I had my own theories on this topic but then I started searching all over the internet to try to solve the puzzle. I watch Thai boxing for more than 15 years, and I’ve never seen a fat Muay Thai ring warrior.
I am wondering why are Muay Thai fighters so skinny for a long time. The majority of them don’t have much muscle but their levels of power and toughness are tremendous. Lean dedicated warriors with a very small amount of fat are ready to fight until the last dying breath.
What is the background behind skinny Muay Thai fighters? Read on to check my ideas and conclusions on this topic. I am warning you, you’ll have to push your brain to the next level to understand this. But few reasons come to the fore.
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The Reasons Behind Skinny Muay Thai Fighters
Muay Thai is completely different compared to other martial arts. If you choose to train in Thailand, you’ll have to get used to their odd training regimes. There’s no too much time for rest, and you’ll probably be busy for 6 days, two times per day.
Even if you plan to bulk up and get some muscles or fat, it’d be a big problem as your body’s caloric expenditure is way bigger than your caloric intake. I will explain the background between so skinny Muay Thai fighters for four reasons. Read on and discover some new heights!
Reason 1: Training Sessions And Routines
The main aspect of Muay Thai training sessions is speed, quickness, power, and endurance. If a Muay Thai fighter carries too many muscles/bulk, it is believed that he’ll be slower in the fight. He’ll probably eat unnecessary shots and be unable to respond in critical moments, which could lead to knockout or decision losses.
I will try to compare Muay Thai and bodybuilding, as bodybuilders tend to look outstandingly, while Thai warriors eat shot after shot and stay on their feet.
I’ll give my best to elaborate on why the ancient Siamese martial art makes you look skinny.
1.1. Muay Thai Vs Bodybuilders – Differences In Training Routines
Let me compare bodybuilding and Muay Thai. In bodybuilding, you must show your body to judges, they must see every muscle. Yeah, that’s great, but when a bodybuilder tries to barrage the opponent with a flurry of strikes, he’ll be super slow. On the other side, a lean Muay Thai fighter could land 3-4 big bombs within one second.
Also, don’t forget the weight class aspect of Muay Thai. Ring warriors have to pay close attention to their divisions because cutting too much weight creates so many problems.
For example, cutting too many pounds weakens the fighter and leads to poor performance in the competition. It could be dangerous for your health aspects too.
You’ll rarely see weight training classes in Thailand as training sessions look way different but we will discuss that later. Also, strength training sessions are based around maximum strength (1-5 repetitions, 83-95% of 1 repetition maximum).
You’ll hit harder and slam your opponent with a knockout power with those kinds of strikes. But you can’t build muscles, as it demands hypertrophy and at least 8-12 repetitions with 70-75 percent of one repetition maximum. Bodybuilders usually stick to that training regime, which leads to gigantic muscles.
From time to time, you’ll hear rumors that bigger muscles lead to the harder punch. That’s not true, as power = force x velocity. Fighters don’t care much about the size, they care about the functional aspect of strength for fighters – smaller muscles, but better power and better ability to barrage with strikes.
Muay Thai fighters are so skinny because they must focus on multi-joint strength workouts that boost their performance in the ring. On the other hand, bodybuilders are focused on the physical look and single-joint drills, as they tend to get the most of the muscles’ shape.
Reason 2: The Majority Of Fighters Don’t Have Access To Weights In Thailand
Training routines in Thailand are way different compared to sessions in the western world. If you’ve ever been to the state of the ancient Siamese martial art, then you know how it looks like.
This is one of the basic examples:
- Running – 3-6 kilometers;
- Rope jumping – 3-5 rounds;
- Shadowboxing – 2-3 rounds;
- Sparring session or mitt work – 3-5 rounds;
- Heavy bag combos – 2-4 rounds;
- Clinch work – 4-6 rounds;
Relaxation and meditation are recommended between the training sessions. Oh, you mostly have 2 pieces of training per day (but it goes to 3 in extreme cases). A lot of obligations, isn’t it? Thai ring warriors usually take a nap between putting their bodies on fire.
So what does this mean? Well, Thai boxers are usually too tired to go for a weight training session. Plus, you have to be fresh to go for a weight workout, or it leads to a poor workout effect.
2.1. Thai Gym Vs Western Gym
Pieces of training in Thailand are more based on technique and conditioning, while you can be happy if you take part in a weightlifting workout once per week (or once per month).
There is another problem with gyms in Thailand. Western areas (USA, Canada, UK…) offer weight area in almost every dojo, but Thai training centers are usually equipped with mitts, heavy bags… but only Yokkao, Fairtex, and other “very big gyms” offer areas with weights.
Now here comes the second problem with Thai gyms. Well, the majority of the equipment is made in Thailand, as delivery costs like hell. Thailand is not as rich as the USA or Canada, so shipping would destroy the budget. The majority of dojo owners rather choose cheap pieces of training equipment made in Thailand. That’s simply a better value for money.
So you might find a bench press or a squat rack, but you’ll hardly find 25 kg, 20 kg, 10 kg, and 5 kg weights there. Oh, if you’re thinking of an expensive rowing machine or lat machine, please stop dreaming. Maybe you’ll find a basic sit-up bench and a few pieces of mats.
