When I began competing in Strongman at the age of 24, I was eating everything in sight without any real idea of how to eat for strength. My diet consisted of frozen foods, lots of pork, and whatever I could find that was on sale. The goal was to get as big and strong as possible. My thought process was that as long as I kept lifting and eating, I would accomplish my goal, because that’s exactly how things had worked in the past. What I failed to realize is that when you’re in your early twenties, you can get away with just about anything. Once your metabolism starts to slow down however, those plans are as good as garbage.
During that first year of my Strongman career, I ran myself into the ground. I gained a wealth of competition experience, but picked up several nagging injuries along the way and by the end of the season I was 10 pounds heavier but not a bit stronger.
Stubborn and naïve, I didn’t learn my lesson. I continued to lift heavy and eat everything I wanted. By age 27 I had ballooned up to over 200 pounds (on my 5’8” frame) and although I was strong, I was just another underachieving, overweight, wannabe athlete. Injured again, one snowy January morning I saw the giant milk bag in the mirror looking back at me and I made a decision: It was time for a change.
Fast-forward to the present day and not only have I shed my Michelin Man-physique, but I’m now one of the top 175-lb Strongman athletes on the planet. The change? I started treating my nutrition like I treat my training. The results didn’t come overnight but staying consistent with a few small habits not only changed my athletic future, but improved my health along the way.
There’s a misconception in sport that food=fuel, which is laughable at best. Food isn’t fuel, and humans aren’t cars. If life were that simple, we’d all be healthy, lean and strong as hell. Unlike simple fuel, food contains many different components and is affected by the ever-changing environment of the body. If you consume the right foods in the right amounts at the right times, and if your body is healthy and functioning properly, you’ll get the intended benefit from your actions. That’s a lot of “ifs”, and if you eat the wrong thing under the wrong circumstances, your body will trend the wrong direction.
In my experience, most Strongman athletes tend to overdo it with training and think they can compensate by overdoing it to an equal extent with food. Newsflash: Too much training is bad enough and even if you can get away with this, you can really only overcompensate enough nutritionally by eating energy-rich/nutrient-poor food sources (read: sugar and processed foods). The issue is that these food sources can cause other issues like inflammation and compromised gut health, which will impair your ability to build muscle and burn fat. Try as you might, this haphazard approach will have you spinning your wheels. More is not always better, and this is a lesson that most Strongman athletes learn the hard way through stalled progress and injuries incurred while trying to force expected gains.
Training + Food ≠ Automatic Gains
Training + Food = [Digestion/Absorption/Inflammation/Hormonal Changes] = Gains or Losses
Training is incredibly important, but if you’re not equally as concerned about your eating habits and lifestyle, you’ll never reach your full potential…