Strongman Diet: Best Foods For Recovery And Results

strongman diet best foods

When Eddie Hall defeated Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, better known as The Mountain, in the 2017 World’s Strongest Man, every fitness journalist was looking for Hall’s secret to victory. Aside from an intense training schedule, Eddie cited his diet as one of the foundations to his success. Doesn’t seem like a big deal until you find out that Eddie was consuming 12,500 calories every day, which is six times the number of calories that some of us eat.

While Eddie’s diet is an extreme example – unless you’re preparing to compete in the World’s Strongest Man – there’s plenty to learn from the former Strongman. Let’s take a look at what makes for an effective Strongman diet; here are the best foods for recovery and results.

CALCULATE YOUR CALORIES

The first step to starting your Strongman Diet is to calculate the number of calories you’ll need each day. The easiest way to do this is an online calorie calculator, which will deliver a relatively personalized calorie count based on your age, gender, height, weight, activity level, and goal. While not perfect, these calorie calculators are ideal for most people.

It’s a far-off chance that you’ll be training four hours each day like Eddie, but you can expect to consume between 3,500 to 4,500 calories if you’re following an average Strongman workout.

Don’t have a Strongman workout yet? Check out our article on Top 5 Strongman Exercises to Add in Your Workout.

Don’t let the idea of calories scare you or turn you off. You can easily breakdown your caloric count by way of macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates, and fat. In other words, instead of focusing on that big daily number, you can simply count the macronutrients you consume. Most calorie calculators such as this one from Healthy Eater will provide you with the grams of protein, carbohydrates, and fat you should eat with each meal.

Let’s discuss the macronutrients that you’ll need to focus on for a Strongman Diet starting with protein.

PROTEIN

Protein contains the building blocks of muscle tissue called amino acids so it will come as no surprise that much of your diet should be focused on high-quality protein sources.

A high-protein diet has been shown to provide several benefits for Strongman training:

Protein Synthesis: Muscle protein is created through a process known as protein synthesis. Studies show that high-protein diets can promote protein synthesis, which is essential for recovery. (1)

Anti-Catabolic: Strongman workouts are tough. If your nutritional habits don’t match the energy you’re putting into your workouts, you are putting your gains at risk for muscle breakdown. Protein-rich diets have been shown to be anti-catabolic or prevent protein breakdown.

Supports Muscle and Strength: Naturally, if you’re eating plenty of the building blocks of muscle tissue, size and strength will come. Studies show that supplementing an intense training schedule with protein can boost size and strength gains. (2)

A general rule is to consume one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight, but Strongman training can be far more demanding than your typical weightlifting workout, so you may want to push that up to 1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight. Just be sure to pair this with plenty of healthy carbohydrates, which we’ll discuss next.

Here are some of the best protein-rich foods that we would recommend incorporating into your diet. Try to mix it up; don’t stick to only one source of protein.

  • Grass-fed beef
  • Chicken breast
  • Lean pork cuts
  • Local fish (try to buy close to the source if possible and within your budget)
  • Greek yogurt

CARBOHYDRATES

Carbohydrates are the fuel that your muscles rely on for performance as much as recovery. For the sake of simplicity, carbohydrates are broken down into two categories: simple and complex. The majority of your diet should rely on complex carbohydrates while simple carbohydrates should be eaten before, during, and immediately following a workout.

Performance:Studies show that when it comes to the intense nature of Strongman workouts, carbohydrates are still the preferred fuel source for your muscles. (3)

Intensity:Continuing with this idea of performance, carbohydrates play an important role in how intense you train. Studies show that low-carbohydrate diets don’t allow for maximal levels of intensity. If you can’t go all out during Strongman training, you’ll only be cheating yourself of gains. (3)

Recovery:Carbohydrates complement protein for muscle recovery. While protein is helping to restore muscle tissue, carbohydrates are being used to restore your muscle glycogen supply. This will benefit future performance while reducing the risk for muscle breakdown for fuel.

