Today’s article is a bit of a departure from my normal articles. Recently, a family member was talking excitedly about sumo wrestling. Apparently, he had recently learned some things about this popular sport, which happens to be the national pastime of Japan, and he wanted to learn more. So, he asked me to do some research on Sumo nutrition, which I thought sounded like a rather interesting research project.
For those not familiar with the sport of sumo wrestling, the winner of a sumo match is the first wrestler to force his opponent out of the ring, or the first wrestler to force his opponent to touch the ground with any part of his body other than the bottom of his feet. Elite sumo wrestlers typically weigh in between 300-500 pounds. These athletes are extremely large men, with immense strength and surprising quickness and agility. Matches typically last less than 1 minute. If you have never watched one, I recommend watching here Sumo Wrestling for educational purposes.
Sumo originated in Japan, which is the only country where it is practiced as a professional sport. It is considered a martial art in Japan, with a history dating back many hundreds of years. As such, sumo wrestling includes many ritual elements, such as salt purification, derived from Shinto religious practice Shinto . In modern Japan, the sport of sumo wrestling has many different professional tiers, enabling young athletes the chance to work their way up the rankings. Research shows that wrestlers in the top tier make approximately $26,500 per month.
A Day in the Life
Sumo wrestlers belong to a “sumo stable,” which is a group of athletes managed by a retired sumo master. These athletes live a highly ritualized lifestyle, with the entire stable sleeping, training and eating together. Currently, in Japan there are 54 stables. A typical day looks like the following:
- 5:00AM Training begins
- 10:30am Training ends
- 11:00am Meal #1
- Afternoon 4 hour Nap
- 6:00PM Meal #2
- Free time until bed
Sumo wrestlers eat 2 meals a day, but they are massive meals, consisting of approximately 5,000 – 10,000 calories per meal! These meals are extremely healthy and nutrient dense. There is no fast food, no processed food or junk. A normal first meal, taken around 11:00am typically consists of:\
- Chankonabe: this is super-sized portion of a stew filled with fish, vegetables, meat, eggs and ginger/other spices
- Fried Sardines: as a side dish
- Rice: in order to provide more calories, athletes may eat around 5–10 bowls
- Beer: some athletes may drink as many as 6 pints during lunch
The important thing about chankonabe is that it provides loads of protein and healthy nutrients to not fuel a large athlete for training, but also to help him to recover and sleep well.
For dinner, sumo wrestlers eat another massive meal and call it a night. It is often a repeat of lunch. These athletes love their chankonabe!
Other Items of Interest
After the lunchtime meal, sumo wrestlers take a good, long nap. Many of these athletes need oxygen masks to help them breathe properly while sleeping, because of their extremely large size. The nap also helps to slow down their metabolism, thus enabling them to get larger. For sumo wrestlers, size most certainly matters.
In Japan, becoming the Grand Champion of Sumo means being a celebrity, known and highly regarded throughout the country.