To those of you who like to cycle your 'bulking phase' with your 'toning phase', you'll be familiar with the trials and tribulations associated with consuming enough calories and protein to promote growth. It can be an arduous task at best, one where eating starts to become somewhat of a chore and the consumption of any form of sustenance can make you squirm. An average 80kg person may need in the region of 3000-4000kcal to induce weight gain, so imagine trying to consume 3 times this amount! Well, welcome to a sumo wrestlers diet...
10,000 calories, just to make weight!
Similar to the battles boxers have when trying make weight for a bout, sumo wrestlers have to maintain a huge amount of mass in order to compete in their respective weight class. They aren't all that concerned about where this weight comes from or what it comprises, be it muscle, fat mass or a mix of the two, sumo wrestlers simply need to be HUGE! The lightest of wrestlers will weight 85kg (lightweight), right through to the heavyweights who weigh in at at least 115kg. The largest sumo of all time was a Hawaiian born mammoth of a man called Chad “Akebono” Rowan, he stood at 6'8” tall and 227kg! So you can imagine the calories this guy had to consume just to maintain weight, but based on his weight and the current NICE guidelines for energy requirements, Akebono would need 8000kcal just to maintain weight, never mind the additional 1000-2000kcal on top needed to sustain intense training regimes.
Where do these calories come from?
The life of a sumo is highly regimented, their whole lives are largely governed by the sumo association with wrestlers expected to live in communal 'sumo training stables'. These 'stables' (or heya to use the Japanese term) as they like to call them govern pretty much every aspect of their lives including eating, drinking, training, right through to what they wear are dictated by their strict tradition. With this in mind, tradition runs right through to the food they eat, and their staple is a dish known as Chankonabe, also known as sumo stew which consists of vegetables and fish...that's basically it...veg, protein and water. So how on earth do they sustain and/or gain weight with requirements as high as 10,000 calories!? Well, they have to consume this stuff by bucket load, that's how!
Sumo wrestler Byambajav Ulambayaryn (Byamba) is a two time Sumo world champion who weighs in at 360lbs (163kg), and all this at just over 6' tall! He explains how he consumes several portions of this over the day, and how it consists of large amounts of anything he has laying around in the fridge. I suppose it's fair to compare Chankonabe to the traditional British stew which was originally made with the 'waste not want not' philosophy in mind using left over cuts of meet and close to use by dated veg and potatoes.
There's got to be an easier 'whey' (not that we're hinting) to increase weight than chugging down Chankonabe by the bucket load, but far be it from us to come between the Sumo (all 200kg of them) and their Japanese traditions! Chankonabe...bon appetite!