Here are some great options for complex and simple carbohydrates that we would recommend incorporating into your diet. Again, mix it up.

COMPLEX CARBOHYDRATES

  • Brown / Black / Wild rice
  • Sweet potato
  • 100% whole wheat pasta
  • Lentils
  • Quinoa
  • Steel-cut oats
  • Cruciferous and dark leafy green vegetables (e.g., broccoli and kale)

SIMPLE CARBOHYDRATES

  • White potato
  • White rice
  • High-sugar fruits (e.g., raisins)
  • Candy (e.g., gummy bears)

FATS

It’s crazy to think that dietary fat used to be labeled as the enemy for fat loss and heart health. Decades later, science has revealed the importance of healthy dietary fat for weight management, cardiovascular health, and overall wellness. When it comes to Strongman training, fat is not to be skipped, and here’s why:

Hormone Health: Eating natural and healthy sources of fat helps to support hormone levels. For guys, this means a healthy production of testosterone, which is essential for muscle building and recovery. For women, you’ll be able to maintain healthy levels of estrogen and progesterone. The latter is difficult to maintain since it decreases the most with age.

Brain Boost: While your muscles love carbohydrates as their primary fuel source during workouts, your brain prefers fat. This shouldn’t be a surprise considering the brain is made of 60% fat. You’ll want brain and body working together to maximize the results of your Strongman workouts.

Immunity and Recovery: Fat is great for your immune system. Studies show that high-fat diets are immunosupportive and can promote athletic recovery. Remember, Strongman workouts can be brutal; it’s best to do what you can to give your recovery a boost. (4)

Here are some great sources of healthy fats that may also have some crossover with other macronutrients. For example, pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of fat but they are also high in protein.

  • Almonds
  • Brazil nuts
  • Walnuts
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Hemp seeds
  • Coconut oil
  • Olive oil
  • Fatty fish such as salmon

VEGETABLES AND FRUITS: IMPORTANCE OF ANTIOXIDANTS

We’ve laid out the three primary macronutrients for your diet, but it’s going to be equally as important to focus on the micronutrients found in vegetables and fruit. Fresh produce is packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that are essential for proper healing and recovery.

Antioxidants in particular are very useful as they destroy free radicals, which cause instability in the cells and promote aging and disease. Strongman training naturally produces free radicals in the body and foods rich in anti-oxidants can help to reverse the damage and protect your body.

Conveniently, you can fit vegetables and fruits into your diet as carbohydrate sources (you may have noticed this above). Vegetables, especially cruciferous and dark leafy green veggies, are packed with fiber and take longer to digest, qualifying them as complex carbohydrates. Meanwhile, fruit sugar rapidly digests making it perfect as a simple carbohydrate source.

Here are the best sources of vegetables and fruits with the highest levels of vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants:

VEGETABLES

  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Green beans
  • Peppers
  • Purple cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Beets

FRUITS

  • Blueberries
  • Blackberries
  • Raspberries
  • Avocado
  • Apples
  • Papaya
  • Pineapple
  • Watermelon
  • Dark cherries

Superfoods

  • Acai berries
  • Goji berries
  • Maca
  • Raw chocolate
  • Apple cider vinegar

SUPPLEMENTS

While the majority of your diet should be based on natural and wholefood choices, supplements are highly recommended. Supplements have come a long way, capturing real nutrition in a capsule or scoop of powder. You don’t need to go crazy with supplements, but there are three types of supplements that we would recommend:

PRE-WORKOUT

Given the intense nature of Strongman training, you’ll need to enter your workouts with a full tank of fuel. Pre-workout supplements are packed with energy for both mind and body that can help you make it through your workout. Look for a pre-workout supplement that contains both nootropics or brain-boosting ingredients such as caffeine and huperzine A as well as muscle fuel such as creatine.

POST-WORKOUT

Nothing beats the recovery power of whey protein. For the serious Strongman trainee, whey protein isn’t just a suggestion; it’s a requirement. Whey protein has been shown to spark a higher level of protein synthesis, supporting muscle size, strength, and muscle recovery. You can use it as a convenient snack, ensuring you reach your daily protein goals.