Reason 3: Struggling To Bulk Up With Muay Thai Training Sessions
You’ll have 12 Muay Thai training sessions on average per week, and every single training sessions wastes between 800 and 1200 calories. Some pieces of training are very hard, while others are moderate, but honestly, I’ve never seen a light session in the land of ancient Siamese martial art.
So let me recalculate – you will waste between 1600 and 2400 kcal per day, which is between 9600 and 14400 kcal per week. Well, you’ll have to eat tons of fruits and vegetables if you want to keep your weight! Yeah, to keep it! To raise your weight, you must eat more calories than you burn… Sounds almost impossible in this case, right?
The ultimate problem of bulking in Thailand is a lot of running in the hot climax. When you run between 6 and 9 kilometers per day, even at a moderate pace, it could burn 17 calories per minute, and let’s assume you’ll need around 45 minutes to run this distance. This means 45 x 17 = 765 calories!
Now you can add hitting heavy bags, clinching, striking, sparring sessions, core training… My head already hurts from all those numbers!
I have a very simple question for you. Have you ever seen a fat marathon runner? Well, Thai boxing training sessions burns a bit fewer calories, while the masters of the ancient Siamese martial art eat less!
If you ask me why are Muay Thai fighters so skinny, I believe this paragraph reveals the secret. Very hard training sessions are combined with insufficient nutrition.
3.1. The Differences Between Thai And Western People
Well, you should take 100-200 calories more than you burn if you plan to get some weight. Thai people are usually smaller, as the average men’s height is around 170.3 cm (5 feet 7 inches), while an average female’s height is around 159 cm (5 feet 2 ½ inches).
So Thai people rarely weigh more than 70 kilograms, and they are unable to gain weight and eat more than they spend every day. Here comes the problem – Europeans or Americans usually weigh 80+ kg, which means they’d have to eat even more to gain some weight.
Average Thai fighter should eat between 3700 and 4000 kcal per day if he intends to gain some pounds. And we came to the next stepping stone – the heavier fighter from Europe would probably have to eat more than 4500 kcal. This looks like mission impossible without protein powder (hardly accessible in Thailand) or junk food (easier to access but not healthy).
Reason 4: The Problem With Muay Thai Diet
Unfortunately, you won’t see many rich people in Thailand, plus the Thai diet contains very little healthy meat and snacks for athletes. The family battle to survive and fighters don’t earn enough money, which sometimes leads to half-rations.
Oh, did I forget to say that you’ll have a hard time finding a grocery that contains dairy products in Thailand? It means the lack of vitamin D and K in the first place.
You’ll eat fruit and vegetables 80% of your time, which means you will hardly gain enough calories. Proteins are required to build blocks of muscles, and Thai nutrition is rich in plant proteins only. So you have two options – buy a supplement (hard to find in Thailand or accept the lack of protein).
Muay Thai athletes are like battleships, they are getting ready for war, complete the job, recover, and get ready for the battle again. They need the energy to fight.
Even if you get enough energy to go through five rounds of war, you’re in a big problem again – there is no way to focus on muscle building due to Thai nutrition unless you’re coming from a rich family. Plus it is very hard to find a sponsor in Thailand.
Well, even when you’d like to go one division up, it could be another additional problem on the list. Hard training sessions will lead to calorie burnout. Few pounds up might be a real nightmare.
There is another massive problem in Thai nutrition. Normal people in Thailand usually stick to unprocessed food and take a piece of beef or chicken from time to time. But yeah, healthy organic food dominates in 80% of families.
So a skinny fighter is going to have a huge problem if he plans to move one division up or turn into a muscle mountain.
Getting Into The Spirit Of Things – Will Thai Boxing Make You Look Skinny?
Well, the answer to this is quite simple. Let me ask you a question. Are Muay Thai fighters so skinny because of very hard training sessions or because of insufficient funds for proper nutrition? The answer is – both.
You have greater chances of looking thin if you plan to take part in the competitions, as you’ll have to grind hard to get to the top.
But if you train for fun, this doesn’t have to mean you’ll look skinny. At the end of the day, three training sessions per week and eating normal food doesn’t mean you’ll lose weight or bulk.
But try to train professionally and you’ll see what’s going to happen with your excess fat or big muscles. Oh, did I forget to say that everybody will laugh at you?
I will be honest – when I was trying to bulk up, I ate sweets when my coach didn’t look. Yeah, it was a mistake, but that was the only way because you need calories. In Thailand, you’ll hardly be able to do that, especially if you train outside of Bangkok or Phuket.
It is very hard to find a fat fighter in Thailand, and the local way of nutrition has a lot to do with it. There aren’t many rich families, and food with a huge percent of saturated fats and simple sugars is not easy to access.
But why are Muay Thai fighters so skinny? Well, training sessions are hard, and fighters are not paid much, which means they are unable to eat all necessary carbs, fats, and proteins. It is so hard to eat more than you burn.
Unless something drastically changes in Thailand, the number of skinny ring warriors will continue to grow. The culture, tradition and training regimes definitively work against fat fighters.
Last Updated on May 21, 2022 by Deni