Pre Fight Nutrition: Rehydrate

Making weight is one of the biggest challenges to boxers, but how do you refuel between the scales and the first bell?

Rehydration and refuelling of carbohydrates are vital for boxing to optimise physical performance and avoid fatigue.

In our new ‘Pre Fight Nutrition‘ article series, Boxing Science nutritionist Lee Rickards will explain how to Rehydrate, Refuel and Supplement your way to feel energised ready for war.

Pre fight Nutrition Series

  • The importance of rehydration
  • Tips on refuelling between weigh in and the bell
  • Provide suitable pre-fight meal options

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Rehydrate

On the night before and morning of a weigh-in, many combat sport athletes dehydrate themselves, using hot baths, saunas and sweat suits to lose the last few pounds they need to make weight.

(Note: we’ll use the terms dehydration and hydration because it’s simple to understand. But you should remember that really all we’re trying to do is keep our body fluid balanced – equal what’s going in and out – to keep our cells and chemical reactions happy. Scientifically there are no such things are dehydrated or hydrated, but we can have negative and positive fluid balance).

It’s well known that dehydration is dangerous in combat sports because it can lead to loss of fluid surrounding the brain increasing the risk of severe brain injuries.

Some boxers dehydrate and restrict food intake before the weigh-in. If you’re doing this, after the weigh you should drink more fluid than you’ve lost.  But it be might hard for you to determine what amount of fluid you’ve lost. So jump on the scales and look at how much you weigh. 1 L of water is equivalent to 1 kg. So if you’ve lost 1 kg of body mass, try to drink around 1.5 L of fluid (150%) to replace this.

But, don’t drink the fluid you need all at once. Sip little and often and spread out your fluid intake over 90 to 120 minutes. If you drink too much straight away, your kidneys will likely filter this and you’ll pee it out.

If your weight is going up sensibly and gradually towards your fighting weight and you’re feeling OK, then your doing your job. Ideally, you’ll have practised your weight making strategy and you’ll have a good idea about your fluid requirements.

To help absorb and retain fluid a 6% carbohydrate solution with added electrolytes is generally more effective than water alone. In other words a sports drink.

Typical drinks I’d recommend include isotonics with a pinch of salt, skimmed-milkshakes and coconut water. Watery fruits and vegetables will also contribute to fluid intake. The fructose (fruit sugar) and electrolytes will also help absorption and water-retention. Banana’s, apricots, sweet potatoes and spinach are good options but again, you should test whether these are kind to your gut before you use them after the weigh in.

Key points

  • Test your rehydration strategy
  • Have a food and fluid plan
  • Keep checking your weight

In the next article I’ll provide some tips on re-fuelling after the weigh in.

Lee Rickards BSc, ASCC

Lee Rickards is a nutrition consultant and sport scientist currently working at Sheffield United Football Club and with professional combat sport athletes competing for regional, national and commonwealth titles. Lee is an UKSCA accredited strength and conditioning coach (ASCC) and an accredited body composition analyst by The International Society for the Advancement of Kinanthropometry (ISAK).

Lee was awarded his Bachelor of Science in Sport Science for Performance Coaching in 2012 and will be completing Master of Science, Sport and Exercise Science at Sheffield Hallam University in 2015. Lee is currently undergoing his research project, which will investigate strength exercise selection on gluteus maximus activity in order to reduce injury incidence and increase hip extension to aid sports performance.

Lee believes in evidence based nutrition practices to improve performance whilst debunking myths surrounding making weight. Lee will be sharing his nutrition knowledge through a series of articles relating to Boxing performance.

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