Muay Thai Fighter Diet, Nutrition, and Weight Cutting Plan
By James Bee – JBFS
The following post is by James Bee who works with professional Muay Thai fighters as nutritional coach.
I get a lot of emails from people asking questions about what to eat and drink during fight week preparation. So I felt it was necessary to write some advice answering these important questions about Muay Thai diet and nutrition to help optimize performance for your big week. If you’re cutting weight, there is some essential weight cutting tips in this post to help reach that goal too, so keep reading.
Below you’ll find a breakdown of the important macronutrients like proteins, fats and carbohydrates. I’ve also added 2 different meal plan strategies, one plan is for fighters who are weight cutting and one is for maintaining weight. I’ll talk about water intake, important supplements, and sauna strategy for shedding those last couple kgs if needed.
First point to note, the real important thing is to know which healthy foods to eat and how much food you need to be eating to support your body during the most important week of your Muay Thai fight camp. But we’ll get to that in a minute!
Fight Week Nutrition Strategy:
If your training hard and looking for peak health in fight week, no matter if your cutting or maintaining weight you should consider a good Multi Vitamin! Although we don’t require much of them in our diets, vitamins enable several important regulatory functions, playing rolls in growth, digestion, energy production, nervous system function and more. One of the most critical responsibilities of our vitamins is their role as co-factors for enzymes, which means they are behind everything from energy production to protein synthesis. Because some vitamins are water soluble, they are excreted through the body and need to be replaced. This is especially important when you are cutting weight because as the water goes out of your body so do your vitamin stores like vitamin B and C.
For people who are maintaining weight and wanting to optimise their performance this week without tipping over on the scales, you just need to eat within your daily calorie requirement. To work out what your calorie intake should be to maintain, multiply 13x your body weight in Lbs.
For people who are cutting weight – Most guys are really surprised when I give them their weight cutting diet plans, because they still get to eat food and lose weight. The truth is if you’re cutting weight, you need to remain in a calorie deficit. This should be around 10x your body weight in Lbs, but your macronutrient split will be the big change. During this part of your Muay Thai diet and nutrition is the most important time to be eating proteins and fats, as they are what are going to keep you functioning during times of low calorie and water intake. However, during the fight week, your carbohydrates will be reduced. Below is a breakdown of each important macronutrient required especially in fight week.
Protein: Consume 1-2 palm sized portions of protein in each meal even if you’re cutting. Examples: beef, chicken, fish, tuna, eggs, beans, dairy: cottage cheese, Greek yoghurt, cheese, etc.
You should be consuming whole unprocessed meats. There are two reasons for this:
- Whole meats provide better satiety vs. supplement protein. (you feel full for longer)
- They provide higher nutrient density as they contain more vitamins, minerals and overall nutrition. This is essential to maximise your vitamin and mineral intake.
Fats: Whether you’re maintaining or cutting weight, a minimum of two full thumb widths in each meal will cover your daily fat intake. A mix of saturates, polyunsaturates, and monounsaturates (this means about 33% of your total fat coming from each). Eat whole eggs with yolk, unsalted nuts, natural nut butters, fish oil, flax oil, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil.
Carbohydrates: People who fight at their natural weight can afford to keep packing as much unprocessed nutrient dense carbohydrates into your diet as possible. Carb load during the 2 days before the Muay Thai fight by eating fruits, and wholegrain organic carbs like brown rice, quinoa, oranges and bananas. On fight day, stick to wholegrain and starches for the first half of the day and then fruits leading up to the fight. Your carbs intake should be around 150g per day minimum. To be safe, I tell my fighter clients to stick with 3-4 cupped handfuls of brown rice and a couple of pieces of fruit each day.
If you’re weight cutting you need to reduce carbs for this week: You don’t ever want to cut carbs out completely as your vital organs and brain function rely on glucose from the diet. In this last week of your preparation, were going to drop carb intake to about 50-100gm per day. This will help keep your liver glycogen stores topped up while depleting your muscle glycogen as you move and exercise over the following days. This loss of stored muscle glycogen helps weight loss taking 2-3gm water for every one gram or glycogen (the stored form of carbohydrates). After you check weight, start loading your carbs back up by drinking a water/protein/carbs drink for the first hour. Then get stuck into fruits, wholegrain, and starches, followed by proteins and fats (in that order) until a few hours before the fight.
Vegetables: Muay Thai fighters maintaining weight this week should place an emphasis on vegetables. 2 fist size servings in each meal is optimal. Look for bright or dark coloured veggies with perky leaves. Examples: Spinach, carrots, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, kale. The more of these veggies the better.
