x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Fuelling up for fight school

When my body wants to give in, feeding it the right food keeps it going. My yoga teacher always says our bodies are amazing. Now, I really believe that's true.

I've always been a pretty careful eater and interested in nutrition, trying a variety of healthy options from wheat- and dairy-free eating to going to Thailand for detoxification retreats. Five weeks ago, I began boxing training for my first fight on March 23, White Collar Fight Night, which quickly turned into one of the toughest physical (and mental) experiments of my 33 years. One of my sponsors is Kcal, the Dubai-based healthy meal planning company.

I approached them after seeing them help my other half drop 12.5kgs in a month, eating the healthiest food he's seen in his whole life. I asked them to support me through what would be 10 to 15 hours a week of training, more than double my usual workout schedule, as I underwent fight school.

Never before have I realised we really are what we eat. My gruelling days - three of which include one training session at 6am for an hour and a half of cardiovascular work, technique and sparring, then another one and a half hours of cardiovascular work in the evening - have left my muscles tired. Mentally, I am as drained as I am physically, but through it all, I have managed to keep going.

My diet consists of 60 per cent complex carbohydrates such as brown rice or pasta, 20 per cent fat and 20 per cent protein - mainly natural, in the form of fish, meat and nuts. I eat five meals a day, plus two protein shakes.

My day starts with either an egg white omelette and strawberries or yogurt and mixed granola or oats. For the rest of the day, I am reaching for food around every two or three hours, from nuts to fruit, salad to hot meals, to sustain the fact that even when I am not exercising, I am burning calories. I need to stay the same weight, as losing kilograms right now would just mean I lose strength and energy, the two things I need for my three rounds of two minutes of slogging it out in front of an intimidating crowd of 600. Not to mention dropping kilograms now would mess up my weight category.

The biggest lesson has been the importance of water. Hydration means the difference between being able to get out of bed or not in the morning. Without realising, I had dehydrated the day before and the pain the next day was a reminder that water is our life blood. Usually on tough training days, I'll finish off nearly five litres a day. This was a reminder why.

When my body wants to give in, feeding it the right food is the way for me to summon the energy to keep going. My yoga teacher, Liz, always says our bodies are amazing. Now I really believe that's true. It never fails to amaze me how I can feel so drained one minute, then feed my body the right fuel and - bam - it's ready to go again. This has been a lesson for life. Eat small, eat often, eat well, or as Kcal says: "Eat well, be well".

mswan@thenational.ae

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