How powerlifting legend Andy Bolton lost 7 stone without a 'traditional diet' to save his life 3 years ago

How powerlifting legend Andy Bolton lost 7 stone without a 'traditional diet' to save his life

Andy Bolton is one of the strongest men who has ever walked the earth.

He is the first man on the planet to deadlift a 1,000lb bar.

The Yorkshire powerlifter is still the only athlete ever to hold the squat (1214lbs), deadlift (1009lbs) and total (2806lbs) records at the same time.

But this strength legend was stopped in his tracks when doctors told him his kidneys were failing.

Despite being fit and strong, his hulking 165kg frame was considered too large to get him on the transplant list - so he needed to shift some serious weight.

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The first 510kg Squat #wpofinals #andybolton #squatwr

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Like anyone else who has every been on a diet, it was tough going.

But the seven-time world champion started working with sports scientist and nutrition guru Ross Edgley on a plan that has helped him drop more than seven stone since October.

Amazingly the diet has no labels and no strict calorie limits. So we spoke to Ross to find out just how it helped Andy to get in some of the best condition of his life.

What was the situation with Andy?

He has had problems with his health and he needs a transplant. But to get onto the transplant list he needed to get down to 125kg. But he was 165kg – a beast.

A lot of that is muscle. He is naturally a huge dude.

So Andy was getting all these people coming to him because he’s this legend in powerlifting. People were saying ‘do this’ or ‘try carb back loading’ or ‘go completely keto(genic)’, and he was just saying, ‘I can’t, I’m f**ked', or ‘I can’t do this’.

So why were these structured diets not working for him?

The thing with Andy was preaching the Laws of Neutrogenomics – everyone’s nutrition is different. The Law of Biological Individuality – we’re all more different than we are alike.

I always think with the diet plan, 'one size fits all' is a size that fits no-one.

Too many nutritionists and dieticians are just telling people to eat this or eat that at 8pm on the dot.


But I look at: did he have a good night’s sleep? Did he not? What time did he wake up? What’s his appetite like? Did he train yesterday? Was it a big session? As a result what’s his basal metabolic rate today? Is he completely depleted of muscle glycogen.

There are so many factors to consider. But by constantly prescribing things, you can never know. Too many nutritionists, dieticians, and fitness experts want to know the answer because of a Messiah Complex.

They’ll say ‘you need 2,000 calories’ etc without even asking him anything.

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World's Strongest Marathon (Training) --------------------------------------------- The first article is NOW LIVE on @askmen (SEE BIO FOR LINK) :-) Explaining, what, when and why i am pulling a 1,400kg @miniuk Countryman around @silverstonecircuit --------------------------------------------- Just wanted to say a quick (and BIG) thank you to the strength LEGEND that is @andybolton1003 who's helped my back and core strength SO so much! Details around my conditioning and nutrition with @theproteinworks and @niketraining to follow and ALL captured on my new Hero 4's after i kitted every part of the car out with @gopro --------------------------------------------- Lastly, and most importantly, details of the four amazing charities I will be doing the#WorldsStrongestMarathon for to follow too: @[email protected]@childrenwithcanceruk and United Through Sport :-)

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So what approach did you take?

With Andy it was empowering him. Breaking it down and starting by saying, ‘Andy, you need an energy source. Do you like carbs or fats? Because you can use both as an energy source'. Just putting it really simply.

'Do you like avocados, peanut butter, nuts? Or do you like freshly baked bread and cereal?'

The answer was breads and cereals – so the answer was carbs, so it was like, ‘Cool, lets make it predominantly carb-based’.

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Roasted Rainbow Vegetable Salad With Cocoa Nibs.... YES! I am making this & putting my face in it :-) haha Side note: People often ask, "Do I count calories?" My response (as usual is lengthy) :-) .... So, according to research from the Department of Foods and Nutrition at the University of Georgia the, “First known published definition of the calorie (1825) occurred in a Parisian journal called Journal de l'Industrie, des Sciences et des Beaux-Arts.” In it Professor Nicolas Clément-Desormes proposed a theory by which steam engines converted heat into energy for work, but to validate his theory he needed a unit of heat. Therefore his first task when calculating fuel efficiency was to define how much energy is contained in fuels. It was then — when exploring this idea of calorimetry — Clément provided the following definition, “One calorie is the amount of heat needed to elevate by one degree centigrade one kg of water.” Years later and a pioneer of nutrition called Wilbur O. Atwater expanded on Nicolas Clément’s steam-engine-inspired idea of the calorie. According to research from the Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center he applied it to nutrition through, “The systematic chemical analysis of foods” and then introduced it to the mass U.S public in an 1887 article in Century Magazine. Fast forward to the present day and — to quote the Department of Foods and Nutrition — it’s believed, “the calorie of present food labels is similar to the original French definition of 1825.” Which although revolutionary at the time, could now be considered a tad archaic. Basically, Professor Nicolas Clément-Desormes and Wilbur O. Atwater were pioneers of nutrition during the 1800’s. But studies show we need to update and mass broadcast a more advanced nutritional understanding of food. For this reason, i'm calorie conscious but i don't count them.... Why (in summary)? “Each food has a story to tell that’s far more interesting than it’s calorie content. It’s our job to discover those stories.” ― Ross Edgley

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I always say this: In terms of any diet, for anyone who says 'this diet is the best', or 'this is better', the International Journal of Obesity 2008 did a meta study - so a study of thousands of studies.

