Carbs for fighters… this podcast came about as a result of calls for a follow up after the last podcast discussing the keto diet for fighters. In it you’ll learn how I manipulate carbs for individual fighters to ensure their body composition, training quality, general recovery, and competitive performance are reliable and progressing nicely!

You can  download the 1-page reference sheet using the button below.


Hello and welcome to the Heatrick Strength and conditioning podcast… from the leading MuayThai performance coaching company for busy Thai boxers and trainers to achieve total physical confidence for the biggest fights.

My last podcast, discussing the Keto diet for fighters, proved really popular. Thank you for all the comments, discussion and shares. And do go and catch up with that episode if you missed it! My hope is that this podcast format will allow much more two-way interaction with all you guys in the Muay Thai community. And so far so good! Thank you.

And I hadn’t intended to, but it looks like you all wanted a follow up… if I recommend that carbs are important to a fighters performance, what type, how much and when, etc… So in today’s podcast, here are my thoughts on Carbs For Fighters!

Before we start, again, I’m not a nutritionist or dietitian, I’m an experienced strength and conditioning coach who specializes in Muay Thai performance, and also former international amateur and pro Thai boxer myself. I’m sharing with you today some of what I’ve learned training and making weight for fights myself, and what I’ve found has generally worked best for the fighters I’ve coached all over the world too. As always, I’m continually learning, and I’ll change my approach if I find a better way. But you’ve asked, and right now this is briefly how I handle carbs for fighters.

First up, not all carbs are created equal. Some are just better quality than others. And by quality I mean contain more nutrients and release slower into your system so your body does a better job of using it effectively for energy, rather than storing it as body fat.

Generally speaking, simple and refined carbs are poor choices, and complex, unrefined, lower glycemic index carbs are better – such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

Most of the time, avoid the processed, sugary snacks and drinks, and go for the natural and unprocessed carbs.

The mission here is all about managing insulin levels better. Insulin is the hormone your body releases in response to increased blood sugar, usually following a meal. Insulin not only controls blood sugar levels – to keep your system operating within safe limits – but also acts as an anabolic or storage hormone. It shuttles glucose (carbs), amino acids (proteins), and blood fats to cells in your body.

So as well as energy, carbs are important for growth and repair! And for those interested in making best use of the protein they’re consuming… carbs are important in transporting those aminos to the muscle tissue.

For a fighter, that leads me to talk about nutrient timing – when you consume your meals and snacks.

Generally, fighters run best when blood sugar is kept stable and nutrients are readily available. So that means consuming something every 3-4 hours. So a breakfast, lunch and dinner with a snack in between works well. Just make sure the total calorie intake matches your goal of either fat loss, weight maintenance or muscle gain.

Your body handles any carbs better just after training, even processed higher glycemic index carbs. In fact, this is THE time to snack on something a little more naughty if you’re going to! Just after training, carbs that rapidly absorb are better for restocking the energy levels (the stored glycogen) in the muscles you’ve just been using explosively.

This is even more critical if you’re training again later that same day, like most fighters will.

Athletes training for combat sports have a higher demand for carbs than sedentary people. Don’t confuse a diet plan for a regular person as being what’s needed for a combat athlete who’s training regularly.

Research consistently shows that people training regularly need to eat enough carbs or their testosterone levels will fall while cortisol levels (the stress hormone) will rise, and it’ll also mess with a women’s delicate hormone levels… and NOBODY wants that! For both men and women, it’s a recipe for losing muscle, gaining fat, and negatively effecting athletic performance!

Your demand for protein and fats each day is pretty consistent, and I stick to prescribing baseline daily levels of these two macro nutrients. However, your daily carb requirement varies depending on how active you are, how much training you’re doing.

Something else to consider when looking at the amount of carbs you personally need, is your somatotype. You know whether you’re naturally an ectomorph, mesomorph or endomorph… you have a small, medium or large framed body.

  • Small-framed fighters generally need higher carbs and lower fat.
  • Medium-framed fighters need balanced levels of protein, fats and carbs.
  • Large-framed fighters typically need higher fats and proteins and lower carbs.

Nutritional personalisation is now something I handle for fighters on my online program, through video coaching calls.

Because as with everything, one size doesn’t fit all. We all handle and demand carbs differently. There are outliers that do well on lower carbs (about 2.5% of the population), but the vast majority (about 70% of people) run better on moderate carbs.

And even for the lower carb outliers, as I discussed in the last podcast, high intensity, explosive performance will suffer if you’re restricting carb intake.

Of course, it’s about balance. Pushing the extremes in any direction will lead to problems.

So that’s all we’ve got time for this episode.

If you want to download a 1-page reference sheet to go with this podcast, there’s a link in the text here.

And if you’ve got any questions, or want to check out our library of free articles and videos, head over to… that’s H E A T R I C K, where I’d love to help you reach your Muay Thai goals. Don’t forget to subscribe to the Heatrick Muay Thai Strength and Conditioning podcast on iTunes, stitcher or anchor – and you can audio message me on anchor too, so you can feature in future episodes. I’ll Catch you next time.

Our New Podcast on Anchor, and you can feature too!

Simply visit the link, download the Anchor app to your smart phone from the page, search for the Heatrick Strength and Conditioning For Muay Thai podcast, and click on the “message” button to record your message or question…

Be sure to state your name and where you train at the start of your message too!

Podcast Subscription

Please subscribe to our podcast at either iTunes, Anchor, Stitcher

Don Heatrick

Founder of Heatrick Strength and Conditioning

Don Heatrick is a family man from the UK, former mechanical design engineer, European Muay Thai silver medallist, former pro Thai boxer (ranked 4th in UK while aged 40-years), a Muay Thai coach, podcast host, and the go-to expert on Muay Thai performance training with over 25 years of coaching experience.

Don helps ambitious fighters and coaches take their game to the next level by bridging the gap between Strength & Conditioning, Performance Science, and Muay Thai.

Follow Don Heatrick on Instagram: