Eight thousand calories a day, diarrhea medication, saltwater, and CBD are just part of the unusual dietary regimen of two of the Worldâ€™s Strongest Man athletes Luke and Tom Stoltman.Â
(The diarrhea meds arenâ€™t because of diarrhea, itâ€™s because the minerals and electrolytes are surprisingly great for reducing cramping. But more on that later.)
Now, these guys are worth paying attention to. We saw the Stoltmans compete at the 2019 Worldâ€™s Strongest Man where they made history as the first brothers to compete against one another in the WSM finals. (Luke came 7th and Tom came 5th.) Later that year they were responsible for another first when they both podiumed at Worldâ€™s Ultimate StrongmanÂ with Luke placing second and Tom third.
We were lucky enough to sit down with the brothers to learn everything we could about their diet and supplement game, covering:
Their weight and calories are about the same, even though Tom is almost half a foot taller than Luke.
Weight: 342 pounds
Calories: 6 to 8,000
Weight: 342 pounds
Calories: 6 to 8,000
Tom might increase his calories to over 9,000 in the week or two leading up to a competition.
â€śItâ€™s hard, itâ€™s tough to eat 8,000 calories day in, day out,â€ť says Luke. â€śYou just feel so bloated, so horrible eating that food. Some guys can do it, Brian (Shaw) and Hafthor (Bjornsson) just do it for fun now, but I need a little more practice.â€ť
There arenâ€™t many foods Luke limits; hereâ€™s a sample breakfast:
In fact, he eats 1 to 1.2 kilograms (2.2 to 3.3 pounds) of meat per day, and about the same amount of carbohydrates per day as well.
Tom, meanwhile, keeps things a bit stricter, noting that since he started eating so many calories he has trouble eating too much of certain foods. He emphasizes chicken, meat, rice, and pasta, noting that he canâ€™t eat brown rice or bread or his â€śbelly swells out.â€ť
â€śDairy as well, my belly goes a bit funny,â€ť he says. â€śWhen I started eating all those calories, the bread wouldnâ€™t sit well, dairy wouldnâ€™t sit well, even shakes donâ€™t sit well with me sometimes. We did a burger challenge a few days before visiting Iceland and I could not get off the toilet. My guts were bad. My bodyÂ doesnâ€™t take very well to changes in food so I keep to what I know and it works for me.â€ť
Itâ€™s actually not uncommon to hear strongmen and other athletes who eat a lot of food report that when they cranked up their calories, they found that some foods didnâ€™t digest as easily as they used to. Once youâ€™ve magnified the amount of food you eat, it might magnify little digestive hiccups that might have gone unnoticed on a more normal 2 or 3,000 calories per day. (This is the crux of the Vertical Diet followed by Worldâ€™s Strongest Man winners Thor Bjornsson and Brian Shaw.)
Their main challenge, though, is just eating enough calories. Itâ€™s especially hard for Luke because he works offshore for a company that does a lot of work in the North Sea, so heâ€™ll spend a lot of time unable to eat more than what heâ€™s served.
But the two brothers make up for the occasional low-calorie days with regular cheat days â€” so regular theyâ€™ll happen two or three times a week, especially at the end of long days of training or competition when they need â€śbig, dirty calorific meals.â€ť
â€śWe have takeaways, we have pizzas, those are the days weâ€™re struggling to consume that kind of bland food day in, day out, and we need to make up the calories,â€ť says Luke.
â€śSo maybe a couple of days a week we throw in a dirty, bulky meal, especially after an events day when we wonâ€™t eat anything of great substance over four or five hours of training,â€ť adds Tom. â€śThatâ€™s when we get takeaways, Indian, Chinese, a big dirty meal that will really sort us out after a heavy session.â€ťÂ
The brothers donâ€™t track their macronutrients (protein, carbs, and fats) as religiously as a lot of other strongmen.
â€śIf I were tracking it too much, Iâ€™d get a bit too beat up on myself I think, because if I canâ€™t follow a set target I couldnâ€™t follow, that it wouldnâ€™t work for me,â€ť says Luke.
