January 24, 2021

This is not your typical best supplements for boxing guide. Many will promote the same ol’ supplements with no research or science to back up why they are recommending those products.

This is different. I have written this as a comprehensive supplement guide for boxers just like you based on evidence. Some of these supplements are less well known to the general public so using them can potentially give you an edge over your competition.

Here are my top 6 supplements for boxers in no particular order:

Pomegranate Juice

Sodium Bicarbonate

Creatine Monohydrate

Caffeine & L-Theanine Stack

Whey Protein

Vitamin D

Before we break each supplement down, the links in this article will take you to a website called iHerb. It is easily my favorite online store for supplements as they have the widest range and cheap or free shipping literally anywhere in the world.

5 Keys To Unlocking Devastating KO Power In Your Hands!

You will also receive a 5% discount on any of the products linked here which are automatically applied.

If all else fails, you can use the coupon code RGG252 for 5% off any and all future orders. Let’s get into it!

What Supplements Should You Take For Boxing?

What supplements should you take for boxing

Before going and buying hundreds of dollars’ worth of supplements, remember that supplementation is at the top of the performance pyramid.

If you don’t have everything else in order such as sound training, nutrition, and sleep, supplementation won’t get you that extra performance edge.

Combining supplementation on top of an already outstanding competitive boxing lifestyle will give you a competitive edge. These are the supplements that I recommend for a boxer.

Pomegranate Juice

Pomegranate Juice

This is a supplement that has flown under the radar. Maybe it’s not sexy enough for the mainstream media to talk about. Luckily for you, that means fewer people are using it potentially giving you a competitive advantage!

There is plenty of evidence backing the use of pomegranate juice for endurance performance and recovery.

Endurance athletes who consumed 6.7 oz (200 ml) of pomegranate juice daily for 21 days decreased markers of oxidative stress compared to the placebo group [1]. Excess oxidative stress is thought to potentially contribute to muscular fatigue [2].

1000 mg of pomegranate extract taken 30 minutes before exercise dilated blood vessels, which increased blood flow and delayed fatigue when running to exhaustion [3].

Additionally, in elite level Weightlifters who were training at least 5x a week, 48 hours before their “test” training sessions, athletes were given 1.5L of pomegranate juice which was drunk in 8-hour intervals (250ml x 6) [4].

Additionally, 1 hour before the session, subjects drank another 500ml of pomegranate juice (2L total).

These Weightlifters showed better performance in total lifted amount and maximum amount lifted. They also showed reduced muscle soreness and training felt easier for them compared to the placebo group.

A second study in elite Weightlifters used the exact same protocols and found pomegranate juice enhanced recovery compared to the placebo group [12].

How Should You Drink Pomegranate Juice?

It seems that you need to drink the juice either consistently from 48 hours to 21 days before your big training session or fight. The more days you drink the juice, the less of it you may need to drink each day.

Consuming pomegranate extract 30 minutes before exercise seems to be another option that works well.

Even if you don’t want to drink pomegranate juice in this quantity, drinking some every day may be beneficial to your health due to increased blood flow and is, therefore, great for your heart health [5].

Where To Get Pomegranate Juice

Ideally, you would drink the juice as that is what was used in these studies. Juicing your own is the best. But if you can’t do that, reputable brands at your supermarket will suit you.

Otherwise, you can go pomegranate extracts such as this one on our favorite supplement site iHerb:

Jarrow Formulas, PomeGreat Pomegranate (5% discount)

Two servings of this extract mixed with water in the morning and evening would give you the approximate dose used in these studies.

If you can see the polyphenols on other products, you want to aim for approximately 650mg per day.

Sodium Bicarbonate

sodium bicarbonate

Sodium Bicarbonate, aka baking soda, is something you probably associate with baking cakes. Not with enhancing your boxing performance.

Well, sodium bicarb has been studied specifically in the boxing population and the results look very promising.

10 national and international level amateur boxers ingested 0.3g per kg of body weight of sodium bicarbonate an hour before sparring [15].

The boxers progressively increased their work rate over 4 rounds compared to the placebo.

This was due to increasing the blood buffering capacity which meant the boxers could delay the onset of fatigue by clearing waste products from the energy regeneration process.

Further, 7 professional boxers consumed the same quantity of sodium bicarbonate 10 minutes after a high-intensity running protocol that imitated the demands of a 3×4 round boxing match with a 4th round of running to exhaustion [16].

75 minutes after this, boxers were put through a boxing specific protocol of pad work consisting of 3×3 minute rounds followed by a-second-high intensity run.

The sodium bicarbonate condition significantly increased time to exhaustion compared to the placebo. By over double the time!

Sodium bicarbonate could potentially be considered one of the ultimate endurance supplements. It could be just sitting in your pantry as you read this.

