Joe (not his real name) is overweight. Joe wants to lose weight. Joe asks if plus-sized folks like him can do Muay Thai. Joe, this article is for you.
For as long as he can even remember, Joe has been running regularly, trying to achieve his ideal weight. But coupled with his fondness for food, he hasn’t been very successful with achieving his weight loss goals. He is a big fan of mixed martial arts and has heard that Muay Thai is a good exercise for losing weight. He dreams and fantasizes about getting a body like Buakaw with the agility of Conor Mcgregor and moves like Saenchai. Joe is inspired and wants to practise Muay Thai but keeps making excuses about being too fat to train.
Muay Thai for Fat People
Muay Thai wasn’t developed for any body type in particular. If you feel apprehensive about starting Muay Thai because you are worried about being the blob in a room where you think everyone is fit and muscular, dispose of that thought at once! I have seen men and women of all shapes and sizes coming and training in my gym and everybody seems to be enjoying it. People come to train with all sorts of objectives, from losing weight to getting fitter to learning self-defense or just having a good time. Whatever your objective, there is a place for you in an encompassing environment such as the Muay Thai gym.
A typical Muay Thai training session will have you skip, shadow box, kick/punch pads and heavy bags, and also engage in some conditioning workouts. There is no doubt that it is a highly intensive sport. But that’s exactly the point of taking up Muay Thai: To challenge yourself. If it were any easy, it wouldn’t be worth doing.
Muay Thai is an exciting and literally heart-pumping exercise to engage in. If you are worried about not being fit enough; not being strong enough; not being flexible enough; not being physically coordinated enough; you are simply worrying too much. Muay Thai will make you fitter, stronger, more flexible, improve your coordination and the techniques are simple enough to learn that anyone can do it. So fret not if you aren’t in top shape, because Muay Thai will whip you into achieving the best shape of your life.
Benefits of Muay Thai
Very few sports make you burn as much calories as Muay Thai. If you are looking for an exercise to help you get leaner, look no further. Of course, on its own, Muay Thai won’t make you lose weight if you don’t pay attention to your diet but it certainly makes the job easier. Time to shed those fats and achieve that lean, toned body that you’ve always dreamt about.
Muay Thai is Fun
Without a doubt, an hour of Muay Thai is certainly a lot more fun and fulfilling than an hour running on the treadmill. You will be more motivated to go for training as there is always something new to learn. This makes your every workout interestingly varied instead of the same old routines.
Regardless of your body type, most of us are self-conscious about our physical appearance at one point or another in our lives. In our modern society obsessed with appearances, deviating from the norm can have a negative effect on our self-esteem and self-image. As you continue to train hard regularly in Muay Thai, you will get better at it, and so will your confidence grow. Not just because you are getting leaner, but also because you know you can achieve anything as long as you set your mind to it.
Lowers Blood Pressure
Hypertension can trigger an array of cardiovascular damage including stroke and heart failure. Muay Thai is a cardio-intensive exercise and regular cardiovascular exercise has been shown to reduce blood pressure and strengthen the heart.
Simple to learn
No elaborate or complicated moves, Muay Thai is straight to the point. As a stand-up striking style, the techniques were developed to be effective and efficient so they are intuitive and easy to pick up. By the end of your first session, you will be able to execute many of the basic moves.
Unless you are a very driven and self-motivated individual, there is no way you can push yourself to the same degree as a Muay Thai training session. Very often, your instructors will push you to your limits and beyond. If you keep doing this, training on a regular basis, you not only get stronger physically, but also mentally. Whether you are a student, an office worker or a stay-at-home mum, Muay Thai will fortify you with the mental toughness to handle many of life’s challenges.
You know that high feeling you get after a really good workout? That’s endorphins at work and a Muay Thai session is guaranteed to give you an endorphins rush. Endorphins are part of a group of chemicals secreted within the brain and nervous system. Among its many benefits, they trigger positive feeling, aid in your stress management, help you to relax and improve the quality of your sleep. Enough said.
How to Lose Weight while Training Muay Thai
Muay Thai, being a cardio intensive activity, burns plenty of calories. This averages around 600 to 800 calories in an hour of training. But all said and done, no matter how hard you train, stuffing yourself silly after workouts will only neutralize all the effort you put in. Your diet is a major component of your weight loss plan. It’s all about the calories.
