Professional Boxing Diet | A Definitive Plan To Lose Weight (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 lost weight) for good.

Contents of what you’re going to learn include:

  1. What a healthy boxers 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

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

Ready?

Let’s jump into it…

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 (low calorie) diet with the goal being the ability to fight at a lower weight category.

The boxer’s diet is designed to burn fat healthily as opposed to drastically so that you can decrease body fat whilst having enough energy for physical performance and muscle development.

To burn fat healthily in a boxers diet, you’ll need to maintain a caloric deficit of ~500 calories daily in order to lose 0.5-1kg per week.

This daily amount of energy (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, or put simply: the number of calories to maintain weight and function at rest).
  • Thermic effect of food (your bodies ability to burn energy during digestion)

The best place to calculate your TDEE is through this trusted calculator where you’ll be able to workout what your specific deficit may be.

The unhealthy boxers diet

If on the other hand, you are aggressive with your diet (which a lot of 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 being broken down into glucose which helps maintain your blood glucose levels.

Without glycogen (which is produced from the foods we eat), your blood glucose levels will be maintained via the breakdown of fats and protein.

So while you’ll be losing fat quickly, you’ll also be decreasing LBM (Lean Body Mass), because your skeletal muscle will be used as a form of energy.

As your body continues to feed itself, your metabolism will slow down, your body will be unable to regulate its temperature.

Your brain will start to use ketone bodies (as well as what glucose is left) for sources of energy.

These, as well as various other changes in your body’s chemistry will leave you feeling irritable and unable to concentrate.

Does this sound like something you can maintain during your training?

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

This, therefore, leads us to the question:

What does a boxer eat in a day to cut weight?

Boxers and fighters eat highly nutritious meals which are generally high in protein and healthy fats, whilst low in carbohydrates.

The amount of food boxers eat in a day really depend on the goal of that athlete.

As you know, every fighter is different. With different shapes, sizes, and weight categories, one fighter will eat more food than the other.

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 Total Daily Energy Expenditure calculator and get a cheap weighing scale on Amazon in order to track your daily, weekly, and monthly weight.

Now, you can mentally count your weight loss each day by remembering what you weighed, however, the best thing you can do is to track your weekly and monthly weight loss because that way 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 gradually lose weight 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 (level of body fat) over the long term.

To learn more about how to cut weight quickly, yet healthily, click here where we have created a whole guide to losing body fat fast.

Summary: How much you should eat depends on what your Total Daily Energy Expenditure is (how many calories you can consume in 24 hours to maintain weight), and what your weighing scales say each day, week, and month which goes in line with your weight loss goals.

Types of food boxers eat (protein, fats, and carbohydrates)

The types of food boxers eat can include a variety of protein, fats, and carbohydrates.

Let’s look into each area and see what foods you can/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 whilst 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/legumes
  • White meat such as turkey, chicken
  • Dark meat (on occasion) such as beef/steak

Unhealthy protein 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 cost whilst losing weight, you can eat some of the high-protein, high-fat foods mentioned above in moderation and in combination with your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) because how many 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 a lot of myths related to fat consumption where the rumour is you should “avoid fat at all cost from 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 very easily make you gain weight, some healthy fats (mono-saturated or poly-unsaturated) are very good for you as the biggest nutrients (vitamin D, vitamin A, vitamin E) from these high-fat foods are good for your cholesterol, heart, and your overall health.

High-fat food (that can also contain unhealthy fats) are also very filling which is one of the reasons why the Ketogenic Diet (70% fat, 20% protein, 10% carbs) can be a great method for losing weight, if, and only if, you are sensible with counting calories and maintain small portion sizes.

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

  • Peanut butter (look for peanut butter with no palm oil/additional sugar)
  • All nuts (unsalted/processed)
  • Avocado
  • Dark chocolate (70% cocoa and up)
  • Cheese (non-processed)
  • Oily fish
  • Chia seeds
  • Humus

Unhealthy fats which you can eat as a fighter IF you pay close attention to caloric intake:

  • Butter
  • Cream (double and single)
  • Home-made puddings without processed ingredients such as: Apple crumble, full fat cake, your nan’s cheesecake

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 boxers diet is both successful and sustainable.

Other research has shown that lack of both healthy and unhealthy fats in your diet can lead to an increase in metabolic syndrome and female hormonal disbalances.

I personally used to completely avoid any unhealthy, highly caloric food, even at family dinner parties.

On these occasions, I would always skip pudding and although I didn’t show it, I felt frustrated that I couldn’t eat what my family were eating.

With many hours of research, I’ve realised that I can eat unhealthy food which is marketed in combat-sports as: “DO NOT EAT NO MATTER WHAT”.

How wrong that advice actually is…

Yes, these unhealthy foods don’t always help when you’re trying to lose weight, but all 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 non-essential macronutrient which you can have less of in your diet because your body can still produce glucose with protein and fat on its own (known as Gluconeogenesis – GNG)

Cutting down on your carbs whilst increasing protein and fat has been scientifically proven to be an effective way to burn fat whilst maintaining energy for your workouts.

Does that mean you should completely cut out carbohydrates?

No, 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.

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% (most common on a Ketogenic Diet).

While lowering your carbohydrate intake (particularly refined-carbs) could make a good impact to your diet, you don’t have to follow a low-carb diet because as we’ve mentioned: the way, and the only way to lose weight, is by maintaining a caloric deficit (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 possess.

When you’re creating a caloric deficit (eating less calories), the one macronutrient which you can cut down on are carbohydrates because your body isn’t dependent on carbohydrates to produce glucose (which provide energy for your workouts).

Fats and protein are imperative because they both play an important role for retaining Lean Body Mass (LBM), balancing hormones in your body, and giving you plenty of energy for your training.