How To Take Sodium Bicarbonate

Based on the data, taking 0.3g per kg of bodyweight of baking soda between 1-2 hours before boxing is sufficient for improving your boxing performance.

For example, as a welterweight at 152 pounds, divide your body weight by 2.2 to find kilograms. At 69 kg, you would need to consume 20g of sodium bicarbonate.

Be sure to mix it in something that tastes good otherwise it won’t go down very well. About 4ml of water per kg (approximately 280ml of water for our 69 kg example) with some sugar-free flavoring at around 1ml per kg of bodyweight.

If you want to start taking sodium bicarbonate for your boxing performance, be sure to trial it before a training session and not competition.

Preferably a training session you perform on your own so you don’t waste your money on coaching that you can’t complete.

Depending on the amount being ingested, it may cause some stomach discomfort. At these levels of 0.3g per kg of body weight, you should be okay but it is always good to see how you respond.

I found this 3.5-pound bag of sodium bicarbonate on Amazon which is dirt cheap. iHerb unfortunately doesn’t have large bags.

Pure Sodium Bicarbonate

Caffeine & L-Theanine Stack

Caffiene L-Theanine

One of the original, most accessible nootropic stacks. Nootropics were the buzzword a few years back. Nootropics, aka brain supplements, are touted to increase cognition.

Meaning improvements in concentration, focus, among others. Caffeine is already a well-known ergogenic aid. You may even be drinking some right now as you read this!

But have you ever had too much caffeine? Where you start to feel jittery? Or almost anxious?

L-Theanine is an amino acid that has the opposite effect of caffeine. It provides stress reduction and helps you relax. This doesn’t sound like a great supplement to take with caffeine then? You want to be amped for training!

But it seems when L-Theanine is paired with caffeine, an interesting phenomenon occurs.

The L-Theanine “takes the edge off” the caffeine stimulant while promoting cognition and attention [11].

Meaning it can help you have better focus during your trainings.

How To Take Caffeine L-Theanine Stack

It should be a 2:1 of L-Theanine to caffeine. This means if you take 100mg of caffeine for training (for ease of example), then you should take 200mg of L-Theanine.

You want to take this around 30 minutes before training.

Ideally, 3-6mg caffeine per kg of body weight is the dose required to acutely increase strength for your training session. So a 100 kg male would need 300-600mg of caffeine.

In this instance, I would recommend using the same dose of L-Theanine or not using L-Theanine at all.

Which Caffeine L-Theanine Stack To Get

Caffeine I’m going to assume you have through coffee or other drinks. If not, something simple like this will do the trick and is dirt cheap:

ALLMAX Caffeine 200mg tablets (5% discount)

L-Theanine you want to buy in doses that closely match double your caffeine dose.

Now Foods L-Theanine 200mg caps (5% discount)

This brand is great and comes in 200mg caps. So, if you take 200mg of caffeine, you can just take two of the L-Theanine caps and be done.

Creatine Monohydrate

Creatine Monohydrate

Creatine… the most well-studied sports supplement EVER. Yet, the media is still labelling it a steroid and as a cause of muscle cramps, bloating, and even death.

Don’t believe anything that is reported by the media regarding creatine (or supplements in general). Creatine is a supplement you should be taking no matter if you are a boxer or not.

First, let’s address some creatine myths:

Creatine Causes Muscle Cramp

Nope, nope, nope! A muscle cramp is a multi-factorial problem. It’s caused by overexcitation of the nerves.

In fact, treating muscle cramp acutely can be done by stretching which “turns on” the inhibitory mechanism of the tendon to reduce this excitation, or by drinking vinegar and hot sauce to excite the nerves in the mouth taking away the electrical signals from the cramping muscle [6].

Cramp often comes about from bad preparation and fatigue. And no, electrolyte depletion through sweat causing cramp is also a myth. But that’s another topic.

Creatine Causes Digestive Issues

Again, taking 5g of creatine a day is very, very unlikely to cause any digestive issues. Digestive issues are usually only reported when loading creatine (taking 20g a day) which is not necessary to benefit from creatine supplementation.

Creatine Alkaline Is Better Than Monohydrate

Monohydrate has been proven over, and over again to be effective. It is dirt cheap and works. Any other form of creatine is great marketing.

You Can Get Enough Creatine From Natural Sources

Let’s not even go down the natural source’s path as it’s a fallacy on its own. But sadly, you cannot get the amount of creatine needed from food to boost your performance.

You’d have to eat 1kg of beef (uncooked weight) every day to get 5g of creatine each day.

A cheap powder gets you there without the sheer amount of meat each day.

Creatine Makes You Bloated

While you may hold more water, you hold this water within the muscle tissue. And often not at a noticeable difference.

