The (not so secret) secret every boxer knows about losing weight
Probably the most renowned professional boxer for putting on weight and then losing it again is that of Tyson Fury. Tyson Fury had to lose an astonishing 9 stone (131 pounds) in 2 years to be ready for his comeback fight! So how did he do it? What is the secret he knows?
The secret is incredibly simple and we’ll get to it but first you need to know about lean muscle mass.
Boxing weight categories have a range of weight that they can be to fit into a particular category. For example middleweight boxers are between 70 – 73kg (154-160LB’s).
It is not good enough for a middleweight to weigh in at 70kg’s. Doing that means they are missing at least 3kg’s of muscle, 3kg’s their opponent could be carrying. If you add body fat into the mix, then the actual muscle differences between two opponents could be very high – this is a comparison of the lean body mass.
Not only that boxers often have a limited time scale in which to make their set weight category.
Very often a training camp will be around 12 weeks which means their weight loss has to be spot on.
Lean muscle mass
Everyone carries fat around on their bodies. Recent studies have suggested that any fat cells you obtain before you are 20 years old are with you for the rest of your life. (remember that young people the next time you put that ice cream in your mouth). Fat cells are highly elastic, so fortunately for those of us who decided to bring a few fat cells along for the ride after age 20, they can be shrunk really really really small to the point where they are basically cells without fat in them.
Everyone has a specific amount of fat (approx 2-5% for men and 10-13% for women due to child bearing and hormonal differences) that is essential. This is the fat that is padding your organs, used in metabolic functions, etc… The science doesn’t matter, what matters is that those numbers are your lowest possible threshold. For a boxer, any fat they are carrying above and beyond the minimum essential amount is stealing weight that could be replaced by muscle that makes them more effective in the ring. That is one very big reason why boxer’s physiques are so ripped. They are trying to jam as much muscle as possible into their weight category and to do that something has to disappear – fat.
Therefore, it really doesn’t matter what your bathroom scale tells you. What you really want to be concerned about is lean body mass.
Formula for lean body mass
Lean Body Mass = Total Weight * (1-(bodyfat % *100)
Another important reason to want to increase lean body mass is because muscle eats fat. You don’t have to look like a bodybuilder, but adding some extra muscle will allow you to eat more if you wish and still maintain your weight. More muscle will give you better fine tune control over the amount of fat on your body.
Boxing and water weight/ dehydration
There is another element to boxers making weight and that is the one of hydration (the amount of water being held in the body). Generally you can safely dehydrate around 2-3kg of water before you suffer dangers to your health. Boxers will generally get down to around 2-3kg above the required weight limit before dehydrating the additional weight before the weigh in. Once the weigh in is done they will then re hydrate again. So they actually come in above their required fight weight. Also this method bares no relevance to losing body fat. Hydration levels are an important factor to take into account when monitoring progress. A similar factor applies to how much food being digested you may have in your body too. So it is important to make sure you weigh yourself in the morning before you have eaten to get the most accurate indication progress.
Alright – so you understand your goal is to increase – or at least maintain your lean body mass – and decrease fat.
How Do You Do That?
The simple science behind weight loss
There is no amazing secret that lies behind losing weight. It comes down to one simple formula:
Calories in (Eaten) needs to be less than calories out (Used through exercise) which creates what is known as a ‘calorific deficit’.
As long as you are following this formula to create a calorific deficit you will lose weight. Obviously things get more advanced than this but that tends to matter more for people taking part in body aesthetic competitions or those really wanting to fine tune their appearance. However for general weight loss for the basics are all that matters.
How long does it take to lose 1lb of Fat
1 pound (0.454 kg’s) of Fat is roughly equal to 3500 calories. This means that by taking on a calorific deficit of 500 calories per day, around 1 pound of fat can be burned per week. This works out at 4 pounds (1.8 kg’s) per month. At this rate it is possible to lose 5.4 kg or even up to around 1 stone (6.3 kg’s) in 12 weeks.
In 6 months you can lose 10.8kg or 1.7 stone.
In 12 months you can lose 21.6kg or 3.4 stone.
Imagine the difference you could make to your appearance if you set your mind to it!!
Why not just crash diet and lose the weight even quicker?
