Muay Thai is one of the most difficult martial arts in the world. Training sessions are intense, and Thai dojos are pushing you to the limits, even when you’re a beginner. You simply can’t slow down when twenty people around you work as hard as they can, can you?
Thai boxing is HIIT (high-intense interval training) activity, so it combines periods of hard work and rest. It pushes both your aerobic and anaerobic glycolytic systems on fire, which leads to burning a lot of calories. You’ll be very tired after an hour or two.
But here is the question – can Muay Thai help lose weight and how? Well, if you come from the western world to live and train in Thailand, your pounds will go down quickly, especially during the first month. You just need a good combination of nutrition, sleep, and training sessions.
Now let me get to know you with the Muay Thai weight loss process. Read on to discover the top 5 secrets of cutting your pounds via Thai boxing sessions.
1. Putting Three Energy Systems On Fire
I can bet nobody has ever explained this to you. But you want to know if Muay Thai can help you lose weight, do you? Then please, read the next few paragraphs very carefully.
There are three metabolic energy pathways in the human body:
- phosphagen system
- aerobic system
I will explain how they work.
The human body needs energy for physical activity. This energy originates from the conversion of high-energy phosphates (adenosine triphosphate—ATP) to lower-energy phosphates (adenosine diphosphate—ADP; adenosine monophosphate—AMP; and inorganic phosphate, Pi).
During ATP hydrolysis (the process that requires water), energy, proton, and heat are produced – ATP + H2O = ADP + H+ + energy + Pi + heat. The human body can’t store much ATP, so it must resynthesize it all the time.
Muay Thai is mostly a vigorous activity, so the first energy system that helps a Thai warrior resynthesize his ATP units is the phosphagen system (also called the ATP-CP system). It happens during quick-strike exchanges or high-intense circuits that last less than 5 seconds.
This is an anaerobic (oxygen-independent) process as it doesn’t require oxygen. Creatine phosphate (CP), stored in skeletal muscles, donates a phosphate unit to ADP and produces ATP: ADP + CP = ATP + C. This happens during 10+ hit combos or while you’re landing a barrage of bullets on the cornered opponent or a heavy bag.
Glycolysis is the predominant energy system in Muay Thai. It is used for drills lasting from 30 seconds to about 2 minutes (one round is a good example). Also, don’t forget it is the second-fastest way to resynthesize ATP.
I’ll be frank – carbohydrate is stored in the form of either blood glucose (sugar) or muscle glycogen (the stored form of glucose). First, glycogen is broken down into glucose through glycogenolysis, then, after sets of chemical reactions, the final product is called pyruvate.
Two molecules of usable ATP will be produced for every molecule of glucose broken down to pyruvate through glycolysis. Why is this important? The majority of circuits in Muay Thai last between 30 seconds and 2 minutes, and it’s not accidental!
Now I’ve reached the most important energy pathway, which will answer the question “can Muay Thai help lose weight” – the aerobic system. It is oxygen-dependent, but also the most complicated of all three systems.
Technically, you can get tons of ATP, but you must wait for your body to produce it. That’s why a low-intense activity can last for hours, the aerobic system is the slowest way to resynthesize ATP units.
The aerobic system consists of the Krebs cycle (citric acid or TCA cycle) and the electron transport chain (blood glucose, glycogen, and fat are used as fuels to resynthesize ATP). After glycolysis, pyruvate forms Acetyl-CoA, which enters the Krebs cycle.
The electrons are produced in the Krebs cycle, which is later transported through the electron transport chain, where water and ATP molecules are produced (the process is called oxidative phosphorylation). Just remember this – 36 molecules of ATP for every molecule of glucose broken down (18 times more than aerobic system).
Now we got to the point – fat. If you want to lose weight, fat loss is the essential process, and I will explain to you how it works in Muay Thai. Fat units are stored as triglycerides inside of your body, and this is the largest energy source in the human body.
When your body is forced to use triglyceride units, they are broken down into fatty acids and glycerol in the first place (lipolysis). The free fatty acids are made of a long chain of carbon atoms. They are transported to the muscle mitochondria, where the carbon atoms are used to produce acetyl-CoA (a process called beta-oxidation).
THIS PROCESS IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT FOR WEIGHT LOSS, BUT IT CAN’T HAPPEN WHEN THE ACTIVITY LASTS LESS THAN 20 MINUTES.The perfect activity time to “turn on” the beta-oxidation process is 30+ minutes.
Depending on the process, you’ll get way more ATP units (sometimes even more than 100). But I will repeat, this type of workout shouldn’t last less than 30 minutes, or you will not lose weight!
Muay Thai And Training Session – Putting It All Together
Now you will ask me why I wrote the damn novel. Well, now you can understand how everything works. Muay Thai training session rarely lasts less than 1 hour, there are many high-intense periods combined with rest, rounds usually last between 2 and 3 minutes, depending on the dojo.