Generally speaking, the lesser you eat, the easier it is for you to lose weight. But there are several factors involved such as your metabolism, genetics, and caloric quality of your daily diet. It can be more difficult for some people to lose weight compared to others but with the right approach and mindset, your ideal body shape is definitely achievable.
The Mathematics of Calories
The basic idea is simple enough: eat less calories than what your body needs. Your body burns a certain amount of energy everyday and you need to eat less than that amount in order to lose weight. If you consistently consume fewer calories than what your body needs, it turns to your stored body fat for energy which results in fat loss. Conversely, if you consistently consume more calories than needed, you gain weight.
To determine how much you should eat, you need to first determine your daily caloric maintenance level. Your daily caloric maintenance level lets you know how much calories you need everyday in order to maintain your current weight. To compute, multiply your current weight in pounds by 14 and 17. Your daily calorie maintenance level will be in between the 2 numbers. As an example, a 150 lbs (68 kg) person would require 150 x 14 and 150 x 17 and his/her daily calorie maintenance level will be somewhere between 2100-2550 calories.
In order to lose weight, you can either increase fat-burning physical activity (such as Muay Thai) to burn more calories while maintaining your current caloric intake; or eat less than your daily caloric maintenance level; or more effectively, a combination of both.
Dietary Tips for Weight Loss
Here are some dietary tips to help you on your weight loss plan:
- A safe, healthy and reasonable weight loss rate is about 4-8 lbs/month (about 2-4 kg). This works out to be somewhere between 1 to 2 lbs (½ to 1 kg) every week. Studies show that people who lose weight gradually are more successful at keeping the weight off. One pound of body weight equals roughly 3,500 calories. So in order to lose a pound in a week, you need to reduce your daily food intake by 500 calories.
- Unfortunately, when your body digs into your energy reserves, fat isn’t the only calories that will be deployed. Muscle loss is a side effect of working out. To compensate, you need a protein-rich diet while keeping your calories intake in check.
- Avoid skipping your meals. While skipping meals means no calorie intake, it will cause you to feel extremely hungry and then overeating as a result! This is counterproductive and most people end up eating with a vengeance and putting on weight instead of losing.
- Drinking a glass of water just before meals will make you feel fuller and will prevent you from overeating. Voila!
- Make your calories count. Always go for whole foods high in nutrition instead of empty calories foods. Empty calories foods refer to food that supply energy but providing little to no nutrition. Some of the biggest culprits include highly-processed foods such as pastries, soda and fast food. The other biggest offender is alcohol, which not only offers no nutrition, it is detrimental to muscle recovery, effectively nulling your day’s worth of training. They don’t call it the beer belly for nothing.
Muay Thai Health & Safety Tips
Muay Thai is a physically demanding sport. If you haven’t been working out all these while, it can be taxing at the start. Here are some tips to help you stay safe and make the best of your Muay Thai training:
- The importance of warming up can never be overemphasized. Instead of revving your body into instant action, warming up prepares your body by gradually increasing your heart rate and circulation. This loosens the joints and increases blood flow to your muscle. Adequate and proper stretching will also prepare the muscles for physical activity and helps to lower risk of injuries.
- When people are very overweight, it puts stress on their joints. The use of joint support -for ankles and knees- during training will help to protect them from injury and risk of damage. Joint supports also keep the joints warm and this helps to increase comfort by improving blood circulation.
- Start slow by allowing at least 1-2 day of rest in between training. Doing this gives ample time for your body to recover which reduces risk of fatigue-related injuries.
- Water is vital for proper functioning of the body. If you have been training hard at the gym, you need to be getting at least 2-3 litres (and more) of water daily. A strenuous Muay Thai training session always leads to ample perspiration. Insufficient hydration on a consistent basis can lead to chronic dehydration with effects such as fatigue, digestive disorders, joint pain, and even high blood pressure. Coffee, tea, soft drinks, energy drinks are best avoided. Go for pure drinking water.