They wanted to find out the best diet. It was one of the biggest studies across everything to find this blueprint. Out of thousands and thousands of studies by dieticians what they found was weight loss was at its highest in those most adherent.

The diet doesn’t matter, sticking to it does.

So when people talk about Paleo working, ketogenic working for them or carb backloading, stop putting labels on it.

So Andy afterwards, asked what his diet was.

We broke down his macros, his micros and his calorie requirement. We were like, ‘Don’t put a label on it. It’s not Paleo, it’s not carb backloading, it’s just yours mate. It’s just food'.

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Protein Granola with Banana & Natural Yoghurt (post workout) Try to eat nutrient-dense, natural, unprocessed food. Or as our ancestors used to call it, “Food.” ;-) “There is growing awareness that the profound changes in the environment ― diet and other lifestyle conditions ― that began with the introduction of agriculture occurred too recently on an evolutionary time scale for the human genome to adjust. In conjunction with this discordance between our ancient, genetically determined biology and the nutritional, cultural, and activity patterns of contemporary Western populations, many of the so-called diseases of civilization have emerged. In particular, food staples and food-processing procedures introduced during the Neolithic and Industrial Periods have fundamentally altered 7 crucial nutritional characteristics of ancestral hominin diets: 1) Glycemic load, 2) Fatty acid composition, 3) Macronutrient composition, 4) Micronutrient density, 5) Acid-base balance, 6) Sodium-potassium ratio, and 7) Fibre content. The evolutionary collision of our ancient genome with the nutritional qualities of recently introduced foods may underlie many of the chronic diseases of Western civilization. ― The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition #Fitfam #Fitness #Nutrition #Diet #EatClean #Gym #Training #Protein #Nom #Baking #Lunch #FoodPorn #Foodie #Fit #eatclean #eathealthy #cleaneating #healthy #healthyfood #highprotein #healthyeating #food #fitfam #fitspo #follow #fatloss #fitness #fitfamuk #ukfitfam

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This must be quite a strange thing for people to get their heads around.

When people ask what diet I’m on I reply: ‘Just understand how food works’. It’s as simple as that.


It’s having what I call ‘nutritional intuition’, so when you eat something, actually sit there and think, ‘How does that make me feel?’

That is something that we have lost because now everything is just ‘battle cravings’ – but why are you fighting cravings? That is a biological signal to your brain saying, ‘Hey, we’re deficient in something. Something’s not right.’

It might be a chromium deficiency, missing key vitamins or minerals, or you might have just eaten something that sent your blood sugar out of whack.

But you’re told by the media to combat it. But work with it, it’s Mother Nature trying to tell you something.

It was the same with Andy. He was like, ‘I’m feeling a bit tired’. He was being told he needed only so many calories – but for the size of him and the weights he’s shifting in the gym, you can’t possibly survive on that.

You can’t put someone like Andy Bolton in a repetition weights scheme or a calorie macro scheme. It doesn’t work because he’s such a big guy and such an incredible athlete.

If you’re looking at the average man’s calorie intake and going off that saying he needs 2,000 calories, you can’t because Andy’s not the average man.

The only way you can do it is just to empower him.

So how did you go about empowering him to make these changes?

Because he’s such an athlete he knew how to fuel his body for lifting huge weights. But it was about changing his mindset. When he was just training for performance, he would be chugging down on sports drinks before, during and after his workouts.

He was just like flooding his body and showering his insides with sugar and the result is liquid calories.

It had no satiating effect, and on top of that your insulin (the hormone that regulates blood sugar) is going through the roof so your body is suppressing any form of lipolysis that you could be inducing during your workouts and actually burning fat.

Once you actually break that down, he could understand it’s not great chugging down sugary drinks before a workout, and then why he’s no longer buzzing while he's trying to deadlift 1,000lbs.

He understands that his goals have now shifted. That instead of trying to lift the most weight he can, he’s trying to change his body composition.

Once he was empowered, he understood why. Too many people when asked ‘Why are you eating that?’ reply, ‘I don’t know, I was told to'.