The truth is – Muay Thai activates all your energy systems. Longer training session triggers beta-oxidation and forces Thai warrior’s body to get the energy from the fats, which leads to weight loss process.
Can Muay Thai help lose weight? Absolutely yes, think like this – two 90-minute training sessions per day, good nutrition, and you’ll get rid of your stomach in less than three months.
2. Vigorous HIIT Activity + Full Body Workout
Muay Thai is a HIIT activity, where short bursts of high-intense drills are combined with low-intensity recovery periods. That’s one of the best ways to activate all three energy systems in your body, especially when the activity lasts for a longer period. Let me explain.
The coach will probably tell you to hit the heavy bag for 1, 2, or 3 minutes. Even when you’re a beginner, he’ll count, and you’ll deliver a shot. Striking is a stressful experience for somebody who has just kicked off his Muay Thai voyage, as it activates the majority of new muscle groups.
In Muay Thai, you’ll have to punch, kick, elbow, and knee. Oh, don’t forget the sweeps and the clinching game. Every muscle in your body will be put on fire, which will lead to harder activity and, in many cases, caloric deficit.
You will probably eat the same or a bit more, which won’t be enough to cover your energy expenditure, considering you’ve changed your daily routine. Muay Thai will help you lose weight, but you need to play smart. Don’t overeat in the middle of the night after the training session, please!
3. It Demands A Lot Of Energy
One-hour Muay Thai class can consist of different workouts. Beginners will mostly waste less energy than elite ring warriors, but every class is stacked with technical or strength and conditioning elements.
Taking part in a light Thai boxing session shouldn’t burn more than 350 calories. Yet, when a starter learns the technique, he’ll have to think, which might additionally affect the number of calories burned.
But a sparring Thai session will affect all muscles in your body, and you can waste more than 1,000 calories (spar or high-intense circuits and drills).
In Thailand, it’s normal to spar on weekends, and you’ll rarely do less than 10 rounds with your teammates. Ok, you don’t hit your opponent with maximum power and you’re protected to some point, but that’s a vigorous, high-intense activity.
Every single area of your body works and tries to push over the limits, plus beta-oxidation kicks off after 20-30 minutes of the workout. When your body triggers this process, you will start getting rid of the excessive fat. Every weight loss on the scale before the 20th minute is – water and fluids.
Look the other way around – 1000 calories is a huge number, you’ll have to eat a lot, especially when your meals are made of high-quality groceries rich in vitamins and minerals. Of course, you can also eat sweets and simple sugars, but you’ll start losing electrolytes, which will affect your health in the months to come.
And yeah, Muay Thai can help you lose weight in a short time. If you’ve never trained before, you might lose 20+ pounds in 10 weeks. And the reason is simple – you’ve changed your daily routine and your body needs more calories.
4. Environment And Humidity
Well, there is a huge difference between training areas and surroundings. For example, the weight loss process will differ when you train in different parts of the world. Let’s compare, for example, Thailand and the United Kingdom.
It is raining a lot in the UK, which means the humidity might be above 70%, but it’s way hotter in Thailand. If it rains in the homeland of Muay Thai, you’ll sweat more because you must deal with both hot weather and huge humidity.
So, technically, you should waste more calories in a hot and humid surround. Yes, Muay Thai can help you lose weight, but the surround matters. The cold state will decrease weight loss, and the beta-oxidation process will be triggered later (around the 30th minute). Very hot and humid areas might activate it between 20th and 22nd minutes, so it will boost your energy expenditure and fat loss process.
Another factor that affects fat loss is training indoor or outdoor. In the majority of cases, your body will waste more energy indoor as many people train in the small area, which boosts the concentration of CO2 and increases the area temperature. It leads to a greater caloric deficit.
5. Mental Aspect Of The Game
If you’re a beginner, you mustn’t ignore this. Especially when you have no fighting experience. Every move will be hard to learn, your brain will have to work more than ever, you’ll have to push it to the limit.
When the coach explains to you, for example, the proper Muay Thai stance, your brain has to process the information and you have to think all the time about the proper position of your hands, legs, and feet. You can waste 20%-30% more energy than normal which triggers the beta-oxidation process earlier.
So technically, somebody who has just started his Muay Thai journey should waste 300-350 calories per hour because his coach shows him how to perform the technique. Wrong! You must add at least 20% to this value if the guy has no previous fighting experience.
When somebody comes from a different martial art, he might have to adjust his fighting style. It demands less thinking, but I believe you should add ten percent to the calorie expenditure value. So instead of 350, 380 to 385 calories per hour should be fine. Plus beta-oxidation will start at least 2 minutes earlier.
The answer to the question “can Muay Thai help lose weight” is very complex. It depends on your training level, surroundings, competitive intentions, and type of training sessions.
The beginner will have a hard time learning moves, while the elite-level fighter puts his body on fire all the time. Generally, Thai boxing is a HIIT activity, so it boosts weight loss and turns you into a skinnier person, especially if you’ve never trained before. As long as you don’t overeat after the workout, it’ll keep you slim and handsome.