This water retention is due to creatine saturating the muscle. This is the effect you want. Why is this important? Now it’s time to dive into how creatine works.

How Creatine Works

Without going too deep into energy systems and physiology (rather check out my “What Is Conditioning” article), the body uses energy for muscular contractions in the form of ATP.

The P in this instance stands for phosphate. The T stands for “tri” meaning 3. So, there are 3 phosphates. This is important. So, remember this.

As you likely know, there are three main energy systems. The aerobic, the anaerobic lactic, and the anaerobic alactic. While all energy systems work together during exercise (meaning you can’t isolate one), some energy systems will contribute more energy depending on the activity being performed.

For example, a boxer predominantly uses the aerobic energy system with the alactic energy system for quick bursts. During maximal activity, the alactic energy system provides energy the fastest. Other energy systems will contribute, but they won’t be able to keep up.

The power of the alactic energy system is defined as how quickly the energy system can produce ATP (energy) while the capacity is how long the energy system can maintain this level of energy production or regeneration.

Cool, so that’s a very, very brief rundown. So how does creatine fit into this?

Remember the phosphate molecule I mentioned earlier? The creatine molecule is what binds to this phosphate.

The more creatine floating around, the more phosphate floating around.

When ATP is used, the phosphate is burned and ATP becomes ADP (D meaning “di” or 2). Now there are only 2 phosphates attached (it goes further than this but we will stop here).

To regenerate energy, more phosphates must be attached to turn ADP back into ATP.

The greater and faster this can happen, the longer the energy system can maintain its energy regeneration or capacity.

So, by supplementing with creatine, you can increase the power and capacity of the alactic energy system providing you with more “explosive” energy during your boxing training or fight.

This means you can perform higher quality training, and therefore, make further gains.

Benefits Of Creatine

We’ve covered much of the performance benefits by describing the physiology above. But creatine has more benefits than just increasing power output. In fact, those taking creatine may see on average an 8% increase in strength [7].

Also, creatine may even have a neuroprotective mechanism that prevents neurodegenerative disease [8]. A very important potential protective mechanism that is rarely mentioned when it comes to combat sports.

As it gets studied further, creatine could become a supplement that is recommended to all boxers due to the head trauma that is associated with boxing.

Further, creatine may enhance your memory if you are deficient which is common among vegetarians [9] and even in young adults [10].

How To Take Creatine

Take creatine at any time of the day. Whenever you remember. I find it easiest to mix in my protein smoothie.

5g a day, every day. That’s it!

Which Creatine To Get

This creatine monohydrate is one I’ve personally used and is great as it is dirt cheap (creatine should be cheap, don’t be sucked in by the marketing).

NOW Foods Creatine Monohydrate. (5% discount)

Whey Protein

Whey Protein

The staple supplement for all athletes. But why whey protein? Why not plant-based proteins or even beef protein powder?

Whey protein is the most bioavailable, complete protein you can find in powder form. Meaning your body can digest, absorb, and utilize the protein to make new proteins better than the others.

This means some proteins are better than others when it comes to building and repairing muscle.

Is it worth paying extra for whey isolate versus whey concentrate? In my opinion, no. Total protein intake each day is going to have a much larger impact on your training than whether you take isolate or concentrate.

However, if you are mildly lactose intolerant or don’t digest dairy as well, then isolate may be a better choice for you due to lower lactose levels.

How Should You Take Whey Protein?

You don’t actually have to use whey protein supplements. If you are reaching your daily protein requirements (between 0.8-1.2g protein per pound of body weight), then protein supplements are irrelevant.

However, if you struggle to reach your protein intake or find protein powder convenient, then protein powder serves its purpose.

Use it any time, one scoop of your tub. Now, when choosing your protein powder, there are many different quality brands. Price can be an indicator but often some of the most expensive protein supplements are trash.

To pick the best quality protein supplements, you should look for these two things:

  • The least number of ingredients
  • Protein content per serving to be as close as possible to serving size.

For example, a 30g scoop of protein should ideally contain close to 25g of protein.

Many protein powders contain closer to 20g meaning you’re paying for a lot of filler.

Optimum Nutrition is a reliable brand that has 24g protein per 30g scoop which is one of the highest among all brands which can be found below.

Optimum Nutrition 5lb Tub (5% discount)

Always opt for chocolate or vanilla flavor. You can’t go wrong there. You can go very wrong when you steer from this.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D

Those who train and play indoor sports are more susceptible to Vitamin D deficiency as Vitamin D is mainly synthesized from being in the sun.

Elite Spanish boxers and other indoor sporting disciplines were all moderately deficient in Vitamin D levels or worse [13].

