Thunder Bay

'Bit by the iron bug:' Thunder Bay man eats 6,000 calories daily for strongman competition

With the holidays over and the new year around the corner, many people will undoubtedly think of some New Year's resolutions and goals to achieve. For one man in Thunder Bay, Ont., that means eating close to 6,000 calories a day and lifting weights as heavy as he can to become one of the strongest men in the world.

Ben Thompson started competing in strongman in 2007

Thunder Bay strongman competitor Ben Thompson said he trains every second day for about two and half hours at home. (Ben Thompson / Facebook)

With the holidays over and the new year around the corner, many people will undoubtedly think of some New Year's resolutions and goals to achieve.

For one man in Thunder Bay, Ont., that means eating close to 6,000 calories daily and lifting weights as heavy as he can, to become one of the strongest men in the world.

"I've been doing strongman since 2007 ... I started in the true amateur ranks and I've worked my way up over the years to compete in the higher level shows now and it's taken me all around the world," Ben Thompson told CBC News.

Caught by what he calls the "iron bug" at the age of 17, Thompson said he started training to become a strongman athlete after the "guys at the gym, wouldn't leave [him] alone."

"We always say in strongman that you got bit by the iron bug, so once you do it once, now you're hooked and that's exactly what happened to me," Thompson explained, adding that he's now competed in a total of 50 to 60 competitions, which is anywhere between two to nine shows a year.

Ben Thompson is training for an upcoming world championship on June 15 in Australia. (Ben Thompson / Facebook)

Thompson has been training for the past several months for an upcoming world competition in June.

"The show is on June 15, it's going to be in Carrara, Australia and they've invited the top 10 from the qualifying round to the world championships," he said.

Thompson competed in a regional competition in October, completing a log press with 360 pounds of weight and a 975 pound axle deadlift, placing third out of 370 athletes worldwide.

"It takes a long time to get strong," Thompson explained, which is why training for competitions starts months in advance so athletes have a chance to "build up."

Thompson is currently training every second day for about two and a half hours and he said he's split up the workouts into four: overhead press day, bench press day, squatting day and deadlift day.

"Usually our deadlift day is our hardest day and that could be up to 20 sets of handling up to 800 pounds in your hands, so by the time you're done, you're ready for bed," he said.

In addition to the physical training, Thompson also has to make sure his body is replenished with enough food and nutrition to be able to lift as heavy as he does.

"You have to eat a lot," he said. "Usually it'll be about seven meals."

"So I'll wake up in the morning before I head to work, I'll have a nice big glass of juice, maybe some lactose free milk, and maybe a box of granola bars and then I'll go to work ... and try to scoop up something from the cafeteria."

Ben Thompson said he eats about 6,000 calories a day, which equals roughly seven meals. (Ben Thompson / Facebook)

After his first breakfast at home, Thompson said he'll usually grab a chicken wrap as "just a little snack," a double meat, double cheese sandwich for lunch with a litre of juice, another snack in the afternoon and then a big plate of pasta with meat for dinner with a bread roll on the side.

During his training days, Thompson said he'll also add an "intra-workout meal," which is strictly sugar — like gummy bears — and after his workout he'll also add two more 1,000 calorie meals before bed.

"A lot of times, I won't go to bed until I eat them," He said. "I'll eat until I'm full [and] then later on, I'll come back to finish it off because it's important."

He said that "without it, there's really no way to get to the heaviest weight."

Despite his large daily calorie intake, Thompson is still an athlete who is training for a tough competition, which means he still has to watch what he eats and be mindful of the amount of protein, carbohydrates and fat that are in his meals.

"I think it's about a thousand bucks a month just for me to eat, never mind my wife and daughter."

He said without his wife's support and her help cooking him his daily meals, "it would be undoable."

"A lot of the better guys say that without someone else in their corner, it does not happen," he said. "I'm just so hungry to find out exactly ... how strong I can get and I'm going to see that through."

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