My six weeks here at 301 Muay Thai and MMA is almost up and I wanted to spend a moment reflecting on some of the things I’ve learnt during my time here. Some of these weren’t completely foreign concepts to me, however since experiencing them first hand I feel I can now better relate to facts I’d read or advice once sought.
Firstly, and most importantly comes diet and weight loss, which is a fundamentally simple concept: burn more calories than you consume. When training for six hour a day I initially wasn’t phased by the amount of oil, coconut milk/cream and carbohydrates that were fed to us on a daily basis, simply believing that we would burn it all off anyway. However, since looking at my (physical, not performance) results I’m quite certain that under the same training conditions using the diet that I have back home, the outcome would have been far more impressive. The other trainees agree, especially that even with the slight reduction in fried food at the gym, there is still a huge deficit in the amount of vegetables and fruit on offer.
One of the other major things I’ve come to realize and understand first hand was something I had already read about, yet couldn’t quite grasp. The human body is best suited to doing one of two things at a time: bulking up/gaining muscle, or losing weight/cutting. When seeking radical changes, the two concepts are on either end of the spectrum. I came in with the goal to lose the fat I had put on from three months of binging, get fit and also, put on some size (muscle). If I was to re-do the six weeks I would have focused solely on the fat loss and fitness and cut out the protein shakes and extra meal consumption that I thought was fueling muscle growth. If I had more time (I don’t think 6 weeks would be enough for a cut-grow-cut cycle), or was happy with the cutting results in early weeks, I would have then begun a bulking cycle of eating more protein and healthy foods to fuel muscle growth. That way, instead of having a caloric deficit, the extra (ideally good calories) would be sent to various muscle groups in need of repair to increase their size.
Repairing not only muscles, but the entire body I came to realize, requires a lot of rest when enduring this type of extensive training. Sleeplessness was a problem for almost everyone at the camp at some time or another, including myself. In the first week when my body was in shock, sleep came easy and deep because I was absolutely shattered. As my body adapted, I found that my usual sleeping problems returned and that some days I would be running off barely more than 5 or 6 hours sleep. I (finally) learnt the benefits of napping whilst here because without a late morning or afternoon nap, the evening training session undoubtedly suffers. This brings me to my next point, which is the importance of listening to your body, not in a new-age kind of way, just simply knowing what it needs. For instance, my knees were under considerable strain whilst running yet instead of pushing through it each day or succumbing to one of the trainers who was unimpressed with me for not running, I decided to take up swimming and cycling to avoid further injury. It may not be as intense as a run, yet a 50 minute cycle or swim is still good cardio in my books. The same goes for Mitchy who gives it 100% on the morning run, yet often takes the rest of the morning session off to recuperate so he can give another 100% in the afternoon. There is no point pushing your body to the point of injury when more sensible options exist, something a few trainees struggled with, resulting in taking up to a week off to recover from overdoing it.
At the end of the day, I’ve still come away with results I am proud of. The before and after photos show a clear change to my physique, which I’m sure will be temporary as I prepare to continue traveling, trying new food and beer as I go. So whilst the physical changes may be temporary, the most important and permanent benefit of my time here is what I have learned. I’ve loved how hard and fun it is to learn a new martial art whilst at the same time gaining an understanding of how far my body can truly be pushed. I’ve gained a further understanding of diet, and its importance in training as well as finally, and frustratingly understanding that I can’t put on loads of muscle and lose weight at the same time.
On a final note, I’m no dietitian or fitness professional so if I’ve gotten something wrong, please let me know.