If cutting weight: Because most vegetables are 90% water, we are going to cut down our normal daily veggie intake to half the amount. If you’re worried about missing out on the micro nutrients and phytochemicals (I would be) I recommend a Greens supplement in your diet. I’m a huge fan of greens supplements. They are loaded with essential vitamins and minerals with hundreds even thousands of free radical squelching anti-oxidants. They also contain a variety of base producing compounds that will neutralize dietary acids, and rich with healthy bacteria to detoxify and protect your gut. A greens supp becomes especially important on The Lean Performance Diet as it has a compliment of nutrients to help detoxify the body (this is important during periods of rapid fat loss when toxins are being released from your fat cells) and to help neutralize the high dietary acids you’ll be taking in. Here’s how to use greens+: Use 1 serving per day, taken either with or between meals in a shake.
Muay Thai Diet And Nutrition – Meal Plan
So, now you know what type of healthy foods you should eat, and roughly what amounts. But what does a day of eating for a high performance Nak Muay look like? Below I’ve featured 2 different Muay Thai fighter meal plans from The Lean Performance diet detailing total daily calories, and macronutrient split.
The following plan is from the Lean Performance Diet.
Maintain plan: To maintain your weight, your meals should have a balance of macro nutrients. In the table below I have included 1 protein shake, but it’s up to you if you want to include supplements. In fight week it is essential to eat a good amount of proteins, veggies, fats and carbs in your meals.
Calories: 2500 Protein: 190g Carbohydrates: 134.9g Fats: 79g
Weight cutting sample meal plan: Your cutting plan is lower in carbs, higher in fats and protein. Notice the lunch menu has nearly no carbs. The protein shake is higher in fats and lower in carbs.
Calories: 2095 Protein: 186g Carbohydrates: 74.9g Fats: 87g
Water: Super important and totally underrated as one of the key point’s performance. Your poor water balance can be your biggest downfall. Even a 2% loss in total body weight through fluid losses will result in decreased performance. 5% total body weight loss and your heading from trouble. Thus, so it’s important to be fully hydrated in your final week of preparation.
Daily Intake: I recommend for fighters not on a cut drinking 42ml of water per kg of total body weight this week. It is important to note that when increasing your daily water intake, your salts, electrolyte intake are matched. As an imbalance in body fluid electrolytes can affect the ability to maintain electrochemical gradient across the body making muscle contraction and nerve impulses weaker. Adding a pinch of full mineral profile sea salt will help maintain a gradient electromagnetic current throughout the body.
If you are cutting a little weight, avoid salt in the last 2 days, lower your water intake accordingly and use the sauna strategy below to lose the water weight.
This is a great way to lose water weight without exercise saving you energy and time in this all important week. Finish off the last 2 days of your cut via 2 short 20-25minute sauna sessions.
Warning/disclaimer: This strategy is not for everyone. Use at your own risk. Using the sauna for weight cutting is dangerous, if you feel dizzy you need to get out and cool your head. It’s important to go to the sauna with a friend or to have someone watching your back. You should have eaten that day already and made sure you have been topping up your multi vitamins.
Things you will need:
- A wet towel for cooling your head and neck
- A set of bathroom scales (for weighing before and each time you exit)
- A bottle of water for wetting the mouth
- A bank card to swipe the sweat off as it forms (this will speed up the process)
Directions: Make sure the sauna is at full heat 60 degree +. Start off with a 10-15 minute stint. Wipe the sweat off with the bank card as it forms on the skin. Then do 5 mins in, 2 mins out until your reach your goal.
Use the wet towel to dampen your head and neck. Make sure each time you exit the sauna, dry yourself off with a dry towel, and check your weight to see how much you have lost.
It’s important that prior to the sauna, you have been drinking lots of water, lots of nutrient dense foods like vegetables and lean meats. You will lose water with the sauna, but with the water losses comes vitamin and mineral losses. It’s important to replace them by taking a multi vitamin. My fighter clients will leave the sauna until the last 1-2 days before weigh in. You don’t want to sauna too early as this will result in unnecessary prolonged dehydration. Ideally, save this strategy until 1-2 days out, and even use of the day of weigh in as needed to make weight.
Summary breakdown of your essentials for your Muay Thai diet and nutrition for fight week:
To maintain weight and be in peak shape:
- Top up vitamins
- Do not exceed calorie intake (13x body weight in Lbs)
- Continue to eat fresh whole foods like proteins, fats, vegetables.
- 150g of carbs daily, Wholegrain, fruits, starches.
- Increase water intake, add a pinch of full mineral profile salt.
If you’re cutting weight:
- Top up on vitamins
- Do not exceed calorie intake (10x body weight in Lbs)
- Continue to eat whole foods like proteins, fats, vegetables.
- 50-100g of carbs daily, brown rice is the ticket.
- Increase water intake until last 2 days. Then half the water, avoid salt, and sauna using the method outlined above.
James Bee is a fitness and nutrition coach who works with professional Muay Thai fighters. He’s also the creator of The Lean Performance Diet. The diet system used by pro Muay Thai fighters to get on weight, performance optimized and ready for battle. When he’s not chilling on the beach somewhere in Thailand, he’s helping people to live the lean performance lifestyle. You can find out more about Coach James Bee here:
- Sean "Muay Thai Guy" Fagan owns & operates the largest online Muay Thai community and the #1 training resource for nak muay of all levels.