Tom, however, does practice an unusual form of carbohydrate cycling: lower carbs on training days and higher carbs on rest days. Normally, people who cycle carbs do it the other way around.
â€śOn the days I train my proteinâ€™s high, my carbs are like medium, and fats are medium, but then itâ€™s opposite when Iâ€™m not training,â€ť he says. â€śOn rest days, proteinâ€™s low and carbs are high, just to get some extra fuel and so I can recover quicker.â€ť
But Tom trains in the late afternoon and will eat plenty of carbohydrates afterward, so one could think of the â€śrest dayâ€ť carbs as part of his post-workout refuelling. Heâ€™ll be low-ish carb until he trains, then high carb after he trains and the following day.Â
Tom will also go almost completely without carbohydrates for three days during the week of a competition.
â€śIf Iâ€™m a week out, on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday Iâ€™ll have no carbs at all. Instead of chicken and rice, itâ€™ll be a hundred grams of chicken or mince five times a day for three days,â€ť he explains. â€śThen on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday everything will be tripled. Thatâ€™s when my carbs go sky high, eating 700 grams of cereal, chicken, rice, everything will be high. It worked for Britainâ€™s, it worked for Europeâ€™s, it worked for Scotlandâ€™s, it worked for Worldâ€™s.â€ť
Finally, letâ€™s talk supplements.
Sometimes theyâ€™ll make meal replacements of whey and oats and spinach, sometimes they take pre workouts and creatine (but who doesnâ€™t?), Tom also takes branched chain amino acids every day because he says they help with recovery.
â€śMy energy levels just stay higher than if I were to drink normal water,â€ť he says. â€śAnd it adds flavor to my water as well, doesnâ€™t it?â€ť
Theyâ€™re also really big on CBD. Thatâ€™s cannabidiol, a compound found in cannabis that has some pretty interesting links to pain relief, improved recovery, reduced inflammation, and better sleep.(1)(2)(3)(4)(5)(6)(7)(8)
They like to spray about 100 milligrams of CBD under their tongue before bed and claim it helps with recovery, plus they use CBD-based ointments on their joints and tendons.
â€śI used to get quite bad tendinitis and I just applied it every day, I wasnâ€™t really that optimistic about it all to be honest,â€ť says Luke. â€śBut since then my tendon pain has really improved quite a lot.â€ť
[Related: The Athleteâ€™s Guide to CBD Supplements]
Many sports nutritionists these days feel that athletes tend to undervalue sodium, a mineral that boosts intracellular water retention, maintains fluid balance, and helps muscles contract. While many feel they should follow a low sodium diet, athletes who sweat a lot need to put the work in to ensure theyâ€™re replacing the salt thatâ€™s lost through sweat.Â
For context, the recommended intake is 2.3 grams but some studies have seen athletes lose up to 7 grams per hour when theyâ€™re working hard.(9)
â€śIÂ throw some salt in some water a couple times a day and that transformed my body,â€ť says Luke. â€śIt was pretty incredible, I was quite shocked by how much that changed for me.â€ť
But other minerals and electrolytes are also important for hydration, which is why the brothers have the unusual strategy of taking Dioralyte, sachets of sodium chloride and potassium chloride and a few other ingredients that are intended for people suffering from diarrhea. Diarrhea kills millions every year because itâ€™s so dehydrating, but the brothers take it because they say it helps to rehydrate and prevent muscle cramps.
â€śWe use it to up our minerals and electrolytes maybe three days out before a competition,â€ť says Luke.Â â€śAnd that seemed to stop the cramping. And that was awesome, because itâ€™s brutal when youâ€™re cramping up during a deadlift or log press. I guess those supplements arenâ€™t your traditional picks, but thatâ€™s something Tom and I incorporate a week or so pre competition. That, the CBD oil, and the salt have certainly given us a bit of a performance boost, I think.â€ť
Thatâ€™s everything on how two of the worldâ€™s strongest men and certainly Scotlandâ€™s current most successful strongmen fuel their world class performances. There are a lot of great, actionable tips here for any athlete â€” just remember to speak with your doctor before making any changes to your nutrition and supplement regimen.
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Featured image via @luke.stoltman on Instagram.
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