Six times a year, Japan cheers proudly for their national sport: sumo wrestling. The gyoji
(referee) often uplifts the crowd spirit by cheering “nokotta
” ("remain there, remain there") to encourage the wrestlers to continue wrestling. Two rikishi
(wrestler) attempts to force one another out of a circular ring or into touching the ground to secure victory.
In sumo, the key essence for success is heavy body weight and low centre of gravity. Apart from having mere high body mass, wrestler requires extensive training to master 82 winning techniques, and follow strict training regimens that includes weight lifting and flexibility exercises.
In order to achieve high body mass, sumo wrestlers are required to consume high calories over an extended period of time, which will result in weight gain. Take a closer look at their body composition, and you would notice high levels of fat mass and fat-free mass.
In fact, sumo wrestlers have body weights in excess of 100 kg, whereby fat mass alone is in excess of 30 kg. And because of this, sumo wrestlers are categorised as ‘morbidly obese’.
Generally, a sumo diet consist between 5,122 to 5,586 calories per day
with a macronutrient breakdown of 49% carbohydrate, 34% fat and 17% protein.
What makes them interesting and different from any other level of obesity is their discipline towards their diet. Bear in mind, although their calorie intake is five to six times more than the average consumption, their food choices are healthy.
In this article, we are looking to infuse the sumo wrestler principle into some of you - with the recommendations from the Malaysian Ministry of Health, of course - and use them to help you lose weight instead.
1. Food portioning
In an interview, two-time World Sumo Championship winner Byambajav Ulambayar mentioned that sumo wrestlers would consume just two big meals a day. Chanko-nabe
is the staple sumo food. Quite similar to the Malaysian ‘steamboat’, Chanko-nabe
is a nutrient-rich stew, with lots of meat, fish, and vegetables.
Each bowl probably contains about a quart of broth with high-protein and loaded with assorted veggies. The broth is also healthy, and helps re-hydrate the body after a workout. He added that lunch in pro sumo is around 1pm to 2pm, and dinner is around 6pm. Apart from the staple Chanko-nabe
sumo wrestlers rehydrate regularly with water and green tea.
Based on a research conducted by Norimah AK , at prevalence, 97.2% of Malaysians consume rice at a mean frequency of twice per day. Marine fish has a prevalence of 41% and green leafy vegetables at 39.89%. Though at a glance these are healthy choices, but what we need to reflect on is the portion size.
Portioning your plate is key, according to the Ministry of Health Malaysia. The first key message and recommendation of the Malaysian Dietary Guideline 2010 is to eat a variety of foods within your recommended intake.
2. Be physically active everyday
Sumo wrestlers typically begin their day by training all morning on an empty stomach, and develop a strong appetite before consuming their first meal. They rise as early as 4 or 5am to start practicing, all the way till 11am. On average, they’re physically active for at least six hours a day.
On the other hand, with Malaysians, based on a study published on 2016, TC Lian conducted a study that found about 61% of Malaysians are physically inactive, out of which, young adults (18-19 years) reported the highest rates of exercise. Not surprisingly, the obese exercised the least.
This, combined with many unhealthy eating habits, has created a society where rates of obesity and non-communicable diseases are increasing at alarming rates.
A good point to note: physical activity requires equal importance as a balanced meal. Sweating out has multiple benefits, inclusive of mood boosting, weight loss and improved attention span. Well, here are more reasons for you to get moving then.
3. Food preparation method
Earlier, we took a look at how ‘Chanko-nabe
’ is prepared. Although the portion consumed is high, the preparation method is healthy with minimal salt, seasoning and oil used.
Based on a study that looked into Malaysian Obesity in 2016, the results found that the amount of available sugar and sweeteners per capita per year rose from 28.8kg to 48.7kg between 1967 and 2007 - a rise of 70%!
Being Malaysians, we are blessed with great food and beverages. However, it is crucial to be mindful about the food choices we make. For instance, opt for grilled, baked or steamed food items instead of deep fried ones.
Comparing a sumo wrestler’s diet to an average person’s diet, the transferable principles would be to choose healthy, wholesome produces. Especially on a fast-paced living environment, fast food are made easily accessible and affordable as well, hence, like a sumo wrestler, discipline and dedication towards diet is crucial to maintain a healthy weight.
Ultimately, when consumption of deep fried food, processed food and fast food are slashed from our daily intake, a huge fraction of excess calories are removed. Swap carbonated and soda drinks with plain water or green tea to quench thirst and hydrate. By making these changes, you can keep the inches off your waist and keep the excess weight at bay.
So, that’s how we eat like a sumo and yet be able to lose weight. Alternatively, speak to a dietitian or nutritionist to work out a personalised meal plan and coaching to help you achieve your ideal body weight.
Good luck, everyone!