HIGH-FAT diets have become a household name within the nutrition industry. A lot of recent publicity and research speculation has promoted this diet type, and it has found its way into the sporting world. But what exactly is it and does it offer any advantages to boxers?

The ketogenic diet
Ketogenic diets are those that offer adequate protein supplies, minimal carbohydrates and excessive amounts of fat. These have been used clinically to enable a greater percentage of fat-burning in patients who require lifesaving changes to their eating patterns. However, this diet has filtered into the sporting arena, and worryingly has worked its way into high-intensity sports – such as boxing. But what is the problem with using high-fat diets for high-intensity sport performance?

Energy Production
Carbohydrates and fats are used to create the energy currency we need to move. However, carbohydrates offer a faster supply of energy and during intense exercise they become the predominant fuel source used. Fats, on the other hand, cannot be used as efficiently during high-intensity bouts of exercise and do not supply a lot of energy during intense exercises. Therefore, to perform optimally during periods of three minutes, carbohydrates are needed to supply the energy that your working muscles crave.

What does this all mean?
Boxing is a very high-intensity sport defined by explosive exercises with very minimal rest periods. Boxers who adapt to a high-fat diet will therefore struggle to supply the muscles with energy during intense periods of exercise. In the latter stages of a three-minute round, or in the final few rounds of a fight, boxers who can create more energy for their muscles will have a better chance of winning. Those who adapt to a high-fat diet will struggle to produce as much energy, they will become less capable of producing high-intensity workloads, they will fatigue quicker and recovery in between rounds will become a lot harder.

The verdict
High-fat diets are becoming more and more common and increasingly publicised. They offer potential clinical advantages, however in boxing it is important to get as much energy to the muscles as possible. High-fat diets are not efficient at supplying energy during intense bouts of the fight and therefore you run the risk of not being able to perform to your maximum capability.

Robert Seaborne BSc (Hons), MSc