Sumo Wrestlers, Gaining Weight & Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting is not just about going without food for 12-16 hours. It’s also about splitting meals into smaller ones for faster absorption, counting calories, and not eating food that is high in carbs. So make the most of your fast and lose weight...

 

The other day I got an interesting question from Tino:

How or why do Sumo wrestlers gain so much weight/fat, if they are on an intermittent fasting “diet” – I don’t get it?!! I thought intermittent fasting was for weight loss?

It’s actually a good observation because he’s got a point.

Sumo wrestlers skip breakfast and eat 2 meals daily, during an 8-hour window usually — just like intermittent fasting.

Sumo

However, there are some other differences and I’ll get to those in a minute.

Now, today’s topic is how sumo wrestlers can gain so much weight and fat, so quickly. It’s an odd topic, but I got a lot of people asking me about it – so, why not.

However, I’m also doing this topic because there are important weight loss lessons in it as well.

I say this because over the years I’ve had so many people tell me something like, “I don’t understand it. I only eat twice a day and I’m still gaining weight,” or “I skip breakfast and I usually work through lunch and I’m still fat.” Or they’ll say, “I hardly eat anything and I can’t seem to lose weight.

If any of the statements sound like you or someone you know, then you should keep reading.

On the other hand, if the idea of looking like a Sumo wrestler is appealing to you, then just follow today’s 7 simple rules:

How To Gain Weight Like A Sumo Wrestler

  1. They skip breakfast.

    This helps slow down your metabolism in the morning. Eating speeds it up.

  2. Exercise in a fasted state / empty stomach for 3-5 hours.

    This increases cortisol and stress hormones, so your body is now in a “fat conservation” and “survival” mode.

  3. Eat two, large meals daily. Typically at 11 am and about 8 hours later.
  4. Sleep after each meal. 4 hours after meal 1 and overnight after the last meal.

    This helps convert the food for storage, not used for energy. Especially meal #2.

  5. Eat LOTS of calories, primarily from carbs, a little bit of protein and almost no fat.

    This causes high insulin/blood sugar levels, which stores the food as fat.

  6. Drink lots of beer with both meals.

    Alcohol increases estrogen levels, which creates more body fat, especially beer. Alcohol also stimulates your body to secrete excess levels of cortisol (your stress hormone), which in turn, causes your body to store fat in your abdominal area, thus creating that famous “beer belly” look. This is great for a Sumo wrestler because their big belly makes them more stable in the ring.

  7. Eat with friends.

    During the two times they eat, it’s done with at least one other person and typically a few friends or teammates. Research shows that when you eat a meal with others, you’ll take in 44% more food and over 30% more carbs and fats, than if you were to eat alone.

Isn’t This Intermittent Fasting?

So this is how a Sumo wrestler gains weight.

Now I can see where the “skipping breakfast”, “working out fasted” and “eating during an 8- hour time span” might make someone say quickly “Isn’t that what Intermittent fasting is?”

Intermittent-Fasting

Yes, it is. However, there are other factors here:

  • They eat a LOT of calories, between 8000 – 20,000 daily. When you eat that much food, you’re going to get fat. Except the Sumo style speeds up the process.
  • They eat primarily carbs.
  • Drink lots of beer.
  • Genetics – wrestling scouts look for boys who are athletic (preferably with experience in the martial arts) and stocky in build, with bodies that are big-boned and capable of putting on weight easily.

Intermittent Fasting & Weight Loss

So, what are the lessons we can take to an Intermittent Fasting plan if your goal is fat loss and you are not a Sumo wrestler in training?

  • Eating only 1 or 2 large meals isn’t a good idea, several smaller ones are ideal for better absorption and hormones.
  • Don’t have high carbs – eat protein and fat. I like ⅓ (33%) of each as a starting point.
  • Total calories still count.
  • Doing hours of exercises fasted is going to raise your cortisol, lower testosterone, burn muscle and hold on to fat. Keep your workouts between 45-60 min. Short and intense.
  • Limit alcohol.
  • Sleep is important for both building muscle and losing fat because it improves your hormones.

So there you have it – whether you want to get fat or lose weight. These are success principles to follow.