Even before I was a coach I remember noticing my team mates getting infections or illness at the worst times during their training camps.
It was always the guys who fought on a monthly basis and worked like dogs each training session that were often the ones who got sick. I always wanted to know how this could be happening as you’d think they should be the ones in peak condition. When I began managing weight cuts and diets of fighters in 2012 the reasons behind it became more clear to me.
After doing my research I found loads of scientific proof that certain circumstances with training and diet can lead to immuno-comprimise, a reduction in immune function. Many of the studies I looked at demonstrated that athletes involved in intense bouts of training and competing were at high risk of reduced immune function resulting in upper repository infections. Among the finding I also discovered other factors likely to effect immune system function of athletes like nutrition, recovery and when cutting weight.
To make matters worse, the typical training environment makes Muay Thai athletes more susceptible to contract illness and infection because of the close person to person contact, confined spaces and sweaty dirty surfaces. If your immune system becomes weakened in these conditions your wide open to picking up common colds, influenza, and gym diseases like staphylococcus.
After running into this problem more than a few times with my athletes I began developing ways of preventing it occurring.
Prevent Over Training
Avoiding prolonged training season is the best solution. But since many Thai fighters usually can’t escape this because of unpredictable or busy schedules, fighters should avoid unnecessary training like long steady state cardio, which can has little benefits for fighters but puts a large amount of stress on the body. How much you “should” train depends on the individual but remember not training enough and over training can both cause reduced immune function. It’s somewhere in the middle with the necessary fight preparations yet well managed volumes of training, is where immune function is optimal.
Sleep is an essential part of the recovery process with studies showing shorter sleep durations are associated with higher levels of pre-training fatigue. Research demonstrates that this can dramatically affect immune system response. In particular, for Muay Thai athletes its the short breaks between evening training and early morning starts that effectively reduces recovery. Since most Muay Thai athletes usually can’t dictate their own training schedules, it’s recommended to get between 7-8 hours of shut eye per night to maximize the recovery process. For the Muay Thai athlete, nutrient timing is also important for recovery.
Limiting Exposure to Sources of Infection
From the old bags and dirty equipment, right down to the sweat drenched gym mats and confined spaces – let’s face it, Most Muay Thai gyms are bacteria traps. However you can limit exposure to sources of infection by not sharing water, keeping good personal hygiene, steering clear of anyone who is sick. Also, besides the feet – you should avoid bare skin coming into contact with gym mats.
Bolster Immune System
Eating fermented foods like Sauerkraut, Kimchi, Miso, Tempeh and pickles are pungent, probiotic powerhouses, which boost the good bacteria in your digestive tract, and can improve immunity. Increasing vitamin C supplementation protects cells from free radicals, improves immune function, iron absorption and much more. Vitamin C is found in foods such as green leafy vegetables, broccoli, parsley, potatoes, peas, citrus, fruits, blackcurrants, kiwi, mango, bell peppers, strawberries, papaya, asparagus, and cauliflower.
Nutrition can affect the immune system in both positive and negative ways. It is suggested that athletes can reduce the symptoms of immune compromise by ingesting a workout drink made up of carbohydrates and amino acids during and immediately after training. The foods you eat can also play a part in immune response. You need to be sure you’re getting sufficient calories to meet your workload and recover properly. Make sure your diet is full of high nutrient density foods like vegetables, fruits, lean meats, and a good steady supply of carbohydrates.
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