Rob Kearney spent a lot of our interview talking about how boring he is, but there are a lot of reasons he’s a remarkable dude.
For starters he won the 2019 Arnold Australia Strongman championships, which means he is a seriously elite strongman athlete. He’s competed three times at the World’s Strongest Man, meaning he’s competing against monstrously giant men like the 6’9” 400-pound Hafthor Bjornsson and the 6’8” 420-pound Brian Shaw.
But Rob is just 5’10”. He’s 285 pounds, which is heavy for his height, but the fact that Kearney has made it so far in the sport while being a foot shorter and a hundred pounds lighter than a lot of his opponents is jaw dropping. The man has also log pressed 214 kilos (471.8 pounds) and deadlifted 440 kilos (970 pounds).
He’s also the first openly gay World’s Strongest Man competitor, which isn’t all that relevant for his deadlift but it’s still a pretty interesting fact that he discusses in our podcast with him, and it’s yet another reason why Kearney is a noteworthy dude.
Let’s talk about how he eats to stay so competitive.
Rob Kearney’s Calories
Rob practices carb and calorie cycling, which basically means he eats more on days he’s more active.
Workout Day Calories
- Calories: ~6,000 calories
- Protein: ~350 grams
- Carbs: 900 grams
- Fat: 80 – 100 grams
On non training days, of which he has three per week, he eats closer to 4 or 5,000 calories.
“Day one is my upper body day, day two is lower body, so I squat and deadlift on the same day,” he says. “Day three I call my ‘bro day,’ because I do bench and arms, and the fourth day is typically strongman stuff. So day two and four are my big days where I’m lifting a lot, those are my longer sessions, sometimes around four hours or more. The other two days are lower volume, lower intensity, but are still super important in everything I’m doing.”
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Rob Kearney’s Diet
“It’s awesome for me because it’s every strongman’s dream to wake up in the morning and have to eat a filet mignon,” he says. “Out of the six or seven meals I eat a day, I’d say five of them are beef in some capacity, whether it’s ground beef or steak.”
Lots of red meat — it’s pretty standard in the strongman world, everyone from Thor Bjornsson to Brian Shaw to Robert Oberst, they’ve all said on numerous occasions that red meat is their primary protein source. It’s got a ton of B-vitamins and iron — important for energy production — it’s full of creatine which helps with power output and hydration, lots of zinc which helps with testosterone production and immunity, the saturated fat and cholesterol might help with testosterone as well. Obviously red meat is still controversial in some nutrition circles and the debate keeps on raging among the experts but for better or worse, it’s a strongman staple.
For Kearney, it’s just as much for the potential performance benefit as it is for the fact that he likes red meat. It might sound obvious, but when you’re smaller than all your opponents and you have a lot of calories to eat every day, it really helps when you enjoy your food.
“I think after going through college and eating so much chicken and stuff, it gets really f*cking boring to say the least,” he explains.
If I don’t enjoy the taste, I’m not going to eat it. I guess one of my downfalls is I’m not super disciplined in that manner, you know, you see these bodybuilders eating dry chicken and rice at every meal? I can’t do that. I’d last half a meal and then I’m going to Taco Bell. So for me, the fact I know my food is gonna taste good motivates me to eat.
You might have noticed Rob eats more than 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight, which is unusual for athletes — they normally stay at that 1 gram per pound level — and Rob says he eats 1.2 grams not for any particular benefit, he just really likes beef.
For me it’s like, I’d rather throw a couple of extra ounces of steak or chicken than an extra cup of rice or potatoes.
But he does eat rice and potatoes. Those are the main ways he fills his up to 900 grams of carbs per day, which is the equivalent of 20 cups of rice or 25 potatoes. A standard breakfast is steak, eggs, and rice, but he also gets some carbs from apples and bananas. And sometimes grapes, “if he’s feeling crazy.” His standard low carb, fibrous vegetables are green beans and broccoli, mainly because they’re easy to cook.
[Related: Find out your ideal calories and macros with the BarBend macro calculator]
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Rob Kearney’s Supplements
It’s really the least important question, but it still matters: what kinds of supplements does an elite level strongman take?
- Pre workout
- A joint health supplement
- Omega-3s for inflammation
- Carb supplement (Formula 19 from Blackstone Labs)
- Whey protein
His pre workout, whey, and carbs come from Blackstone Labs (another sponsor), and that he combines whey and carb supplements — the latter of which is simple sugars, electrolytes for hydration, and the amino acid leucine to boost muscle protein synthesis. Oftentimes, he mixes these supplements into Gatorade for extra calories and for a better “orange creamsicle” flavor. One bottle provides about 150 to 200 grams of carbs and 25 to 40 grams of protein.
“I’ve never been like a supplement junky,” he says. “My mindset has always been, well, I’d rather eat another meal than drink a shake unless I absolutely have to.”
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That’s more or less it for Kearney’s very whole food-based diet.
It really must be emphasized here that the guy is easily 100 pounds lighter than most of his World’s Strongest Man competitors so he really has to focus on keeping his bodyweight as high as he can get it without compromising his performance.
“Especially being the smallest strongman competitor, I just kind of eat whatever the hell I can get my hands on so I can try to keep my bodyweight on and not lose weight, because that’s a big problem I have,” he says. “If I don’t hit that minimum, I tend to lose weight pretty easily. Trying to stay on top of my bodyweight is pretty tough.”
So his advice for aspiring strongmen? Know how much you’re eating.
“There are a lot of people who will say they’re eating 5,000 calories, and you ask them to track that and it’s half that or less,” he says. “I think a lot of people think clean foods are a lot more calorie dense than they actually are. So the biggest thing is to track your calories for a week or so and see where you’re at,”
Experienced athletes know this: it’s harder than it sounds to eat a lot of food, but Rob manages it and it’s a big part of why he’s so successful in his sport.