We Tried to Eat Hafthor Bjornsson’s Normal 8,000 Calorie Training Diet

The 2018 World's Strongest Man shared his daily food intake and we match it calorie for calorie!

Hafthor Bjornsson is one of the strongest (and largest) men on the planet. The six foot nine inches tall, four hundred plus pound Bjornsson has nine World’s Strongest Man podium appearances, including a win in 2018, and a third place finish after suffering a torn plantar fascia in 2019. He’s a five-time Europe’s Strongest Man and a two-time Arnold Strongman Classic champion. The man casually deadlifts eight hundred pounds plus for reps and was cast as The Mountain on HBO’s Game of Thrones.

All this is to say, Bjornsson needs the proper fuel to achieve those accolades. We’ve covered Bjornsson’s diet extensively (plus diets he’s considered trying), and are not strangers to eating challenges. So it makes sense that we, two very normal sized dudes who are not strongmen, would eat calorie for calorie what Bjornsson eats on a normal training day:

Meal Breakdown

Before going into the specifics of why Bjornsson eats what he eats in the way he does, let’s take a look at each meal for the food and macro breakdown:

Meal 1

  • 6 Eggs – 378 Calories
  • 6 Slices Bacon – 617 Calories
  • 1 Cup Oatmeal – 564 Calories
    • 1 scoop of whey protein
    • 1/2 tsp hemp seeds
    • 1/2 tsp sunflower seeds
    • 1/2 tsp pumpkin seeds
    • 1/2 tsp flax seeds
    • 1/2 tsp chia seeds
    • 1/2 banana
    • 1 tsp honey
  • 330ml Orange Juice – 156 Calories

Total – 1,715 Calories 

  • 86g fat 
    • 26.3g saturated
  • 121.9g carbs 
    • 13.5g fiber
    • 47.3g sugar
  • 113.7g protein

Meal 2

200g Ribeye Steak- 372 Calories

1 cup White Rice – 182 Calories

1 tbsp Butter – 102 Calories

1/5 cup Carrots – 9 Calories

100g Baby Spinach – 23 Calories

1/5 cup Red Bell Pepper – 8 Calories

22.5g Dextrose – 83 Calories

330ml Coconut Water – 64 Calories

Total – 843 Calories

  • 24.7g fat 
    • 12.6g saturated
  • 80.1 carbs 
    • 5.9g fiber
    • 31.7g sugar
  • 69.8g protein

Meal 3

200g Ribeye Steak – 372 Calories

1 cup White Rice – 182 Calories

1 tbsp Butter – 102 Calories

1/5 cup Carrots – 9 Calories

100g Baby Spinach – 23 Calories

1/5 cup Red Bell Pepper – 8 Calories

22.5g Dextrose – 83 Calories

75g potatoes – 131 Calories

1 Banana – 105 Calories

330ml Orange Juice – 156 Calories

Total – 1,171 Calories

  • 25.1g fat
    • 12.1g saturated
  • 97.4 carbs
    • 9.7g fiber
    • 67.7g sugar
  • 74.5g protein

Meal 4

200g Ribeye Steak – 372 Calories

1 cup White Rice – 182 Calories

1 tbsp Butter – 102 Calories

1/5 cup Carrots – 9 Calories

100g Baby Spinach – 23 Calories

22.5g Dextrose – 83 Calories

75g potatoes – 131 Calories

1 Tomato – 11 Calories

330ml Orange Juice – 156 Calories

Total – 1,069 Calories

  • 24.7g fat
    • 12g saturated
  • 134 carbs
    • 7.3g fiber
    • 53.7g sugar
  • 73.8g protein

Meal 5

200g Ribeye Steak – 372 Calories

2 cup White Rice – 364 Calories

1 tbsp Butter – 102 Calories

1/5 cup Carrots – 9 Calories

100g Baby Spinach – 23 Calories

22.5g Dextrose – 83 Calories

330ml Orange Juice – 156 Calories

Total – 1,109 Calories

  • 24.7g fat
    • 12g saturated
  • 141.3g carbs
    • 2.9g fiber
    • 50.8g sugar
  • 73.6g protein

Meal 6

200g Ribeye Steak – 372 Calories

2 cup White Rice – 364 Calories

1 tbsp Butter – 102 Calories

1/5 cup Carrots – 9 Calories

100g Baby Spinach – 23 Calories

22.5g Dextrose – 83 Calories

1 Orange – 86 Calories

330ml Coconut Water – 64 Calories

Total – 1,103 Calories

  • 24.7g fat
    • 12.6g saturated
  • 139.3g carbs
    • 8.1g fiber
    • 47.7g sugar
  • 75.3g protein

Meal 7 – Dessert

1 Liter Full Fat Milk – 609 Calories

64g Casein Protein – 231 Calories

1 Banana – 105 Calories

Total – 945 Calories

  • 35.2g fat
    • 19.9g saturated
  • 85.3g carbs
    • 4.9g fiber
    • 63.9g sugar
  • 76.7g protein

Grand Total

7,955 Calories

  • 345.1g fat
    • 107.5g saturated
  • 799.3g carbs
    • 52.3g fiber
    • 362.8g sugar
  • 557.4g protein

How We Did

Let us preface that this is A LOT of food. If you combined David and I’s bodyweight at the time of this challenge, we still would not weigh as much as Bjornsson.

But we came ready and confident to gluttonously tackle multiple days worth of calories within eight hours.

Meal 1

David and I had just completed several of Primal Swoledier Eric Leija’s Kettlebell Flows right beforehand so we were definitely hungry for a big breakfast. We discovered that David is an extremely fast eater while I am the polar opposite. 

