diet: a sustainable, satiating, and healthy deficit to help you reach your desired weight and maintaining it.

With this article, we hope that you have learned:

  • That weight loss is created by being in a caloric deficit
  • That overeating is a common problem that is caused by a missing emotional connection, which causes you to indulge in additional food for its short-term pleasure
  • Three brilliant weight-loss strategies
  • About the differences between protein, fats, and carbohydrates and how you should create a realistic caloric deficit
    And much more

Over to you:

What have you learned about a boxer’s diet? Could it be to hide unhealthy food from your sight?

Maybe you learned that you can eat fat to lose weight?

Either way, let me know by leaving a comment below.

Follow Healthy Principles on Instagram @healthyprinciples_ for more educative, entertaining, and inspiring health posts that you’ll love and put to use.

Alistair Knight

Alistair Knight is an amateur athlete in boxing and the founder of Healthy Principles. He spends most of his time practising and learning more about boxing to ensure you get the best experience-based and evidence-based insights to learn. Learn more about Alistair Knight