When it comes to a challenge, I am rarely one to back down especially when there is food involved.
This one seemed pretty simple – eat like Hafthor Bjornsson for a week.
The current Arnold Strongman champion, World’s Ultimate Strongman, World’s Strongest Man, and Europe’s Strongest Man – is also known as The Mountain on Game of Thrones, and never before has a moniker been so appropriate.
At six foot nine inches tall, and tipping the scales at around 200kg, he is a beast of a man – with an appetite to match.
The Icelander is currently in Dubai for the launch of the World’s Ultimate Strongman incubator program – a new project taking strength athletes with potential and helping them on the way to competing on a world level.
While in the UAE, Hafthor is being fed by the Fuel Up by Kcal team – and they have their work cut out.
Each day he eats six meals – three comprising of 200g tenderloin steak, 200g of mashed sweet potato, and 100g of a carrot/pepper mix. The other three meals are 200g of minced ribeye, 200g of white rice, and 100g of carrot/pepper mix.
That’s 3kg of food. Without his breakfast, bone broth, and all the other bits and pieces the go into fueling the strongest man on the planet on a daily basis.
It’s only when the food is sat in front of you the enormity of the undertaking hits home. This is a HUGE amount of fuel to consume – especially for someone half Hafthor’s weight.
My approach would be simple. Eat one meal every three hours – starting at 08:00 and finishing up at 23:00. Easy.
For the first few days it wasn’t too bad. I was able to stick to my timing pattern, and although it was a lot to consume, it seemed the more I ate, the more I was able to eat. For days two and three it was the weekend, so I could eat, train, relax – this was exactly how I imagined things.
I felt ‘full’, and strong. Then day four hit. Back in the office my timing routine went out of the window. I found myself playing catch-up to try and get the food down over the remainder of the day. I was now starting to feel sluggish.
I had noticed my sleeping pattern was not what it normally is – purely because I was eating so late and going to bed on a very full stomach.
I could feel the lethargy hitting. Training that night was a chore. Despite feeling strong, my energy levels were low, and I felt fit to burst. Two more meals after training, about 21:00 onwards, needed mouthfuls of water to gulp down.
I have heard strongmen talking about force feeding to get all their food down on a given day – and now I was experiencing it firsthand.
It’s not a pleasant experience.
Food for me is always something I look forward to, but the routine nature of having to eat at certain times took all the enjoyment out of it.
I have to say, the Fuel Up team make a great job of the meals.
They taste excellent, I was nervous of the monotony being tough but the meat has a pretty good fat content which provides plenty of flavour. Hafthor is known for adding bone broth to his meals to form a ‘monster mash’, but I was more than happy eating them as they are. After my day-four wobble, the remainder of the week passed off with little incident.
Timing was key, and if I could keep on schedule getting the food down wasn’t too bad.
The thing that kept hitting me was the change in sleep quality, and also that sluggish feeling in the day. I’m not one for coffee or energy drinks, so it was tough feeling on top form.
But all this should be expected – I was eating roughly double the calories I normally would – getting close to 6000 a day.
This is not a normal thing to do.
For those looking to bulk, never would you increase calories in this way, it would be a much more incremental process – any my body didn’t like it.
Amazingly after eating 21kg of food in seven days, I only put on 1kg. I was tempted to up my cardio to try and mitigate the calorie intake but didn’t so that’s a true figure on my regular weekly training schedule – I lifted on five of the seven days.
The thing that really hit home was these guys do this every day of their lives. It’s as important as their training and sleep – and you have to take your hat off to them.
If I could eat breakfast, plus three of the meals I think it would be optimum for my size and training – but with Hafthor, you’re feeding a completely different animal, and didn’t I know it.
You can find out more about Fuel Up by Kcal at fueluplife.com
The only time we realise the importance of sleep is after we pay a hefty price of a night with very little, or none, of it.
Sleep is such a natural part of our routine that we often take it for granted, to the point that the majority of us do not take heed of its quality or the amount we are getting on a daily basis.
Current research has shown that people spend nearly a quarter of their lives sleeping and it is an essential, physiological need, just like food and water. It is also vital for recovery of cellular, network and endocrine system levels.
