Although we may see it as an art, a skill-based game and a noble form of combat, the reality is that Muay Thai can be brutal. With head kicks, some of the best striking on the planet and an intensity that rivals any combat sport, even the clear winners of a fight may have to undergo a period of recovery after a bout.
In this article we’re going to look at a few different practical ways to speed up recovery post fight, so you’ll be ready to go again in the shortest time possible.
Post-Fight Recovery: Nutrition
Over the last few years the importance of nutrition has come to the forefront. Whether from an improving performance or recovery point of view, studies have highlighted just how effective nutrition can be at improving athlete recovery times.
In this study researchers learned that by consuming post-exercise protein and carbohydrates, blood glucose levels were brought back to normal quickly and muscle tissue damage was reduced. Finally (and perhaps most importantly), eating post muscle damage had pro-regenerative effects, speeding the healing process.
I suggest that post-fight nutrition takes on extra importance for you, starting with a carbohydrate and protein sports drink immediately post fight/training, followed by a high protein meal as soon as possible. This will restore blood sugars and speed the healing process.
Post Fight Recovery: Sauna
Years ago saunas were seen as a nice way to boost circulation, but people didn’t really taken them seriously as a way to improve health, fitness and sporting performance. Sports science research has now discovered that not only are saunas a useful recovery tool, but they can also boost the effects of training. Here we find a study showing post-exercise sauna can increase the time it takes to reach fatigue in runners.
Blood is the bodies highway for delivering repair agents to tissues. When you injure your ankle for example, it’s likely to swell. This swelling is caused by blood pooling in the area, delivering extra nutrients to repair the damage. A sauna improves circulation, increasing the amount of blood sent to injured tissues. Sauna is proven to increase levels of human growth hormone too, further improving quality of recovery.
By using a sauna in the days after a fight, you’re helping to speed the healing process. There’s also evidence to suggest that not only will you heal quicker, you’ll also heal more thoroughly.
Post Fight Recovery: Hydration
In the immediacy after a fight there’s a good chance you’ll be dehydrated. The sweating during the fight and the adrenaline spike that surrounds the bout can see you both lose water and not feel thirsty until a long time afterwards.
You need to ensure that you drink plenty in the days after the fight to fully rehydrate. As we said in the first point, a carbohydrate and protein mix is the perfect drink to have immediately after a fight, but longer term you should be looking to increase water intake to help with the soft tissue healing process and full rehydration of the body.
Post Fight Recovery: Training
Muay Thai is an anaerobic activity – this means it’s very high intensity and is likely to produce a lot of lactic acid in the body as a result. Lactic acid is a waste product you’re your body wants to get rid of as quickly as possible.
The early science said that gentle activity was a good way to help the body clear the lactic and feel better after it had undergone intense exercise. Whilst this is advice is almost right, there’s a better way to get rid of the lactic acid out of the system – not only does it clear the lactate quicker, it also gets rid of more of it.
You need to work at a relatively high intensity and stimulate blood flow to help remove the waste products. By working at a moderately high intensity you recreate some of the conditions that produced the lactate in the first place, but instead of adding more lactate, the body removes it. This study shows that when rowers performed a post-event workout at 50% of their maximum power output, they removed lactate faster and more effectively than when they worked at lower intensities, or rested completely.
Post Fight Recovery Final Thoughts…
In a sport as tough as ours, we need to ensure we are looking after ourselves if we want to perform at our best. Where there’s a time to be tough, there’s also a time to be sensible – when it comes to looking after ourselves outside of the ring. The best Nak Muay’s are the ones who treat recovery as an important part of their training.
Excellent preparation before fights followed by full and thorough recovery after fights means we are giving ourselves the best possible chance of a long and successful fight career.
Darren Mitchell is a Muay Thai enthusiast and writer for the Best Muay Thai blog. He has trained for several years at gyms all over the world alongside some world-renowned fighters and coaches.