Sumo: Size Matters and So Does Timing


With Daylight Savings rolling back, I've got clocks on my mind. So, let's take a ride on the hands of time and talk eating schedule. Now don't start knuckle cracking in anticipation of writing a new rule book on meal timing. Instead, think of this post as a gateway to explore a more balanced eating approach that best nourishes your mind, body and soul.

Sound too woo-woo for you? Well, then let's put it this way. I encourage you to get curious about your eating schedule if you:

  1. Have a complaint related to weight, eating habits, fatigue or mood
  2. Meal skip or substitute caffeinated/energy drinks for snacks/meals
  3. Take a feast or famine approach to eating and think it all averages out because the most important consideration is calories

While generically prescribed meal timing may be an outdated diet trend used to artificially control appetite, and rightly so, following a predictive eating schedule will always be en vogue to maintain the balance our bodies innately crave. You know, that h-word from middle school bio class... homeostasis.

Let's look at how sumo wrestlers use meal timing as a natural steroid to maintain their ginormous size. Who knows, you might find similarities in your own eating schedule.

Sumos Deliberately Pack on Poundage

Ever wondered how sumo wrestlers, or rikishi, get their super-sized physique? Like all competitive athletes, competitors of this 1,500-year-old sport follow an eating plan as intense as their workout regimen. Rikishi expecting to excel to yokozuna, or top ranked wrestlers, follow a disciplined diet to quickly gain the competitive of weighing 400 to 600 pounds.

How do they bulk up? Well, a typical sumo wrestler eats upwards of 10,000 calories a day on a strategically calculated schedule. Since rikishi follow a rigorous daily routine, that doesn't mean popping bon-bons while watching SuperSoulTV. Instead, to efficiently gain weight, rikishi eat up to 10 times the recommended caloric intake of the average man in just two mealsBy carefully coupling meal timing with their To Do List, sumo wrestlers slow their natural body functions like metabolism to pack on the pounds.

Sumo-Sized Eating Schedule

If you need to see it to believe it, here's what a rikishi's day looks like:

Breakfast-shmeckfest: Although they could likely make time for breakfast, sumo wrestlers skip the food and head straight for pre-dawn training lasting 4-5 hours. Exercising on an empty stomach helps slow the body’s metabolism, store fat and ensures a voracious appetite for a 食いしん坊 (gluttonous) lunchtime frenzy.

Lunchfest: The signature dish of this belly bursting meal, estimated at 10,000 calories, is a hearty stew called chankonabe. Like skipping breakfast, sumos rein in their metabolism once again after gorging on chanko with a 4 hour sumo-style siesta.

Ding-ding-ding, come and get it: Dinner rounds out the day with another massive meal before calling it a night. As rikishi sleep, so too does their metabolism.

Championing Your Personal Eating Schedule

Although you're probably not looking to break into sumo any time soon, you may have noticed some similar eating habits compared with the sumo schedule: exercising on an empty stomach, meal skipping, yo-yo dieting and cuddles with calories at bedtime.

Like rikishi, when you override your eating pattern your body reacts with what most of us would consider unwanted symptoms like weight gain, rogue eating habits or feelings of 'off'. Luckily, you can silence those symptoms with small shifts to better nourish the daily needs of your body.

To get started, grab your inventory from the last post. Next, compare your current eating schedule to the general guidelines below:

Breakfast: Try no later than 10:00 AM
Ideally the first meal of the day should be eaten soon after waking. Otherwise your body starts to worry when the next meal is coming and responds by turning your metabolism down a notch. Now, if you're usually not hungry for brekkie then back that thought up to what you ate and drank the night before. The effects of late-night eating or a few glasses of wine/alcohol can linger into the morning hours. Shifting those night owl habits may show you that you're more of a morning person than you think.

Lunch: Preferably before 2:00 PM
If I were to guess, lunch probably slips and slides all over your calendar from weekday to weekend. Like the sun in the sky, your body's metabolism peaks around noon. Now that doesn’t mean force yourself to eat a sumo-sized meal and decimate your energy for the rest of the afternoon. Consider this an invitation to find small shifts towards mid-day balance. In addition to maximizing your digestive capacity around noontime, you'll a;so avoid a lunch that lingers into linner. And yes, you may have to cut back on the caffeine if it's hijacking your appetite.

Dinner: Avoid eating later than 9:00 PM
Unlike sumo wrestlers, give your belly time to digest before hitting the hay and see if you can blue plate special your late night nibbles. Again, this might mean eating breakfast and lunch earlier in the day. Otherwise, you're metabolism's at risk for a triple hit by (1) missing out on it's noontime peak, (2) handicapped while you get your Z's, and (3) slow morning with no breakfast. 

Since every body's eating needs are different, design a schedule that's right for yours. For example, you may want to consider heartier meals supplemented with small snacks or a series of mini-meals throughout your day. By experimenting with small shifts in your eating schedule, you're on your way to aligning harmoniously with the natural ebb-and-flow of your body. Now doesn't that sound yummy?

Feeling like a champion shift-maker after reading this post? Share your tweaks or comments below.

Sumo wrestlers mainly eat chankonabe (  ちゃんこ鍋  ), pronounced ‘chunk nabe,’ or a stew made of fish, vegetables, meat and tofu.

Sumo wrestlers mainly eat chankonabe (ちゃんこ鍋), pronounced ‘chunk nabe,’ or a stew made of fish, vegetables, meat and tofu.

Did You Know?

  1. Women can't be sumo wrestlers
  2. Not until well into the 20th century did sumo wrestlers adopt a larger physique
  3. Matches usually last mere seconds
  4. Last night of a sumo tournament is called the 'pleasure of a thousand autumns'
  5. Rikishi = strength (riki) + warrior (shi)

Feeling overwhelmed or need some help figuring out your shifts? Maybe it's time we have a chat.

Jenn SchaeferComment