Whilst initially you will lose a lot of weight quickly, your body will soon start to sense that it is not getting suitable nourishment and will begin to hold on to the weight, then as soon as you start to eat normally again your weight will rebound back on to a greater level than it was before. It is very important to lose weight at a safe and consistent rate rather than just to starve yourself, that is if you want to retain your progress.
Calculating your calories in vs calories out
There are 2 main things you need to know in the following order:
- How many calories you are using (burn as many as possible with boxing training)
- How many calories you are taking in (what you are eating)
How many calories are you using? – Calculating your calorie target
The first thing you need to know is how many calories your body is consuming for general day to day living. This falls into two categories:
- Basal metabolic rate (how many calories your body uses just to function when doing nothing, such as energy for breathing and pumping your heart and powering your metabolism etc)
- General activity level (Do you sit around or are you up on your feet all day for example)
The two categories are then used to calculate your average total calorie expenditure per day.
Basal metabolic rate (BMR)
We’ll use the Mifflin-St Jeor formula to estimate Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). This is essentially the amount of energy expended per day before we add in activity levels.
There are several equations we can use but a study by the ADA (American Dietetic Association) found the Mifflin-St Jeor method to be pretty accurate. Here is the formula:
Men: 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (y) + 5
Women: 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (y) – 161.
Next we need to factor in your general day to day activity levels.
Physical activity ratio (PAR)
Now that we’ve worked out the BMR, we need to multiply it by a Physical Activity Ratio (the estimated cost of activity he does per day).
If you were working this out, you would need to multiply your BMR by:
1.2 if you do little or no exercise
1.4 if you do exercise a couple of times per week
1.5 to 1.7 if you exercise several times per week
1.9+ if you exercise every day or have a hard, physical job
Once you have figured out your BMR and PAR you will have what is known as your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE).
An interesting study on desk jobs and calorie burn
Something interesting for you to note is a study that was performed on people who sit at their desks all day during work. Their calorie burn level went down to around only 1 calorie per hour! If you sit at your desk all day at work and then go home and spend the rest of the evening sitting in front of the tv, imagine the effect this will have on your metabolism and weight!
As calculating you calories manually can be tricky if your not great with maths we have done the hard work for you and created a simple easy to use calculator. Simply input your details to get the results.
He’s a 30 year old male, weighing 80kg at 180cm and he never works out. He has a desk job and he wants to know his TDEE for fat loss.
So for Geoff, our 30 year old male, weighing 80kg at 180cm. His BMR would roughly be: (10 x 80) + (6.25 x 180) – (5 x 30) + 5 = 1780.
Geoff does no training or physical activity per week so we’ll multiply his BMR (1780) by 1.2. This gives us his estimated TDEE of: 2136.
In order for Geoff to lose weight he needs to create a calorific deficit. A 15-20% deficit is a good place to start. This may be higher or lower depending on starting body fat levels, personal goals and energy requirements. For Geoff a 20% deficit is 427 calories. (We are aiming for a 500 calorie per day deficit but for practicality purposes get as close to this figure as possible).
For Geoff his target calorie intake to lose fat would be 1706 calories per day which is 2136 – 427.
It’s important to remember that regardless of what approach you take, your calorie target is an estimation, not an exact number. Even if you follow all the advice to the letter, it’s still an estimation and some tweaking may be necessary
Additional calories burnt through exercise
So now you know how many calories are being burned by your body just to simply function. We are aiming to take on around a 500 calories deficit per day (3500 per week) or burn an additional 500 calories per day so this means that any exercise done will contribute towards that figure.
Calculating calories burned
The total number of calories burned for any task is calculated by first finding the calorie burn per hour. First of all you have to know what the “MET value” (Metabolic equivalent of task) is of the activity. One “MET” is defined as 1 kcal/kg/hour and roughly equivalent to the energy cost of sitting quietly.
Activities have then been classified with a “MET” value which is based on how many times more energy is required than sitting still. So for example an activity with a MET value of 2 would require 2 times more energy than sitting still.
Once the MET value is known the calories burned is calculated by multiplying the MET value of the activity by the person’s body weight in kilograms (KG’s) to give you the calories burned per hour.
The formula for this is: (MET x weight in KG) = calories/hour
To then calculate the calories burned for 30 mins you would then divide that number by 2 or for 1 minute by 60.
So if a 175-pound person like myself were to play competitive soccer (MET value of 10) for one hour, the equation for calories burned would be: 79.38 kg*10=793.8 calories/hour.
