Muay Thai for Weight Loss & a Fighter's Diet
Muay Thai for Weight Loss
The single most common question that we get asked is, “What should I be eating?” or “What do you all eat during fight camps/to stay in shape?” It definitely took us aback when these questions started rolling in. We are not doctors, nutritionists, dietitians, or experts. We by no means have all the answers. We know the ins and outs of Muay Thai, not nutrition. However, both Joe and I avoided the binge and purge cycle many fighters fall into and never let our weights get out of control in between fights.
Whether your goal is to lose weight for a fight or shed a couple pounds to feel healthier and stronger, Muay Thai is a huge part of that equation. That being said without a consistent diet, it’s hard to lose and keep weight off.
Here are the basics that we believe foster a healthy lifestyle, whether you are a fighter or not. For our students & fighters, training a couple of times a week is not enough. You must build a healthier lifestyle to achieve your goals.
1. Train at minimum 5 days a week
Some fighters fall into the rut of only training when they have a fight coming up. Not only will this hinder improvement, but it will more than likely lead to big fluctuations in weight. Consistency is key.
2. No run. No Muay Thai.
A lot of trainers in Thailand will say this. If you do not run, you cannot train. Running builds cardio, burns a ton of calories, and is an exercise in mental toughness. It’s often a slog. It’s rarely exciting. Running makes you mentally tough. When you legs are sore and you’re in a crummy mood, convince yourself to run; build your mental toughness. If time is tight, get to the gym ten or twenty minutes early and run a mile or two. Fighters should run at minimum 3 miles, five to six times a week.
3. Body exercises
Especially as a fighter, you want maximum strength at the lowest weight possible. Lifting lots of weights can add bulky, ‘show’ muscle that requires a lot of oxygen. We’ve seen some shredded, bulked up fighters look very scary in the ring for the first round, only to ‘gas out’ due to their large amount of muscle.
Again, we are Muay Thai fighters that practice tradition methods of fight training and fitness. We believe primarily in body weight exercises. Pushups, pullups, situps, core exercises, squats, etc. These exercises build practical muscle. A solid fighter with good conditioning is less likely to get injured, and more likely to perform better in the later rounds.
FOOD & DIET
1. Eat unprocessed, whole foods
Joe and I are not big dieters. We don’t crash diet eating only chicken breast, broccoli, and brown rice for three weeks before a fight. We don’t count calories or macros. Rather, we follow simple rules that lead to a healthy lifestyle. Unprocessed foods are often less calorie dense, more nutritious and more filling than their processed counterparts. For example: a baked potato is better than hashbrowns which are better than chips. A grilled chicken breast is better than a fried chicken cutlet, which is better than hyper-processed chicken nuggets. An apple is better than apple juice which is better than apple flavored gummies, etc.
Eat primarily unprocessed foods, lots of vegetables, and cook at home.
2. Don’t crash diet
Studies have shown that over long periods of time really intensive dieters gain more weight than their control group peers. If you suddenly increase your fitness routine while greatly reducing your caloric intake to an unsustainably low deficit, you may very well swing the other way and start a ‘binge/purge’ cycle. Follow the corny saying, ‘Change your lifestyle not your diet’. It’s OK to eat a burger and fries, it’s OK to eat ice cream. Don’t turn food and eating into a guilt or shameful act.
3. Eat foods that ate well
I heard this saying and I really connected with it. Two burger patties are not necessarily the same. The meat from a grass fed, humanely raised cow is nutritionally different than the meat from a cow that ate primarily corn, raised in an inhumane feedlot. Fruits and veggies grown in good soil and eaten within a day or two of being picked will have more flavor and nutrition than their agro-business, mass-produced counterpart that was sprayed consistently with pesticides and herbicides and shipped halfway across the world. Eat a variety of different foods.
4. Eat light after training
Especially if you train at night, do not gorge on a huge meal. The impulse is real. It’s not uncommon to feel ravenous after a hard training session. However, you probably are going right to sleep after your meal. Eat light, sleep easy. It will limit the amount of calories you ate that day, and you will not go to bed bloated. Many cultures have a saying similar to the line, “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.”
5. Drink a lot of water
Proper hydration is key. Especially in a hot gym, it is easy to get dehydrated. Drink water throughout the day. When you feel thirsty, you are often already on your way to dehydration. Drinking a lot of water helps you feel satiated, is good for your metabolism, and is generally a healthy thing to do. Don’t drink your calories. Stick to water. In fight camp, I would typically drink a gallon+ a day without realizing it.
OTHER THINGS TO CONSIDER
1. Inflammation and soreness
For two years, I have taken CBD oil twice a day. There are numerous studies discussing the benefits of CBD for both inflammation and brain trauma. For me it has helped. Likewise, when getting a full 8 hours of sleep, and eating healthily, I find a reduction in soreness and general fatigue (go figure!). Alcohol and sugar are both inflammatories. Cutting down on them greatly or entirely will help with inflammation and recovery times. Typically, we would cut out all alcohol about 4 weeks from a fight.
2. Rest days
For overzealous fighters, we will sometimes see folks who overtrain and avoid rest days. As a fighter, I would always trained 6 days a week, but really took advantage of a big rest day to do something completely unrelated to Muay Thai. It’s good to take a step back once in a while. A little bit of distance makes the heart fonder after all!
3. A routine that works for you
Some of you have families, some of you are vegans, some of you can only train three times a week because of work schedules, etc. etc. There will always be either conscious decisions or unavoidable scenarios that affect your routine and capabilities. The only thing we can say is that we’ve seen it work in a ton of different ways. I’ve seen very successful and healthy vegan fighters and I’ve seen very successful and healthy fighters that eat a ton of meat. I’ve seen 35 year old fighters and 18 year old fighters. Parents lose 50+ pounds while dealing with kids, and college students gain 50+ pounds with all the free time in the world. At the end of the day, it’s about finding a routine and lifestyle that fits you, and adhering to it. Willpower is part of it, but so is planning.
Students, let us know if you have any question! Hopefully these basic guidelines answer your general questions.