After listening to a great episode on The Fight Dietitian (TFD) Performance Podcast, all about nutrition for training in Thailand,I thought I’d write up a short summary and add my own two pennies worth.
Training in Thailand is many a Thai boxer’s dream. It’s the source of this beautiful art and home of the world’s top Muay Thai gyms. You’ll also see the highest level fights in famous arena’s such as Rajadamnern and Lumpinee Stadiums in Bangkok.
In more recent years though, Thailand has expanded its appeal to other martial artists who visit the big super gyms which cater for MMA, BJJ, wrestling and boxing, as well as Muay Thai. A huge appeal of training in Thailand is getting to live the fighter’s lifestyle in the sun and often beautiful surroundings. At the gyms it’s not uncommon to be training 5/6 hours a day split over two sessions, 6 days a week. With this kind of volume of training your body is going suffer, so let’s look at how you can support it to try and keep up.
This is the first essential to keep in mind. You’re training potentially for longer and in likely hotter conditions than you’re used to. Thailand is also know to be particularly humid, therefore likely increasing your sweat rate.
With this in mind, hydration is the number one basic to try and ensure you’re getting right. Ensuring you’re getting enough water is only part of it though. When you loose significant amounts of water from the body via sweating, you also loose salts and minerals that support your muscles to function. These are called electrolytes.
Electrolytes are salts and minerals found in your blood, including sodium, calcium, potassium, chlorine, phosphate, and magnesium. Your cells use electrolytes to conduct electrical charges, which is how your muscles contract. Electrolytes also help your body to hold water so it doesn’t just pass right through.
Sodium, the main component of salt, is the electrolyte you will be in the most need of replenishment. Although most sport drinks will include a sodium element to them, as well as some carbohydrates which will also support absorption, it may be better to go with electrolyte sachets you can bring with you or by over there.
Be minded that local Thai food is often high in sodium, particularly the sauces, so you many be digesting more sodium than you are aware of.
Ensure you’re drinking prior, during & after training. Look at the colour of your urine, shoot for clear to straw coloured as a good measure for where your hydration is at.
After ensuring you have your hydration locked in, fuelling and recovering from all that training are the next most important points. Timing of eating can be difficult if starting at the gym early, but try to ensure you’re getting some fast digesting carbohydrates into you before you hit that first session. Easy options could be bananas and a low fat yogurt for instance. If you have more time and your hunger is high, go for something more fulfilling, just don’t go to high on the fat first thing. Porridge or scrambled eggs on toast, both with a side of fruit, are good options.
Hunger can be suppressed from the heat and it can be tempting not to eat if you’re short on time and even money. Those heading to Thailand for a fight camp may also be seduced by the idea of loosing all the weight needed as quickly and easily as they can. Although all the ingredients are there for you to lean out very quickly, if you’re not properly refuelling, your performance will suffer.
Structure your meals as best you can. Try and ensure you’re getting a protein source, a fat source and probably most importantly, don’t be skimping on the carbohydrates!
Carbohydrates are king for fuelling you, especially in light of the often high intensity work you’ll be doing hitting pads and sparring. If your appetite is low, look for full sugar sports drinks & fruit juices/smoothies to help replenish after training. If you’re working out over 45 minutes, which is highly likely, then intra workout carbs are also important, a full sugar sports drink is a great option here.
Protein is another important macronutrient you’ll need to keep in mind. Protein will help your muscles recover from all that taxing work you’ll be asking of them. Thai food can lack protein so may you have to double up protein options if ordering locally. Think fish, meat, eggs and dairy products as all being great sources.
If you’re vegan, really do think about investing in a high quality vegan protein powder with a high ratio of the Essential Amino Acids, (EAAs). Beans and pulses can be ok options. however lack certain properties that your body needs to repair and are fibre dense, which may cause some bloating and discomfort if eating close to undertaking a training session.
Fat is a macronutrient that can be overlooked as having an important function to play in your health, especially when reducing food intake on a weight cut for instance. Fat help’s hormone production and supports absorbing other key nutrients. There is not much fat in meals in Thailand so you may need to up fat content where you can with eggs, avocado, and full fat yogurt.
Lastly, don’t forget your fruit and vegetables. There’s loads of amazing tasting fruit in Thailand, so it shouldn’t be too hard. Again, you will be asking a lot of your body and immune system, and the vitamins and minerals within fruits and veg will help you to stay strong.
Hygiene is even more of an essential when training in Thailand. There is a lot of staff in the gyms as the heat and humidity makes for a perfect breading ground. Ensured your washing thoroughly between sessions and where possible try disinfect your gear with an antibacterial spray.
Supplements are maybe something you want to think about bringing with you for ease. A good protein powder and creatine monohydrate are good basic options. We’ve touched on protein already but if you want to know more about creatine, have a read of the following post: https://nutrition4fighters.co/2020/08/07/creatine-which-kind-of-sporting-performance-it-may-help-how-much-to-dose-and-considerations-for-combat-and-weight-making-athletes/
Adjusting to high training volume is going to be tough early on in your stay. Where you can, try and do some heat acclimatisation before you head over, for example start to up some of your training in a sweat suit.
When you’re over in Thailand, especially if just arriving, try to acclimatise a bit to the training in the early days. Pack your sun screen, especially for the running and try to ease yourself into the training. Not doing two a day sessions for the first week may annoy your trainer but remember, it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon!