Tuesday, May 25, 2010

How do you stay so un-slim?

Because of the size of the sumo wrestler, I would think that the men eat better than pretty much anyone else in the country. When I lived in Japan, I almost never saw anyone overweight. In fact, I think I lost about 30 pounds while I lived there myself, possibly because I had to ride a bike everywhere for 18 months and didn't have a lot of time to sit around and eat brownies and ice cream like I do nowadays.

But sumo wrestlers are definitely the exception, as everyone knows. So, how do they do it? What's their "weight gain secret?"

(Ha ha, I have to say, wouldn't that just be the most shocking headline on a magazine cover as you stand in line at the grocery store?)

How do they stay so un-trim? They eat a heavy stew every day. It's called chanko nabe. It is made of vegetables and meats, including eggs and seafood. Having lived there, I will just bet a bunch of soybeans get in there in some form or other. Here are a couple of possible versions.

There is no set recipe, but during tournaments, they supposedly only serve it with chicken, because a chicken goes about on two legs just as a sumo rikishi should, not on all fours as with beef cattle, etc. They cook the chicken with the skin still on it for an extra calorie punch.

The food itself isn't that fattening. Yeah, there's protein and a little fat, but it's soup. The key is portion control, and I mean BIG portions. Quantity is key. They serve it with rice to amp it up, too, and the guys pair it all with lots of beer. So, yes, in a way, they are beer bellies they are sporting, hanging over that diaper.

Strangely to me, the guys skip the most important meal of the day. Breakfast. Then they go hog wild on lunch and then take a long nap. Siesta to let all that food settle into them. Makes me never want to skip breakfast again.

One thing I've heard is that most of the champs didn't start out really heavy. They started out strong and with excellent balance. Then, as they joined sumo and advanced, they put on weight during their career. Balance is the main asset, and then weight. But who can deny that in a shoving match a guy who weighs 450+ pounds is going to have an advantage over a guy 130 pounds dripping wet, no matter how good the little guy's balance?

The neighborhood in Tokyo where the Kokugikan is located is called Ryogoku. It's the sumo epicenter (of the world, right?) and supposedly the best place to go if you want to try a steaming bowl of chanko nabe yourself. Restaurants serve it steaming hot, and it's possible to get a glimpse of a favorite rikishi.

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