Top three weight loss tips for fighters

Losing weight is hard and unnatural for everyone. Our brains are wired to over-eat and we can feel emotionally under-nourished.

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 just a simple short-term solution…

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

By finding the right psychological and emotional things that would nourish our brains.

Here are three more easy to apply tips which will help you 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 in fact be a great strategy which 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) which in turn will help you put down your knife and fork earlier or help prevent cravings to reach for seconds or thirds.

Secondly, drinking water before every meal not only helps with calorie reduction but it can also help with your digestion according to Michael F. Picco, M.D.

This is because water can help break down chunks of food which can easily slide down your esophagus (throat) and into your stomach.

Lastly, a study shows that drinking water (more than 500 ml) before meals could also speed up your metabolism by 30% and help you lose an additional 24 calories.

This may be due to the fact that 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%, 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 over-consume what we eat.

What’s worse, these unhealthy, sometimes 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 U.K. obesity rate (%) for adults over the age of 20 is 28.7% and 39.8% for the U.S? [4]

Making unhealthy food invisible to your eye can be easy for some, but for others, it can be really 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 (worth reading for your success on a diet).

Reaching for unhealthy food can be really 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 weeks ahead.

You’ll be able to control how much you spend on the ingredients and be able to access healthy, ready to eat meals right from your fridge to your freezer.

Here is a great meal prep recipe which I use on a weekly basis for my lunches and dinners:

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

This is normal, but to prevent yourself from reaching for these foods is by making it invisible to your eye. Meal prepping can also help you avoid walking into super-markets or fast food chains as often which can tempt you into eating 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 us in terms of how much we eat.

In a satiety (feeling full) study by NCBI called ‘Bottomless Bowls’, a group of fifty-four participants (18-46 years of age), were 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 which would automatically be refilled by an unknown tube which was attached underneath the table as the soup was consumed.

The other group (Group B) had a bowl which was the same size, but didn’t have a tube refilling the contents.

The result from this study was Group A (which had the refilling bowl) consumed a massive 73% more soup than Group B who were still allowed to refill the bowls themselves.

After the meal, the Group A did not feel more satiated (full) 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 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 actually already eaten.

Now, what we’ve learnt from the above information is that visual senses alone do not determine when you are or are not full, so 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 unconscious mind into seeing an overfilled plate of food.

Although it can be hard to determine when you feel satiated or not as we saw 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 Anthony Joshua eat in a day?

Since his winning re-match with Andy Ruiz Jr. in 2019, Anthony Joshua has dedicated himself to an even stricter meal plan.

AJ lost 10 lbs between his Ruiz fights, weighing 247 lbs at his first fight with Ruiz in June 2019 to 237 lbs at the rematch in December 2019.

The most recent information we’ve heard from AJ’s diet is in December of 2019 where he announced to Men’s Health what he eats to build his lean physique and beat Ruiz in the rematch. It goes as followed:

Breakfast

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Anthony Joshua (@anthonyjoshua) on

Anthony 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 AJ enough energy to get through his morning workout which begins two hours after eating.

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

Snack number one

 

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

After his workout, AJ would then refuel with a:

  • “Bulk Powders protein shake”
  • “Fruit”

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

Lunch

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Anthony Joshua (@anthonyjoshua) on

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

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

  • “Wild Salmon”
  • “Rice”
  • “Lots of veg”

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

Snack number two

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Anthony Joshua (@anthonyjoshua) on

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

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

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

Dinner

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Anthony Joshua (@anthonyjoshua) on

Dinner time is a time of relaxation with his family. And to celebrate another day of good living, his favourite dinner is his “Mother’s Nigerian cooking”.

In fact, AJ has announced that a great part of his success as a fighter has been down to the “Nigerian dishes he ate when growing up”.

Dishes he indulges in include:

  • Egusi Soup and Eba 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 AJ’s worked hard that day, he has also said that he enjoys:

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

Cheat meals

 

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A post shared by Anthony Joshua (@anthonyjoshua) on

Anthony 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 (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 Anthony Joshua eat every day to lose weight?

In order to answer this question correctly, we’ve got to invert it to: how many calories did Anthony Joshua eat every day in order to lose 10 lbs between his fights against Andy Ruiz Jr.?

The short answer to how many calories Anthony Joshua ate every day is: 4835 kcal

Here is how we worked it out

We used a very good TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) 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: 6 months).

We inputted AJ’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 AJ spends his time outside of training
  • how many minutes of exercise (cardio and weight training) he does on training days

The results which came back were as followed:

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

For AJ to lose 1-2 lb of weight per week (recommended amount), he could eat a massive 4835 calories per day which is what he may have had before his rematch to Ruiz Jr. from June 2019 to December 2019.

Does this mean you can eat over 4000 calories per day to lose weight?

a boxer training his abdominal muscles on the gymnastic rings

It really depends on your BMI, exercise frequency, and lifestyle. The reason Anthony Joshua can eat so much is because he works out a lot and he’s a big, strong heavyweight which requires a lot to 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 AJ’s caloric deficit right here.

Conclusion

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

You’ve learnt:

  • Weight loss is created by being in a caloric deficit
  • Overeating is a common problem which is caused by a missing emotional connection so you indulge in additional food for its short term pleasure
  • Three brilliant weight-loss strategies
  • 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 learnt about a boxer’s diet? Could it be to hide unhealthy food from your sight?

Or maybe you learnt that you can actually 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 you’ll love.

Alistair Knight
 

Alistair Knight is an amateur athlete in boxing and the founder of Healthy Principles. He spends most of my time practicing and learning more about boxing to ensure that he can provide the best, experience-based and evidence-based insights for you to learn.