Marija Sostaric, a fitness expert and co-founder of a bespoke health and fitness programme provider called Tamryn, reiterated the importance of sleep in helping us maintain our physical and mental health, and how quality sleep is even more necessary for enhancing our athletic performance.
“Quality sleep is essential to recover from daily routines and training sessions, but also it is basic requirement to prepare your body for upcoming daily demands in the days to come,” she said.
“Scientists recognise sleep as a key element of athletes’ recovery and it is essential in motor skill learning process, so sleep is one of the most crucial parts of an athlete’s life.”
She added: “Some of the health problems associated with and caused by a lack of sleep are well known and experts have found a correlation between lack of sleep and an increase of obesity and diabetes cases.”
The effects of lack of sleep are further evidenced through a person’s psychological performance and mood states, so if ever you feel like you woke up on the wrong side of the bed, always remember that there is more to it than just that.
According to Sostaric, one of the most commonly reported issues among athletes is sleep deprivation, which is often associated with the overtraining syndrome, and lots of studies have proved the negative impact of excessive training on sleeping patterns.
A normal adult requires between five to eight hours of sleep and Sostaric insists that a good night’s sleep is more under our control than we actually think.
“There are a few guidelines one needs to follow in order to ensure a good night’s sleep. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, nicotine and other chemicals that interfere with sleep too close to bed time,” Sostaric added.
“Do not exercise too close to bed time, because it will activate alerting mechanism in your brain and it won’t help you fall asleep.”
Sostaric also says that a cosy environment ensures better sleep and the whole idea is to lower the body’s alertness, so it’s easier to fall asleep.
Due to the rapid increase in sleep-related disorders and considerable amount of interest in the subject, a dedicated expo and conference will be held from April 11-13 at Festival Arena, Dubai.
The Sleep Expo Middle East is poised to bring together all stakeholders of the sleeping technology industry in the GCC region under one roof to raise awareness, and a showcase of latest innovative solutions aiding sleep.
If you thought Bollywood dancing just meant fixing the light bulb and patting the dog, then you should have been at GymNation for their new BollyNation class on February 26, which was just a taster for what will be available at the new Bur Dubai branch in April.
BollyNation is just one of the many diverse exercise programmes offered by GymNation – the one stop shop for all your fitness needs in a budget – that will get you moving and grooving to the latest Bollywood tunes.
The session was conducted by Dubai-based dancer and winner of popular Indian dance reality-television show Nach Baliye (Dance Partner) Anup Bhardwaj, who has won many awards over the years for his dancing capabilities.
For the BollyNation taster, he created a choreography with some signature Bollywood dance moves, with all the twists, turns and pelvic thrusts and peppered it with intense cardio movements and various stretches in-between that ensured we were all pushed to the limit and burning up thousands of calories by the end of the session.
The 30-year-old powerhouse draws his inspiration from Michael Jackson and Indian actor and dancer, Govinda, and insists that the only requirement for his class is endless energy.
“The only prerequisite for my class is lots and lots of energy,” Bhardwaj said. “Bollywood dancing for me is all about letting loose, having fun and releasing all of that pent-up stress. I was a little concerned when I saw how diverse the class was and thought of changing the routine a bit so everyone could follow, but decided against it and was very pleased with how everyone managed to keep going.”
The dance moves were fast and powerful, but Bhardwaj assured us all that after two or three sessions with him, everyone will be able to breeze through the routine with ease.
British expat Fifi Sami, 32, enjoyed the session and was already looking forward to taking part in her next class with Bhardwaj.
“This was amazing. I had a great time. At first, I wasn’t sure what to expect so I found the class a little too fast-paced for an absolute beginner such as myself, but I am prepared now and definitely coming back,” Sami said.
Snetha Mathew and Anisha Johanna echoed Sami’s positive views about the class being too fast-paced, but the session left the duo excited and ready to attend BollyNation as soon as the new gym opens next month.
“The class was a little hard to follow, but it was fun and really made me want to dance,” said Mathew.
Johanna added: “It was a strangely addictive class and we were both moving in no time, so I am just waiting for it to be offered as a regular class and I am definitely coming down again for another round.”
*The BollyNation class will be exclusively offered in GymNation Bur Dubai once the facility opens in April.