But then everything that Andy was eating, he understood why.

I told him to ring if he didn’t understand why he was eating something or how he felt, and we would talk through it. So if he felt a bit tired it would be, 'How many carbs have you had today? What sort of fats? Are you on any stimulants?'


You could then pinpoint exactly why.

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BEETROOT BURGER RECIPE Healthy does not have to be boring! Our beetroot burgers are high protein, low carb and jam packed full of tasty healthy goodness. INGREDIENTS (FOR THE BEEF PATTIES) - 500G BEEF MINCE (LEAN LESS THAN 10% FAT) - 1 MEDIUM RAW BEETROOT (BEETS), PEELED AND GRATED - 1 AND A HALF GARLIC CLOVES, FINELY CHOPPED - 1/2 TBSP FINELY CHOPPED ROSEMARY NEEDLES (ABOUT 2 SPRIGS) - 3/4 TSP SEA SALT - 1/2 TSP GROUND BLACK PEPPER - 1/2 TBSP DRIED OREGANO - COCONUT OIL FOR FRYING PREPARATION METHOD - Combine beef patties ingredients in a large mixing bowl - Work through with your hands until well incorporated. - Roll and mould into small patties - Heat 1 tsp of coconut oil in large frying pan - Cook patties in batches as to not overcrowd the frying pan (I gave them about 3-4 minutes on each side.) - Make sure the heat is not too high as the patties as the natural sugars in the beetroot will start caramelising and can burn quickly, forming a black crust on the patties. - Set aside for a minute or two before serving. Preparation time: 20 minutes. Cooking time: 10 minutes Recipe makes 4 large 125g burgers MACRO BREAKDOWN - Calories - 168 - Protein - 26 - Carbs - 6 - Fat - 3 #foodie #diet #diet #paleo #bbq #foodporn #nomnom #gains #protein #eatclean #recipe #healthy ##fitfam #fitspo #fitfood

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And what about his training?

He was trying semi-fasted cardio which is fine to an extent. But too many days a week and your cortisol (stress hormone) will go through the roof and your immune system is suppressed.

You’re skipping breakfast and then working out so your stress hormone goes through the roof.

People always argue which is better for fat loss: LISS (low impact steady state) or HIIT (high intensity interval training) – but there’s not one better than the other.

Wake up, how do you feel? If you feel good, go out and smash some HIIT and attack some hill sprints. Andy does a lot of sled pulling. If you wake up and you’re a little bit tired, rest your central nervous system. Just go for a swim, a slow, steady jog, or even a walk.

There is no right or wrong answer. But too many people will prescribe, ‘you have to eat this, or you have to train like that’.

If Andy wakes up one day and his immune system is waving the white flag, why would anyone say, 'Go out and do hill sprints’, because you’ll be dead for the rest of the week.

Empowering these athletes means helping them to actually understand themselves.

Did you start to put a plan together for how to bring his weight down? Were there calorie totals or food types you were working around?

Yes. But by plan, we had a fluid blueprint. You have a framework and then you empower Andy, or any athlete, to adapt within it.

I always say, ‘Don’t count calories, but be calorie conscious'. So we had his calorie requirements for the day. Know it and have it in the back of your head, but don’t start counting food labels religiously.

You have to remember Andy is shifting some crazy weights down at the gym, which has a huge effect on your basal metabolic rate and the amount of calories you burn that day and your energy expenditure.

So if his plan says you should be eating X calories, it might actually be Y calories because you’ve gone and lifted a car that day. The same can be said if you’ve done nothing and rested all day, you know that you can’t go crazy and raid the fridge all day.

So we looked at his energy levels. If he was feeling a little bit flat, we’d taper his carbohydrates. If he’d had a load of carbs, but was still hungry, we’d look at different forms of fat like coconut oil or cashew butter where we can trigger leptin levels – sending a message to the brain that we’re full and we’re satiated.


So we have a framework, but we’re always looking at the biological feedback. When he’s hungry we’re asking, ‘What kind of hungry is it?’

If it’s kind of sugary cravings we say, ‘Okay, you’ve got to regulate your blood sugar levels, let’s have some fats'.

If he was feeling flat before a big training session we’d look at adding carbs in. So it was always adapting within the framework.

So you were not looking at a definite macronutrient balance?

We were kind of, but it was just so adaptive. You need some framework, because to go ahead with no planning is just suicide.

It was just adapting and being so honest with yourself. Too many people are like, 'Oh, I need a cheat meal’ – but do you need it? Really?

But there are times. Andy’s shoulder and back workouts are obscene, and so after that, if you want to chow down on clean, wholemeal pasta and chicken, you can do that guilt-free knowing that your body is using every ounce of that to restore muscle glycogen, induce protein synthesis, and kick-start the whole recovery process.

