Are Sumo Wrestlers Healthy? All You Need To Know

Sumo wrestling is commonly practiced in Japan as a professional sport. Despite this, people are curious about it. Sumo wrestling is entirely different from normal wrestling because wrestlers of this type weigh much more than normal wrestlers. In Japan, it is popular in martial arts because it includes some Japanese rituals.

So, one may ask, are sumo wrestlers healthy?

Sumo wrestlers seem to be unhealthy because of their bulky physique. But actually, they don’t have any health issues. The bulky physique is due to the consumption of large amounts of calories per day by sumo wrestlers. These calories are not from a fatty meal, but from chankonabe, which is the main diet of sumo wrestlers and is perfectly healthy.

For more information, read on.

Why Sumo Wrestlers Are Not Unhealthy Despite Having Bulky Physique?

Due to their bulky physique and obesity, many people believe sumo wrestlers are unhealthy. Sumo wrestlers are often assumed to suffer from health problems due to their obesity. The reality is that sumo wrestlers have no health issues. 

are-sumo-wrestlers-healthy

The first thing you need to know is that obesity is caused by fat storage in the body. But not all types of fat storage are harmful. If the fats are stored in the body as visceral fat, health complications can arise. In visceral fat storage, fat is deposited around the internal organs, most commonly in the abdomen. When fat accumulates around the organs, it interferes with their normal function, leading to health complications.

But the bulky physique of sumo wrestlers is not due to the accumulation of visceral fat in the body. This fat accumulation is due to the consumption of numerous calories per day. Around 7000 – 10000 calories are consumed by a sumo wrestler per day, mostly during lunch.

You can say a sumo wrestler’s calories per day is three to four times greater than a normal adult man’s requirement, These calories come from chankonabe or sumo stew, which is the most common and nutritious diet given to sumo wrestlers. Chankonabe is a Japanese diet specially made for sumo wrestlers, including a bulk amount of protein, many vegetables, and also chicken broths in it.

Chankonabe gives many calories to a sumo wrestler naturally, so it is clear that the source of calories is not a fatty meal.

The calories that come from chankonabe and any other diet of sumo wrestlers do not accumulate around organs within the abdomen. Rather, these fats are stored under the skin. The fat stored under the skin cannot cause any health complications.

Secondly, the sumo wrestlers’ diet contains much less sugar, and thirdly, the tough training and exercise of a sumo wrestler prevent visceral fat from accumulating in the abdomen. 

As a result of sumo wrestlers’ training, adiponectin is secreted.

This hormone monitors the levels of insulin in the blood and does not allow glucose and fat to increase in the bloodstream. Instead, this fat accumulates under the skin, or you could say that it accumulates in the peripheral area.

There are no serious health complications associated with fat accumulation in the periphery. Instead, it prevents the accumulation of blood glucose and fat, which otherwise can lead to metabolic diseases, including diabetes.

Now, it is clear that the bulky physique of a sumo wrestler is not the reason for any kind of unhealthy condition.

What Is The Diet of a Sumo Wrestler?

As discussed earlier, chankonabe or sumo wrestler stew is the main diet of sumo wrestlers. Many other supplementary diets are also included in the sumo wrestler diet plan including noodles, rice, and chicken. Chicken is usually taken on the days of special matches and ritually considered as a sign of good luck by sumo wrestlers.

diet-of-a-sumo-wrestler

Along with these diets, beer is also taken by sumo wrestlers, as it is a popular drink in Japan. Water is needed for proper hydration of the body during and after wrestling. Sometimes, water can be replaced with green tea and often with beer, as these drinks give a taste that water can’t do. Consumption of beer can cause health problems later. 

Sumo wrestler diet plan infographic

Routine of Sumo Wrestlers

Many people ask, what do sumo wrestlers eat? Diet and training are the two main factors in a sumo wrestler daily routine. A sumo wrestler’s diet consists of only lunch and dinner. They don’t have breakfast. Sumo wrestlers wake up at around 5 a.m. and start their daily training.

After long wrestling practice, they have a lunch break. Lunch is the main diet of sumo wrestlers and is heavily packed with nutrients. Then they have an afternoon nap, for about 4 to 5 hours. This nap right after lunch causes the calories consumed by the wrestlers to accumulate in the body in the form of fat. But this afternoon nap break is a crucial part of the sumo wrestlers’ training.

As a result, there is a need for some rest after wrestling training starts too early in the morning.

Sumo Training

You may have a question in your mind, how do sumo wrestlers train? Actually, the sumo hierarchy has different training regimes for people at various ranks. In the top sumo wrestling league, most wrestlers train daily all year round. Most intense training takes place in the morning.