We chatted through what we were most weary about going into the challenge. For David, it was how much orange juice and coconut water we were going to have to consume because sugary drinks are usually difficult for him. For me, it was the sheer volume of food because I was already feeling my belly getting heavy after the large bowl of loaded oatmeal.

Despite those lingering concerns, we crushed meal 1!

Meal 2

About an hour and a half after breakfast, it was time for some rice and rib-eye. In case it was a mystery, neither of us were hungry after the 1,715 calorie breakfast.

Knowing we would each have to eat seven cups of rice over the course of the day, we were pretty excited about all the butter that was used to cook it. More butter (read fat) equals more flavor; something Bjornsson’s diet isn’t lacking as he eats nearly one full stick of butter every day.

It was my first ever experience with dextrose but to my surprise it actually made the food taste very good. Turns out, adding a scoop of sugar does improve the flavor of a meal, even if it is meant more for its digestive benefits than its flavor profile. If you want to know more specifics about dextrose, we discuss it later in this article.

Meal 3

An hour or so after meal 2, we dove right into meal 3. We were not even remotely hungry.

This meal added in a bunch of potatoes and a whole banana, but otherwise was the same as meal 2.

I mentioned that, at this point, I was definitely slowing down physically. My breathing was also getting a bit more labored as David mentioned:

“I can hear you breathing. I can feel you breathing.”

As this meal progressed, David felt like he was “going to pop” and I started laughing uncontrollably for no reason. We were both feeling very uncomfortable.

“Let’s just wrap this one up.”

Meal 4

A few hours later, we tackled meal 4. It’s fitting Bjornsson is also known as The Mountain, because this challenge felt like climbing one.

By this point we had already consumed 3,729 calories. I adopted the strategy of leaning fully back in my chair to take any pressure off my stomach, which was definitely bulging at this point. On a positive note, my belly now made for a great table to rest my food on whilst I chewed.

David noted that the food in this diet was all fairly nutritious, albeit this particular meal included both an entire potato and a full tomato, the latter of which was to be eaten raw.

“I never want to see food again.” 

After taking into consideration the physical state we were each battling halfway through this meal knowing there were three more still to go, two of which involved twice the amount of rice, we tapped out.

Meals 5 and 6 were attempted, but we surrendered a few bites in.

Meal 7 – Dessert

We were not going to let the challenge end without taking down the item that shocked us most when we first learned of Bjornsson’s diet.

He consumes a liter of full fat milk with 64g of casein protein which has the tendency to thicken pretty quickly. Oh, and also another full banana.

I was pretty ecstatic that this meal would not involve chewing. Drinking the dense 945 calorie shake was immensely difficult but we both successfully got it down.

“There’s always room for dessert, right?”

Although unsuccessful in the challenge, we did each manage to consume somewhere between 5,500 to 6,000 calories.

We proceeded to lay on the floor and not move.

Editor’s note: The content on BarBend is meant to be informative in nature, but it shouldn’t take the place of advice and/or supervision from a medical professional. The opinions and articles on this site are not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of health problems. Speak with your physician if you have any concerns.

Dextrose

You may have noticed this cheeky ingredient sneaking its way into most of the meals that Bjornsson eats. So what exactly is dextrose?

As David said during the educational interlude in the video, dextrose is a carbohydrate that Bjornsson adds to his meals because it may help stimulate the production of amylase, an enzyme that helps break down carbohydrates in the digestive system.

If you were to simply look at the macros on a dextrose nutrition label, you would find that it is entirely sugar. Essentially, dextrose is a carb that helps break down carbs during digestion.

Vertical Diet

No, it doesn’t require that you eat standing up.

It was developed by bodybuilder, strength athlete, and Bjornsson’s nutrition coach, Stan Efferding, who says, “The Vertical Diet is about eating nutrient-dense foods that are easily digestible in order to help you lose or gain weight, maximize workouts, and achieve better nutrient absorption over all.”

It’s a relatively low-fat, high carb diet. We’ve covered the vertical diet extensively and why certain foods are best for it. We also discuss the foods that are forbidden by it.

If you want to try the vertical diet, it is always best to speak with a healthcare practitioner before undertaking any new diet or weight loss program.

Wrapping Up

We may have come up short in the challenge but we feel like we’re part of the Strongman community now. It was certainly difficult but it only furthered our understanding of how unique the athletes who compete in Strongman truly are.

If you’re interested in watching Bjornsson and other strongmen in action, the 2020 USA Arnold Strongman took place earlier this month, as did Britain’s Strongest Man. Also, World’s Strongest Man has confirmed a date and location for 2020. 

So there is plenty of strongman action to fill our plates this year. Oof, maybe that wasn’t the best choice of words.

Hafthor Bjornsson FAQs

Who is Hafthor Bjornsson?

Hafthor Bjornsson is an Icelandic strongman and actor. He won the 2018 World’s Strongest Man competition and is a two-time Arnold Strongman Classic champion.

He played The Mountain on HBO’s Game of Thrones.

How many calories does Hafthor Bjornsson eat every day?

Hafthor Bjornsson eats the vertical diet created by his nutrition coach, Stan Efferding, that only incorporates easily digestible foods.

On a normal training day, Bjornsson eats approximately 8,000 calories.

Phil Blechman

Phil Blechman

Phil is a native New Yorker passionate about storytelling, bodybuilding, and game design. He holds a BFA from Syracuse University.

Before becoming a Staff Writer at BarBend, Phil worked on the creative team at World Wrestling Entertainment, as a narrator for Audible.com with over a dozen titles, and as a producer, director, and playwright Off-Broadway in New York City where he worked for The Araca Group and co-founded IJB Theatrical Productions. He can be heard as a co-host of both the Here’s What’s Up podcast and Eternal Durdles podcast.

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