Strongman Swimming Diet | 15,000 Calories & Counting - Ross Edgley

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Strongman Swimming Diet | 15,000 Calories & Counting

I feel my diet maybe needs explaining with a little maths.

Since this year I am training to complete a series of ultra-distance open water swims, around the world, pulling a 100lbs tree for charity. Inspired by last year’s World’s First Tree-athlon (where I did an Olympic Distance Triathlon carrying a 100lbs tree) my new sport is called Strongman Swimming and will be completed in some of the world’s most stunning seas, rivers and lakes along with The Great Swim. Starting on the historic banks of Lake Windermere and going via Loch Lomond in Scotland, it will all end back at the sport’s birthplace in the Caribbean as I attempt an island crossing never attempted before (with a tree attached to my trunks)…

But swimming 100km a week with a tree (causing drag) means my calories for the day can sometimes rival the famous Michael Phelps Diet.

Yes, I can consume over 15,000 but on average I have 8,000 calories a day, based on research from the International Journal of Sports Nutrition I chose a, “Daily energy intake with 62% from carbohydrate, 27% from fat and 11% from protein” because their study suggested, “If the guidelines for prolonged exercise are followed, then athletes can successfully complete ultra-endurance events”.

Protein and carbohydrates contain 4 calories per gram, while fat provides 9 calories per gram. Based on this, here’s how my 5,958 calorie diet looked in grams with a 62% carbohydrate, 27% fat and 11% protein Food Ratio.

  • Protein = (8,000 x 0.11) ÷ 4 = 220g
  • Fats = (8,000 x 0.27) ÷ 9 = 240g
  • Carbohydrates = (8,000 x 0.62) ÷ 4 = 1,240g

Based on this, meals for the day look like the below


Often made in a giant cauldron in my kitchen, I put my favourite powered protein porridge mixture in massive Tupperware boxes and keep it at the end of my swimming lane with a spoon. When swimming for 8 hours I can stop between 1km intervals and demolish a bowl. Then set off on my merry way under the confused gaze of everyone else swimming (to see this recipe and 100’s more, visit the Private Members Website )


Now the astute ones looking at the above imagery will notice a lot are vegan snacks. Produced by the culinary queen that is my friend Annie Mayne, she makes a lot with plant-based recipes for me and the Private Members Website. Why? Because when I don’t need the protein to recover I like to compete on a plant-based diet that’s flooded with vitamins, minerals and micronutrients., I’m basically a nutritional nomad and part-time participant in the veganism movement who sporadically dips in and out with a spoon in one hand and a spinach, sweet potato and lentil dhal curry in the other.

I do this for 3 reasons.

  • I Don’t Eat Pie Charts & Checklists

I (again) refuse to accept this binary solution to diet!

For many people food is black and white. You’re either vegan or you’re not. You’re either low carb or high carb. You’re either paleo nor not. The list goes on. Basically when it comes to our nutrition we’re encouraged to adopt, “Polarised Thinking” which is a fallacy of thinking that our food is either black or white, good or bad, all or nothing.

For me I don’t “diet” I just eat.

  • I Can Pass on Protein (Mid Marathon)

During a swim I can pass on the whey protein shakes.

Yes, we need protein to repair and regrow. It’s our body’s building block” and our organs, skin, hair, muscles and nails are all built from it. Also when I’m not mid swim I will heed the advice from research published in the Journal of Sports Sciences that states, “A considerable amount of evidence has accumulated during the past 15 years which indicates that regular exercise does in fact increase protein needs”.

But mid-swim my Food Ratio should be place a greater emphasis on fats and carbohydrates, since it’s unlikely I will need a 10 oz. steak when I’m about to hit the 20km mark.

Instead I’d rather have a plentiful supply of my two energy-yielding macronutrients: fats and carbohydrates.

  • I Need Quantity AND Quality

It’s not about the quantity you eat, but also the quality.

Research published by the American College of Sports Medicine states that plant-based, “Diets high in unrefined plant foods are associated with beneficial effects on overall health, lifespan, immune function and cardiovascular health.”

But also ask “Whether a vegetarian or vegan diet is beneficial for athletic performance has not yet been defined.”But research from the International Journal of Sports Nutrition & Exercise Metabolism might support this idea.

“Ultra-endurance exercise training places large energy demands on athletes and causes a high turnover of vitamins through sweat losses, metabolism, and the musculoskeletal repair process. Ultra-endurance athletes may not consume sufficient quantities or quality of food in their diet to meet these needs. Consequently, they may use oral vitamin and mineral supplements to maintain their health and performance.” (International Journal of Sports Nutrition & Exercise Metabolism)

And an idea echoed by the International Journal of Sports Nutrition,

“Additionally, micronutrient needs may be altered for these athletes while dietary intake is generally over the Recommended Daily Allowance because of high caloric intake.” (International Journal of Sports Nutrition)

Basically, there should be a massive emphasis on “quality of food”, vitamins and minerals and since generally speaking vegan diets are higher in dietary fibre, vitamin C, iron, magnesium, folic acid, vitamin E and phytochemicals and lower in calories, saturated fat and cholesterol.

It makes logical sense (to me) to compete vegan.

Post Author
Ross Edgley