There are a few caveats. Everyone’s resting metabolic rate differs slightly — some people of the same weight naturally burn more or fewer calories, depending on a number of factors, and these differences can be significant. This sort of calculation doesn’t take into account differences caused by body mass, body fat, age, sex, efficiency of movement, and conditions like high altitude that may have an impact on the energy required for an activity. Also, these calculations are calculated based only on time spent in movement — so if half of my “competitive soccer” game was really just standing around, I’d have to divide that number in half and then add in the amount of calories I burned standing around to know how much energy I actually used in that hour.
To help you get a better idea of how many calories you will be burning from the different activities involved in boxing training in the 12 week here are some examples of MET values of different activities.
|Walking medium pace||3.6|
|Jogging medium pace||7|
|Circuits (e.g. pushups, sit-ups, pull-ups, jumping jacks), heavy, vigorous effort||8|
|Hitting punch bag||10|
For example if you weigh 90 kg’s and you jog at medium pace for 20 minutes your calorie burn will be: (90 x 7) = 630 calories per hour then to work out for 20 mins will be (630 / 60) * 20 = 210 calories.
As you can see tracking all of the activities you are doing and working out your calorie burn can get pretty tricky. Fortunately there are also some good solutions to help you with this.
Using an activity tracker or app to monitor calorie expenditure
Now that we are in the 21st century tracking calories burned is not a lot easier thanks to digital wearables and tracking apps. The following are a few of these great options.
Boxing Evolution fitness app
The Boxing Evolution online coaching app enables you to workout wherever you are especially when your on the go. The app contains 100’s of pre-made workouts with instructional animations that guide you step by step through each workout. Workouts can also be custom made for you and assigned to your profile. The app also contains over 500 different animated exercises that you can log upon completion and will tell you how many calories you have burned for each exercise and the total calories burned for your workout. Alongside the animated exercises and pre made workouts the app contains other features such as a progress tracker to help you monitor your progress in real time and keep motivated, group and individual challenges and rewards for achievements. There is also a community portal where you can interact with other users. The app also integrates with fitness trackers such as FitBits (more below) so that your calories burned can be monitored in real time. For more information about the Boxing Evolution fitness app please visit:
FitBits are wireless-enabled wearable technology devices that measure data such as the number of steps walked, heart rate, quality of sleep, steps climbed, and other personal metrics involved in fitness. Using a fitbit will help massively in staying on top of how many calories you have burned and will save you the hassle of calculating your calories burned yourself.
These boxing specific trackers use motion sensors to keep tabs on everything from punch speed and power, to how long you can keep up the work rate before you tire. They also track things such as combinations thrown and your work rate, plus how many calories you have expended during your workout. These are especially useful for if you are doing a punching based boxing workout to track the calories burned.
Factoring in your workouts to your calorie target.
Bearing in mind that we want to create a 3500 calorie a week deficit, if you train 3 times per week and burn 300 calories in each workout (total 900 calories per week) that means you only have to cut your diet down to 2600 calories per week to achieve the same results. On saying that the best results will occur if you manage to stick to nutritional calorie target then the calories burned from your workouts will have an even greater effect.
For example if like Geoff your TDEE is 2136 and you do a 300 calorie workout that means your TDEE will be 2436 per day. If you are then only consuming 1706 calories that makes a total deficit of 730 calories per day.
Something to think about…
Why exercise at all, is it not easier to simply change my diet.
The simple answer is that yes you will get results from only dieting alone but the benefits you get will be far less.
The benefits you will get from physical exercise will contribute greatly to your overall results with things such as:
- Improved muscle tone and lean muscle mass
- Improved heart function
- Improved lung function
- Improved immune system
- Stress relief
- Improved skin tone and health
The other important aspect of improving your fitness for weight loss is that the fitter you are, the harder and longer you can work out for which means you will be able to burn more calories per session.
Now that we know how to calculate the calorie target we now need to know how to calculate your calorie intake, also known as nutrition. Nutrition is actually the most important aspect of losing weight. So important in fact that around 80% of your results will come from having the correct diet. As the saying goes, ‘you can’t out train a bad diet’.
I have put together a special nutrition basics e-book which covers all of this information. To get your copy of the e-book simply register your email address below and it will be delivered to your inbox.
There is one other very special secret weapon that professional boxers have when it comes to losing weight. To find out what that is please click of the following link: