Being the World’s Strongest Man (WSM) takes a lot of hard work. Training consistently with extremely heavy loads, maintaining sufficient supplementation, getting proper recovery, and eating enough food (read consuming requisite calories) is a full-time proposition. We’re not talking about a large amount of food. We’re talking about a difficult-for-a-single-human-to-consume amount of food. That is what 2020 WSM champion Oleksii Novikov does every day — he eats, and eats, and sleeps, and eats, and trains, and eats, and then when the time comes, wins events like World’s Ultimate Strongman “Strength Island.”
Recently, the Ukrainian took to his YouTube channel to share what a day of eating looks like for him. He titled the video “5,000 kcal/day // Is Not Enough, Why?” Novikov dives deep into how eating — when, how, and how much — is an often overlooked but crucial (and difficult) part of being an elite strongman. Take a look:
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The video opens at dawn in Kyiv, Ukraine. Novikov boils some water to make some 6 a.m. oatmeal that has been scaled for portion and properly salted. He pairs it with ripe avocado and a protein shake. This is part of Novikov’s first breakfast — “first,” meaning that he has multiple breakfasts per day. In fact, after he crushes his oatmeal and scarves down a bevy of supplements — Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, zinc, magnesium, etc. — he heads back to sleep for three to four more hours of recovery sleep.
I do this to be able to eat more during the day.
And eat more he does. So much so that he admits eating is the most difficult part of competition prep — not the training, not the recovery, not the continuous focus on perfecting technique. A major difference between 25-year-old Novikov and previous WSM champions is the kinds of food he restricts himself to. For Novikov, the challenge is not only eating enough but eating “always healthy.”
That is a bit of a different take than a young Brian Shaw, for example, who earned his four WSM titles eating diets ranging from 12,000 to 15,000 calories of pasta and cheesecake. Although, nowadays, Shaw has a similar nutrition ideology to Novikov as they both prep for the 2021 WSM contest.
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At around 10 a.m., Novikov wakes up again for a breakfast that consists of:
- Seven eggs (four yolks)
- 150 grams of buckwheat
- Fried peppers
The 2021 WSM contest is currently scheduled for June 15-20, which means it’s still somewhat early in Novikov’s contest prep. In a fortnight, he intends to increase the volume of food he consumes, even though he already struggles to find the appetite for his current portions. At the peak of his prep, he eats almost every 40 minutes to consume around 7,000 calories per day. The last time he ate that much volume at that pace, it was sometimes difficult to stand up from the table — he even wore out his gums from “all the broiled turkey.” That’s what it takes him to put on nine kilograms (19.8 pounds) in a few weeks.
Pre-Lunch and Lunch
In Novikov’s eating schedule, this is more of a pre-lunch because lunch is still forthcoming. A dish of lettuce, tomatoes, grilled peppers, and a pair of salmon filets with some salt and lemon suffice alongside some yeast-free bread. He gets in some omega-3s before heading to his mother’s home for a late lunch that consists of chicken and turkey shashlick (kebabs) and grilled veggie skewers.
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Dinner and Post-Dinner
Around 8 p.m., Novikov eats a dinner consisting of chopped onions, pickles, lettuce, tomato, burgers, and yeast-free bread with some salt and lemon zest. He also adds a salt-free, sugar-free, oil-free, light orange-colored sauce with the apparent texture of aioli and a few slices of cheese. A few hours later, around 11 p.m., Novikov finishes his day of eating with another protein shake, this time with added casein.
Know The Goal
Novikov has a written nutrition plan for reference, as it is difficult for him to eat as much as he needs without a guide, but he doesn’t follow it to a tee. It involves consuming a lot of red meat cooked a particular way, which doesn’t always fit his day-to-day routine. That’s a step in a different direction from the vertical diet of 2018 WSM champion Hafthor Björnsson, who routinely consumed 8,000 to 10,000 calories per day of mostly ribeye steak and rice.
Novikov finds “adhering to proper nutrition” makes up the difference in getting the calories he needs without hindering his training. He specifically mentioned that he doesn’t worry about aesthetics as some strongmen do (he didn’t mention names):
We are not bodybuilders. Body appearance…is not the most important…it is important to lift a lot, have elastic ligaments, and a functional body.
Novikov intends to defend his WSM title in 2021, and it is clear he has a plan in place to give him the best shot to do so. The last time a strongman won WSM two years in a row was Shaw in 2015 and 2016 (his third and fourth titles, respectively). Before that, it was Zydrunas Savickas in 2009 and 2010 (his first and second wins, respectively, of an eventual four titles) and Mariusz Pudzianowski in 2007 and 2008 (his fourth and record fifth titles, respectively).
Novikov tied the record for the youngest ever WSM champion in 2021 (with Jón Páll Sigmarsson). If he wins his second WSM title in 2021, he’ll put his name next to those all-time greats as the eighth man ever to reign as WSM champion for at least two straight years.
Featured image: @novikov_strong_wsm