The first thing that wrestlers do in the morning is to strengthen their legs. Having strong legs also helps wrestlers to gain better balance as well as improve their core strength. Wrestlers need to practice balance exercises. A player who hits the sand with any part of their body (other than their feet) will lose the match. Sumo training exercises that are also included in sumo training, as listed below:

Butsukari-geiko: 

Sumo wrestlers slam their body weight against one another to develop core stability. During matches, this push technique is used to force a competitor out of the ring. Punches and pushes between wrestlers are part of the practice. During the start of the match, the wrestler spread dirt around the ring center. The process ends once all practice has been completed.

Matawari:

Sumo wrestlers have to be incredibly flexible, and these flexibility exercises help develop flexibility in the lower body especially.

Moshiai:

During training, the next thing you will see is a series of practice matches called a moshiai. A winner is selected from each match.

Teppo:

During this exercise, you would repeatedly strike an object or training partner with your open hand. In a ring, this exercise teaches you the art of moving an opponent without losing your balance. This can take many hours of practice

Shiko:

In sumo wrestling, the shiko is the move during the beginning of a match in which the wrestlers lift their legs and then slam them back down on the ground. It improves lower body strength and improves balance. 

What Long-Term Effects Do Sumo Diets Have? Are Sumo Wrestlers Healthy?

Even though sumo wrestlers consume a lot of calories during their practice, they do not suffer side effects due to the sumo diet. This is because proper training and tough exercise keep their bodies healthy despite heavy calorie consumption. But after retiring from wrestling, this overconsumption can cause many side effects.

As discussed earlier, sumo wrestlers are used to taking 7000-10000 calories per day. This amount can easily be absorbed during the training session. Sumo wrestlers are unable to absorb calories after retirement. For wrestlers, changing their diet after retirement can also be difficult because their bodies become accustomed to the diet, and they exercise every day.

So, when wrestlers stop their training after spending a long period of their time in wrestling, this stoppage causes many side effects. At this point in life, they can suffer from several diseases that typically occur due to obesity, including heart diseases.

Additionally, retired wrestlers have excessive alcohol consumption during their training and working sessions that can badly affect their lives after retirement.

Liver diseases and joint problems including arthritis are more likely to occur after the retirement of a sumo wrestler. So, sumo wrestlers have to work hard to control their diet after retirement, so that they can prevent themselves from different health complications.

Some confirmation of health risks due to heavy diet was confirmed by doctors in Japan when they noticed the death of a young wrestler named Shobushi from Covid-19. Doctors noticed that this young sumo wrestler was suffering from numerous health complications in addition to Covid-19

Can Diet of Sumo Wrestlers Cause Complications?

Although the heavy diet of a sumo wrestler can easily be managed during training sessions. But in addition to training, many other precautions are needed by wrestlers to maintain their health. Wrestlers are under intense pressure to grow and have a tendency to eat high-calorie foods to meet this need. But their diet can cause health issues later, as discussed above.

To deal with this issue, a set of health guidelines has been issued by the Japanese Sumo Association. This set of guidelines include:

  • Bulking up by eating fish and vegetables rather than meat.
  • Ensure that food is chewed properly.
  • Consume fewer unhealthy, calorie-rich foods.

FAQs

Question: Are sumo wrestlers morbidly obese?

Answer: It seems that sumo wrestlers are bulky. Their physiques can be attributed to a high-calorie intake. However, there is one important point to note: these calories do not accumulate in the body as visceral fat, which is the main cause of obesity-related diseases. Instead, these calories are stored in peripheral areas, such as under the skin. So, as long as the wrestler maintains his training, this bulky physique does not cause any disease. However, it may cause health complications in the future.

Question: Are sumo wrestlers unhealthy?

Answer: As we discussed earlier, sumo wrestlers are not unhealthy. Sumo wrestlers are often thought to have a variety of health problems because they are obese. However, obesity does not pose a health risk to sumo wrestlers if they maintain their training.

Question: How do sumo wrestlers gain weight?

Answer: Due to a high-calorie intake per day, sumo wrestlers gain a lot of weight. It is estimated that sumo wrestlers consume three to four times more calories per day than the average adult male. When a sumo wrestler consumes too many calories, fat accumulates under the skin, causing him to appear fat and obese.

Conclusion:

So the answer to the question, are sumo wrestlers healthy, is yes. The sumo wrestler does not have any health issues despite his bulky physique. This is because obesity has nothing to do with visceral fat accumulation, but rather with periphery fat storage. Secondly, despite the high-calorie intake, sumo wrestlers train hard to stay fit. This can lead to health problems in the future, though.

Dr. Rimita Farid

Dr. Rimita Farid

Hi this is Dr. Rimita Farid. I have completed my MBBS from MAHSA University in Kuala Lampur , Malaysia and currently a registered doctor in Bangladesh. I am training in Dermatology and Venerology and writing for me has been a hobby, even before i decided to be a doctor. I believe our lives are getting stressful with every moment and i believe writing is the solution to all our problems. The power of pen and paper is highly underestimated by many, and i am blessed that i realized how stimulating writing can be for my well being. Hope my articles are relatable and can reach as many readers as possible.

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