This article originally appeared on VICE Greece.
One of the things I found out about myself through kickboxing was that I was capable of self-restraint—especially when I needed to lose a bit of weight in the run-up to a fight. I have never thought of myself as a disciplined person, but for some reason, with a goal in sight, sticking to a puritan plan of carbohydrate dodging and caffeine reduction wasn't that hard.
But when I heard that Greek Muay Thai champion Pavlos Kaponis lost 15.4 pounds in four days for one event in Hong Kong, my own sacrifices seemed pretty pathetic. I gave him a call to ask how one goes about shedding the weight of an average six-month-old baby in no time and, more importantly, if it's at all healthy.
VICE: Hey, Pavlos. Fifteen and a half pounds in four days. Is that normal?
Pavlos Kaponis: I do it before every tournament, really. One day before the fight, there's a weigh-in that determines the weight division each fighter should compete in. If you've managed to lose a bit of weight for the weigh in, then you have 24 hours to regain all the weight you lost and have that bit of advantage over your opponent. The first time I took part in a tournament, I weighed in at about 74kg [163 lbs]—my normal weight. But my opponent was more than 80kg [176 lbs], which is a massive difference. In martial arts, weight isn't a detail—it's a deciding factor.
I heard about this weight loss trick and started looking into it. I went to a bunch of specialist nutrition seminars to figure out the best way to lose weight.
Surely this rapid body weight fluctuation can't be good for you?
Well, you need a lot of attention and continuous monitoring from both a doctor and a nutritionist. This kind of diet is not for everyone because it really stresses your body to the limit. You can never be quite sure how your body will react. It's a bit easier for me now because my body is used to it—I've done it four times so far.
There must be some risks involved.
The biggest danger is dehydration because the largest part of the weight you lose is water. That's why you need to follow a strict diet for an entire month before the fight. You also need to work out correctly because you aren't just aiming to avoid dehydration but also to build up the strength required to actually win the fight.
So what's the process behind losing all that weight?
I work out twice a day—an hour in the morning and 90 minutes in the evening. They are pretty moderate workouts given that I am only after shedding weight. I also wear a special sweating outfit, which helps me reach the right weight.
I also go on a very special diet: I stop eating carbohydrates and basically only eat protein. For breakfast, I'll have some egg whites and one slice of bread, lunch will be a salad, and for dinner, a little meat. That's it.
Fightland: Thai Prison Fights
How did you manage to put all your weight back on in one day?
Putting the weight back on requires far more attention than losing it in the first place. You need to fill your body up again in one day. I spend the entire day eating small portions of food and drinking water every half hour. Even when I sleep, my team wakes me up to eat. You have to be careful not to eat too much because it can mess you up.
Is it tough on your psychology?
All you care about is the weigh-in. That's the stressful situation. Otherwise it's my job and I like it. Just like everyone else, I make sacrifices for my job.
Related: 'Bare-Knuckle Boxing in the UK'