Why does this matter? Vitamin D concentration has been associated with bone mineral density, influences muscle growth especially Type II muscle fibers, improves strength and performance, may accelerate rehabilitation, and strengthen the immune system [14].

If you live in an area that doesn’t get much sun, or you don’t spend much time outside, then supplementing with Vitamin D is a good idea.

How Should You Take Vitamin D?

Take Vitamin D any time of the day. Whenever you remember to take your supplements. When buying Vitamin D, make sure you buy Vitamin D3, not D2.

The dose you should take each day can range between 1,000-2,000 IU. The great thing is Vitamin D is dirt cheap. NOW Foods brand has a 2000 IU bottle of Vitamin D that is good quality.

NOW Foods Vitamin D3 2000 IU (5% discount)

12 Weeks To Knockout Power!

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References

1. Fuster-Muñoz, E., Roche, E., Funes, L., Martínez-Peinado, P., Sempere, J. M., & Vicente-Salar, N. (2016). Effects of pomegranate juice in circulating parameters, cytokines, and oxidative stress markers in endurance-based athletes: A randomized controlled trial. Nutrition32(5), 539-545.

2. Finaud, J., Lac, G., & Filaire, E. (2006). Oxidative stress. Sports medicine36(4), 327-358.

3. Trexler, E. T., Smith-Ryan, A. E., Melvin, M. N., Roelofs, E. J., & Wingfield, H. L. (2014). Effects of pomegranate extract on blood flow and running time to exhaustion. Applied physiology, nutrition, and metabolism39(9), 1038-1042.

4. Ammar, A., Turki, M., Chtourou, H., Hammouda, O., Trabelsi, K., Kallel, C., … & Driss, T. (2016). Pomegranate supplementation accelerates recovery of muscle damage and soreness and inflammatory markers after a weightlifting training session. PloS one11(10), e0160305.

5. Roelofs, E. J., Smith-Ryan, A. E., Trexler, E. T., Hirsch, K. R., & Mock, M. G. (2017). Effects of pomegranate extract on blood flow and vessel diameter after high-intensity exercise in young, healthy adults. European journal of sport science17(3), 317-325.

6. Schwellnus, M. P. (2009). Cause of exercise associated muscle cramps (EAMC)—altered neuromuscular control, dehydration or electrolyte depletion?. British journal of sports medicine43(6), 401-408.

7. Rawson, E. S., & Volek, J. S. (2003). Effects of creatine supplementation and resistance training on muscle strength and weightlifting performance. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research17(4), 822-831.

8. Beal, M. F. (2011). Neuroprotective effects of creatine. Amino acids40(5), 1305-1313.

9. Benton, D., & Donohoe, R. (2011). The influence of creatine supplementation on the cognitive functioning of vegetarians and omnivores. British journal of nutrition105(7), 1100-1105.

10. Rae, C., Digney, A. L., McEwan, S. R., & Bates, T. C. (2003). Oral creatine monohydrate supplementation improves brain performance: a double–blind, placebo–controlled, cross–over trial. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences270(1529), 2147-2150.

11. Giesbrecht, T., Rycroft, J. A., Rowson, M. J., & De Bruin, E. A. (2010). The combination of L-theanine and caffeine improves cognitive performance and increases subjective alertness. Nutritional neuroscience13(6), 283-290.

12. Ammar, A., Turki, M., Hammouda, O., Chtourou, H., Trabelsi, K., Bouaziz, M., … & Bailey, S. J. (2017). Effects of pomegranate juice supplementation on oxidative stress biomarkers following weightlifting exercise. Nutrients9(8), 819.

13. Valtueña, J., Dominguez, D., Til, L., González-Gross, M., & Drobnic, F. (2014). High prevalence of vitamin D insufficiency among elite Spanish athletes; the importance of outdoor training adaptation. Nutricion hospitalaria30(1), 124-131.

14. de la Puente Yagüe, M., Collado Yurrita, L., & Cuadrado Cenzual, M. A. (2020). Role of vitamin d in athletes and their performance: Current concepts and new trends. Nutrients12(2), 579.

15. Siegler, J. C., & Hirscher, K. (2010). Sodium bicarbonate ingestion and boxing performance. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research24(1), 103-108.

16. Gough, L. A., Rimmer, S., Sparks, S. A., McNaughton, L. R., & Higgins, M. F. (2019). Post-exercise supplementation of sodium bicarbonate improves acid base balance recovery and subsequent high-intensity boxing specific performance. Frontiers in nutrition6, 155.

About the author 

James de Lacey

I am a professional strength & conditioning coach that works with professional and international level teams and athletes. I am a published scientific researcher and have completed my Masters in Sport & Exercise Science. I've combined my knowledge of research and experience to bring you the most practical bites to be applied to your combat training.


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