Muay Thai Gear for Big Guys
There are a few essential items you need to own when you start training in Muay Thai. Muay Thai is becoming more and more popular over the years so you will have no trouble tracking down some specialty or sporting stores to cater to your gear needs. However, you will find most Muay Thai brands (of Thai origin) to be unsuitable as they tend to be smaller than standard American sizing. Here are some tips on choosing your gear to help get you started:
Muay Thai Gloves
For proper wrist support and hand protection when you train, you need your gloves to fit like they rightly should. For a person with large meaty hands, you may find some gloves to be a little too tight for comfort. Your gloves should not fit so tightly that blood flow is restricted and your hands feel numb after 5 minutes wearing them. If this continues long-term on a regular basis, there could be adverse effects such as damaged blood vessels. In terms of the degree of snugness, it’s more a matter of preference. Some like it a little more snug, while some prefer a more roomy compartment. You should try a few pairs to decide what type of fit you prefer. Comfort is key.
In general, Thai brands tend to be more snug and sizes often only go up to 16 oz. If you are on the heavyweight class, coupled with big hands, you are going to need 18oz gloves for sparring and roomy gloves for training. (For gloves recommendations, read this article: “Best Muay Thai Gloves for Big Hands”)
Shorts for Muay Thai Training
Muay Thai shorts are small even for Asian standards. A Thai size L will often fits closer to an Amercian size S. Since the Thai-made shorts run small, it’s always recommended to get 2 sizes up from your usual sizing.
A common problem faced when it comes to buying Muay Thai shorts is the waist-to-length conundrum. If you get one that fits nicely on your waist, the shorts might be a bit too long; if you get one with the right length that you like, it might squeeze your waist too tightly for comfort. And this is regardless of whether you are small or big-sized.
Thus getting a size that fits comfortably on your waist should be your priority. With the right fitting at the waist, you can fold down the waistband of your shorts and pull your shorts up if you like them short. If you prefer a bit lower down your thighs, you can wear your shorts such that the waistband sits below your belly button and they would end closer to your knees. (To get recommendations on Muay Thai shorts, read this article: “Best Muay Thai Shorts for Big Guys”)
Alternatively, you can consider MMA board shorts. They are certainly quite popular at my gym with the bigger guys. As most MMA brands are American- or European-based, their board shorts are geared towards American and European sizes.
MMA shorts fit as they are tagged so a X-Large will fit like an American X-Large that you are use to. Some brands also come in actual waist measurements in inches and this makes buying from online retailer a lot easier.
(For more information on MMA shorts, read this article: “MMA Shorts for Muay Thai”)
It is common for overweight people to sweat more easily and profusely than normal-weight individuals. This is because fats have an insulative quality that tends to raise body temperature. If you are on the heavier side of things, wearing a good compression shirt can help wick the sweat away faster, leaving you dry, cool and more comfortable. At the same time, chafing is a common problem for overweight people. Wearing compression top and legging will help to ease and even prevent it, particularly for areas such as underarms and inner thighs.
Compression wear won’t make you look slimmer, and could even emphasize your middle section. However, the benefits far outweigh this little snag and you can wear them under a sports tee and muay thai shorts. Get suited up in your favorite gear, train hard and you will achieve your ideal body shape. As most compression wear are designed to fit tight, you may find that their largest offering -often an X-Large- might not fit you adequately. Fortunately, there is one brand that many plus-sized folks turn to for their compression-wear needs: Under Armour.
The Heat Gear Armour Compression series is one of the best compression wear for plus-sized folks out in the market. The shirts and bottoms run up to a behemoth 4XL and there is a bewildering range of colors to choose from. The Heat Gear is one of UA’s most popular top and comes in both short- and long-sleeves. There’s also a sleeveless version but for the best protection, long-sleeves are the way to go. This has everything made for your needs, from excellent wicking capability to durable material. As an added bonus, they offer SPF30 protection, great for those who want to use it for any activity/workout under the sun or at the beach. For
Joe, it is time to stop making excuses and start making changes. More often than not, the only person stopping you from doing what you really want, is yourself. Do something now that your future self will thank you for. The only thing you have to lose when you take up Muay Thai, is your weight. Never underestimate what you and your body are capable of. There is no better place than here, no better time than now. Train hard, feel good. Okay, hopefully that’s about enough motivational quotes to get you started.
NOTE: If you have a medical condition, you might want to get yourself medically approved or certified by your specialist before getting enrolled for Muay Thai classes. This might include -but not limited to- metabolic bone conditions, muscular disorders, respiratory or any chronic conditions.