But if you’ve slacked on your session and it was pretty much a Pilates workout, then you know you can’t go and attack a Nando's or whatever.

What kind of calorie levels was Andy on? And what macro balance were you working around?

It had to be lower in protein, because of his kidneys. With strength and endurance athletes for recovery you’re normally looking around 1.7g of protein per kg of bodyweight.

But with Andy, it was a little bit different. It was working off what we had for protein and then adapting the carbs and fats around that.

Because his workouts are so crazy – I don’t want to use the term cycling – but everything is some kind of carb or calories cycling, so some days it was high and other days it was low.

So compared to how he was eating before, what were the major changes in his diet?

Timing was a big change. Before it was devoid of any nutrient timing. He would eat and lift and just be crazy strong. That was it. Fuel – that’s all that food was. ‘I’ve got training tonight, I’ve got to eat because I’m going to put up a massive deadlift’ - that was all that it was.

A lot of it was clean food, to be fair, but there was just a lot of it and it was devoid of any body composition.

But now food is seen as a tool for body composition. He adapted pretty well and pretty quickly.

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World's Strongest Marathon (Photoshoot) --------------------------------------------- BOOM! Photoshoot with @miniuk at @tattonpark (my favourite place in Cheshire) Also it's now official, DATE: Friday 22nd January! More details to follow including location. My newly announced involvement with @teamsportsaid and #SupportTheNext @niketraining My nutrition with @theproteinworks for the stunt and the videos captured on my @gopro Hero 4's as part of their #BeHero campaign and much, much more :-) --------------------------------------------- BIG "thank you" to everyone who's "liked" or commented, honestly your support has made training over winter that much more bearable :-) Hugely appreciate it!!! #WorldsStrongestMarathon

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Like me, if I’m training for a photoshoot my nutrition is completely different from when I’m going to do a marathon pulling a car, like an idiot.

Training and eating for function is completely different than training and eating for aesthetics. If you want abs, then eat for abs.

If you want a decent 10k time or you want to deadlift 1,000lbs, then you’ve got to eat and train very differently.

So has his training changed a lot?

It’s still very much the same with his powerlifting training. Short rep ranges, speed and emphasis on sheer weight. But it’s looking at that with this additional work capacity.

Supplementary cardio and conditioning features too. With things like sled pulls on his semi-fasted cardio, his conditioning is so much better. Whereas before that Andy was purely designed to lift heavy sh*t, once, very quickly.

Has it been just a case of playing around with what he eats, how much and when he eats it, than to bring his weight down?

Exactly. It’s been so easy. Sometimes when you’re giving a diet plan to someone who’s completely sedentary, you’ve got to try and create a calorie deficit somehow. We’ve got to look at their energy balance because they’re just sitting on the sofa, all day, every day.

But with someone like Andy it’s so much easier because he’s completely depleting muscle glycogen every workout, his basal metabolic rate is through the roof, and there’s all this biochemistry going on inside his body that’s favourable to losing weight.

So it’s exactly that: keeping doing what he’s been doing for so long, and with his giant frame just tinker with his nutrition and the weight just falls off.

It’s testament to Andy.

What can people learn from this?

Going back to that point: ‘Weight loss is highest in those most adherent’ – diet doesn’t matter, sticking to it does.

Enjoyment is one of the most overlooked aspects of nutrition. The ability to just enjoy and stick to a way of life of eating. Too many nutritionists will argue about the calorie content and the macro/micro nutrient content of last week’s burger.

Enjoyment is key. If you can enjoy it, then you can stick to it, and then objectively you are going to be more successful.

Secondly don’t try and label anything. It’s just food. It’s just nutrition. When we were cavemen we just intuitively understood food. Now we put calories and labels on everything on things to make us feel better and understand our food.


The best thing you can do is intuitively eat - ‘I just understand food and I understand how it makes me feel’ - and how to react to cravings and what your body needs.

Then thirdly, what Andy did, once you’ve got all this, is just conviction.

Too many people will be in the gym and they’re like, ‘I’m training to be strong, then I’m going to run a marathon but then I want to look good on the beach’. I’m like, 'Pick one specifically and do it’. Think about your primary goal.

With Andy, he’s been training to be the strongest man in the world and he did it very well. But like a switch he had to think he can’t have an ego about what he lifts in the gym because it’s now all about his health and getting a transplant. He knew he had to start eating and training for that now.

He is a different guy now. He’s down to 119kg now. He’s obviously not going to be deadlifting 1,000lbs any more, but his power-to-weight ratio is scary now.

So now, after his transplant, he’s talking about tearing up some of the lighter divisions, like the under 120kgs. His muscle memory - and what he did at 165kg - coupled with his new conditioning means it will be crazy to see what he will be able to do.