Adapted sumo dieting for weight gain

I'm getting back to weightlifting today as soon as I reach my hometown, and I've already identified potential gyms to join in Bucharest. Naturally, having a workout routine comes in pair with an appropriate diet.

I never had trouble losing weight, quite the contrary: I have tremendous difficulties to gain mass. I hate the idea of wasting hours of my time eating like a pig to gain muscles.

There is no shortcut though: if you want to grow bigger, you have to feed yourself accordingly. I need high quality food, quick and easy to cook in bulk, at a cheap price. Chicken rice with broccoli is the traditional bodybuilder staple, but I just don't want to eat this boring depressing meal every day. That's how I started researching the topic of dieting for mass gain.

My first question was pretty straightforward: who are the athletes I can emulate to gain weight? The answer was quite obvious to me: sumo wrestlers.

Sumo originates from the 16th century. All of their wisdom regarding diet is the result of centuries of practice: there has to be something to learn from it.

A sumo practitioner eats about 20k calories per day. The sumo diet is a form of intermittent fasting: no breakfast, two meals a day, morning training. The meal associated with the sport is chankonabe, a Japanese stew (hot pot). Sumotori eat chankonabe in vast quantities, accompanied with beer. It's full of proteins and vegetables. Rice and noodles are incorporated to increase the caloric intake. There is no unique recipe, the ingredients depending on the sumo stable, the wrestler's preferences, and the seasons.

Without going as far as eating 10 times the commonly suggested caloric intake, we can adapt this hot pot diet to mass gain in weightlifting.

The first issue with this diet is the use of empty calories, directly stored as fat: beer. Unlike a sumo wrestler, a weightlifter aims for lean mass so we can't afford to consume beer.

The second issue is how the massive food intake can impact productivity during the day. If I eat too much during lunch, I feel sleepy. Sumotori use to nap/sleep after each meal. I'm lucky my schedule allows it, but this is not something everyone can do. Intermittent fasting also naturally decreases your metabolism so you tend to overeat and store fat more easily.

The last issue is the lack of ingredients. If you don't live in Japan, you must adapt the recipe to your local ingredients. Fortunately, hot pots are not specific to Japan and you can make your own with a tad of imagination.

Owing to the previous points, I came up with the following program:

  • 3 meals a day: one big breakfast two hours after waking up and after working out, one light power packing lunch, one hot pot dinner.
  • Breakfast: eggs, a slice of bread, banana, oatmeal with yogurt
  • Go to the supermarket right after breakfast to avoid cravings
  • Lunch: nuts, dried fruits, tuna, peanut butter with bread, regular fruits, salad
  • Dinner: all-you-can-eat hotpot with whatever you find at the supermarket, with lots of proteins, vegetables, and noodles/rice

The advantages:

  1. All those meals take literally no time to cook, it's just ready to eat or ready to add in the hotpot.
  2. It's cheap. Not very time-consuming (time is money) and the ingredients are easy to acquire. If your budget is tight, you can replace meat/fish with more plant-based ingredients (beans, tofu, coral lentils, peas, etc.) or eggs. Just add them in the hotpot and it's ready. Most of the staples can be bought in bulk and stored for later consumption.
  3. It's flexible. You can adapt the meals to the seasons and what's available near you.
  4. It does the job to increase your weight. Working out right before breakfast triggers hunger and takes advantage of post-workout nutrition mechanisms.
  5. It won't slow you down. As a professional, productivity is of utmost importance, but weight gain is time-consuming. The aforementioned program is adapted to my energy levels throughout the day to prevent my diet from working against me.

I'll start the program on September the 5th once I reach Bucharest. Excited to log my progress.