Sumo wrestling is a popular sport in Japan. It is, in fact, Japan’s national sport. Many foreigners and tourists who visit the country often like to meet a sumo wrestler in person. Sumo wrestlers have an innate charm to them. One of the most frequent questions they receive is mostly about what they eat in a day. A sumo wrestler’s diet piques the interest of many because Japan is known for being a country with skinny and uber-healthy people.
One of the common misconceptions about sumo wrestlers is that they are all fat. A sumo wrestler is not just all flab. In fact, their body has tons of muscle underneath it all. Sumo wrestlers have an ideal weight of 400 to 600 pounds. They have to be strong and flexible to have that power to force their opponent out of the ring. That opponent who has almost if not same weight as them. It ain’t easy, but with the right diet, it can be possible.
Trivia: Eating is part of sumo wrestler’s training.
Sumo Wrestler’s Diet
In a day, a rikishi (sumo wrestler) must consume 10,000 calories – Yes, that much! If you think about it, an average male has a recommended daily intake of 2,500 calories. So this means, a sumo wrestler must consume four times of that diet. However, sumo wrestlers must take all these calories into two 5,000-calorie meals a day!
Here is a typical eating schedule of a sumo wrestler:
Every day, a sumo wrestler’s day begins at four or five in the morning. They will engage in training and daily exercises. They DO NOT eat breakfast. The reason for skipping breakfast and going straight to training has something to do with metabolism. Training without breakfast slows down their metabolism. After all, it would be quite uncomfortable to slam your body against another with a full stomach. That’s bad news written all over it. They would start eating at around noon, making them hungry enough to consume the 5,000-calorie lunch.
Come lunchtime, sumo wrestlers eat chanko nabe, a stew filled with fish, vegetables, tofu, and meat. Nabe is the standard Japanese stew, but for sumo wrestlers, they need the supersized version or the chanko nabe that comes stuffed with everything that would bulk them up.
Aside from the humongous meal, sumo wrestlers will complement it with up to 10 bowls of rice and several bottles of beer. Some of the best and healthiest wrestlers can have as much as 6 pints of beer each lunchtime. Some rikishis will dump more noodles into their bowls if they are not yet full and there’s still some soup left.
Trivia: lunch is done in a formal manner, as rikishis are served depending on their rank.
After taking their lunch, sumo wrestlers will take a 4-hour nap. Napping is a necessary activity for them as it also helps them slow down their metabolism and help them increase their girth.
Interestingly, sumo wrestlers do not have snacks in between. After lunch, they nap, and when they wake up, it is time for another meal. Dinner time is almost the same as what they had for lunch. They have to consume another 5,000-calorie meal. Afterward, they go to sleep. This massive meal helps fuel them for their morning training and exercises.
Water and Green Tea
A sumo wrestler’s diet will not be complete without water and green tea. Hydration is crucial for a wrestler as it helps them stay focused while training. World Sumo Championship winner, Byambajav Ulambayar shared that his water and green tea consumption is the most critical part of his diet since they also lose water when they sweat during their training.
Consuming udon noodles are also part of a sumo wrestler’s diet, particularly during dinner time. Sometimes dinner time consists of udon noodles, fish, and salad.
A Closer Look at Chanko Nabe
While it may be loaded with calories, chanko nabe is a healthy food item. It is a lot better than downing several slices of pizza or a burger meal. The hearty stew has healthy amounts of fresh vegetables (potatoes, cabbage, mushrooms, radishes, and bok choy), fish, tofu, and meat (pork, beef, or chicken).
The stew helps give the wrestlers tons of proteins, vitamins, and nutrients that they need for their training. Note that the dietary intake of wrestlers varies per person, depending on their current state of health.
Chanko nabe can consist of any type of meat since it can have many different versions. While there is not one recipe followed, one thing is traditionally observed by wrestlers and chefs about chanko nabe. During competition days, sumo wrestlers can only eat chanko nabe with chicken meat. This practice has no relation on health or nutritional reasons, but on the belief that chickens walk on two feet on the ground. The same stance on how sumo wrestlers must win – by keeping their two feet planted firmly on the ground. Beef and pork will have hands and feet on the ground, translating into a loss.
How Do Sumo Wrestlers Remain Healthy Despite their Weight?
Chanko nabe is a healthy meal. If a regular person will consume it in a proper size, it is quite nutritious. Sumo wrestlers seem to be unaffected with high cholesterol and hypertension despite their intake of a high-calorie meal. The main reason for this is because sumo wrestlers store their weight differently than how an average person would. The extra weight they have is just under their skin and not deep in the body.
As mentioned, their eating schedule helps them keep the pounds on, but their intense exercise helps them bulk up their muscles and reduce the presence of visceral fat – the kind of fat most people struggle with. The problem with their weight often comes when they stop training, but for as long as they are training, sumo wrestlers are healthy.
Sumo wrestlers depend heavily on their weight to gain a chance at a competition. As they say, the heavier you are, the more likely you are to win. A sumo wrestler’s diet, as healthy as it is, can be taken by regular people, but only if in regular sizes. It would be best to follow a rigorous training as well if you want to bulk up as how a sumo wrestler would.