SLEEP

Results won’t happen if you aren’t sleeping well. Maybe you’re sleeping just fine; you can still improve your recovery with a sports recovery supplement. The classic sports recovery supplement is ZMA, which is made of zinc, magnesium, and vitamin B6. Taken before bed, ZMA has been shown to improve sleep length and quality.

SAMPLE STRONGMAN DIET

Let’s put it all together and provide you with a sample Strongman Diet that you can begin using immediately.

Meal One:

  • 2 scoops of a protein supplement
  • 1 cup of milk
  • Optional: Blended with ice cubes

Meal Two:

  • 6 eggs
  • 2 pieces of whole wheat toast
  • Half of an avocado

Meal Three:

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1 cup of brown rice
  • 1 cup of mixed salad topped with one tablespoon of olive oil

Meal Four:

  • 2 scoops of a protein supplement
  • 1 cup of milk
  • Optional: Blended with ice cubes

Meal Five:

  • 8 ounces of grass-fed beef
  • 1 cup of quinoa
  • 1 cup of broccoli
  • 1 cup of cauliflower
  • Top vegetables with butter

Meal Six:

  • 1 cup of Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup of blueberries

Meal Seven:

  • 2 scoops of a protein supplement
  • 1 cup of milk
  • Optional: Blended with ice cubes

STRONGMAN TIPS AND TRICKS

Armed with a Strongman Diet, you’ll be ready to take on the Atlas stone in no time. Before you go running off to challenge Eddie Hall, let’s review a few pointers to make your Strongman training and diet more effective.

Suit Up for Strongman: Progress follows the idea of breaking it down so you can build it back up bigger and stronger than before. If you aren’t able to break past plateaus, progress will be slow going. Many Strongman exercises are going to have you pushing or pulling up to 100% of your one-repetition maximum. For this reason, you might want to consider investing in a few lifting accessories.

  • Weightlifting belts can ensure your abdominal wall has something to push off of during exercises like the squat.
  • Knee wraps or knee sleeves can offer support during intense lifts or walking exercises such as the yoke or power rack walk.
  • Power Sleds can mimic actual Strongman competition events.
  • Alpha grips can improve your grip strength, which usually fails before the working muscle.

Eat Healthy: Aesthetics aren’t the goal of Strongman; you aren’t lifting and eating to step on to the Mr. Olympia stage. Still, that’s no reason to go crazy and eat junk food until you meet your daily caloric limit. For the best results and to maintain optimal health, be sure that your diet is based on healthy, natural, and wholefood choices. We aren’t saying that you can never have a cheat meal… but we wouldn’t recommend turning a cheat meal into a cheat day.

Listen to Your Body: Finally, make sure that you listen to your body. We can’t stress enough the intensity of these types of workouts. Push yourself but don’t go crazy. If you start showing signs of overtraining – extreme fatigue, irritability, muscle loss – then back off your training and take a week to recover.

ARE YOU READY FOR THE STRONGMAN DIET?

Were you surprised when you calculated your calories for a Strongman workout schedule? Was it a huge jump from what you had been eating? Any concerns you have about starting the Strongman Diet? Let us know on our Facebook!

REFERENCES

  1. Weinert DJ. Nutrition and muscle protein synthesis: a descriptive review. J Can Chiropr Assoc. 2009;53(3):186-93.
  2. Phillips SM, Van Loon LJ. Dietary protein for athletes: from requirements to optimum adaptation. J Sports Sci. 2011;29 Suppl 1:S29-38. doi: 10.1080/02640414.2011.619204.
  3. Kanter M. High-Quality Carbohydrates and Physical Performance: Expert Panel Report. Nutr Today. 2017;53(1):35-39.
  4. Lowery LM. Dietary fat and sports nutrition: a primer. J Sports Sci Med. 2004;3(3):106-17. Published 2004 Sep 1.