438kg giants are monsters among men
After a five-hour workout spent pulling a 25-tonne truck, Pa O'Dwyer, 33, tucks into a horse steak, washing it down with some raw eggs. This is what it takes to be the UK's Strongest Man.
He bagged the crown in December 2018 but this weekend sees another raft of hopefuls competing in the Europe's Strongest Man competition in Leeds in northern England, which is part of the World's Strongest Man Qualifying Tour, The Sun reports.
O'Dwyer is just one of 16 men who compete every year for the title of UK's strongest man. The Sun has spoken to three of the UK's strongest men - with a combined weight of 438kg - about mammoth diets, sex bans and car flips all competitors need to practice.
PA O'DWYER: LIMERICK LION WHO DOWNS RAW EGGS FOR BREAKFAST
Home town: Limerick, Ireland
Lifts: Heaviest is 500kg
Having grown up on a farm in rural Ireland, O'Dwyer knew how to lift heavy objects as soon as he could walk - so when he saw an advert for a local Strongman competition 12 years ago, he jokingly entered.
"I ended up coming third and I fell in love with it," the 33-year-old said. "Ever since then I've been at it."
Standing 1.88m and weighing a mammoth 146kg, the UK's Strongest Man is the first Irishman in the contest's 25-year history to win the title.
"Winning is partly down to diet - and before competition I can devour 10,000 calories a day," he said. "That's seven or eight meals a day and snacks in between. I've forgotten what it feels like to be hungry."
To put that in perspective, an average man would need to consume around 2500 calories a day to maintain their weight.
Some of O'Dwyer's meals are pretty unorthodox too.
"I eat horse meat regularly which has less fat and more protein, and I drink raw eggs for breakfast," he explained. "I do four heavy-lifting training sessions a week, each for around five hours.
"It's mainly in the gym, even when I practice truck pulling. I use big tyres for that instead - mostly because I don't have my own truck!
"I do use real cars though."
Known as the Limerick Lion thanks to the signature roar he lets out before competition, O'Dwyer is hoping to nab the title for a second time this year.
He said: "I don't really have any rivals, but I do always give the guy I'm up against some tough talk before we start - getting in their heads and saying I'm going to beat them - though I'm no Conor McGregor."
GAVIN BILTON: THE 'BULL' WHOSE WIFE MAKES HIM EIGHT MEALS A DAY
Home town: Caerphilly, Wales
Gavin Bilton, an ex-Premiership Rugby player and soldier, came across Strongman in a personal training session and was instantly hooked.
At 1.98m and weighing 165kg, Gavin is the Welsh Strongman titleholder thanks to a 370kg lift - that's roughly the weight of a racehorse.
"My wife cooks all of my meals because I have to eat at least seven or eight times a day," he said. "It all adds up to about 8000 calories so I just have to graze on steak, pasta, chicken and more.
"I'm still a serving soldier so I need help with the preparation. It's not because I'm a big, old school guy who tells her she belongs in the kitchen."
"The Bull" trains six days a week, weaving in lifting sessions and Strongman events, pulling trucks at a local hire station and tipping cars lent to him from friends, as well as bike riding and rowing.
"The gym I go to is totally on board with all the strongman stuff, so they have equipment for lifting all the cars," he said. "In fact, even the people who work there are sometimes willing to let me push, pull and lift their cars.
"And the events where you're dragging a car or carrying a dumbbell are my favourite as it reminds me of rugby - and I've had fewer injuries doing this than in the Premiership."
Gavin insists that there's no rivalry in the competition.
"Even though I'm big, I'm just friendly to everyone and I never use my size to do anything bad. Strongmen just briefly turn into animals and then calm down when the hard work is done," he said.
Now gaining fame for his strength, the 30-year-old is looking to take the Strongman title within the next five years with the help of his fanbase, dedicated wife Gemma and family.
Bilton added: "I was in Greggs (a bakery chain) recently and someone recognised me from off the TV which was amazing. I love talking to and giving back to all my fans, because if you start out your career as a tit, you'll probably end as one too."
PAUL BENTON: BAD BOY WHO ENFORCES SEX BAN
Home town: Laurencekirk, Scotland
Lifts: Can deadlift 385kg
Nicknamed the "Bad Boy", Paul Benton was always bigger than everyone else at his gym - and he quickly caught the bug after signing up for a Scottish Strongman competition in 2014.
"I got addicted to the training," he says. "And now I'm 20 (127kg) stone and can deadlift 385kg of weights. I'm looking to hit the 400 mark this year - roughly the weight of a grand piano."
Benton's tried many tricks of the trade, including various diets and even enforcing a sex ban for the weeks leading up to a contest.
"Up until last year I did the whole no sex thing before competing - but now I just try and keep my life steady throughout the year so I'm not stressed come competition season," he said.
Benton pulls his friend's truck in a local concrete yard when training for an event - and substitutes flipping cars for tyres to save clearing up the mess.
"It is not easy to find someone with a truck who is willing to let you drag it around - let alone a 100m flat piece of land to pull it on," he laughed.
If a truck as part of your equipment list isn't strange enough, Benton has a specially-built metal sword for practising his Strongman exercises, as well as a traditional kilt only to be worn at competitions.
"I got the sword made for practising lifting exercises. It's the weight of a big cement bag," he said. "And my 'war cloth' kilt comes with me everywhere - it helps me mean business. But I always wear shorts underneath!"
Benton's diet is smaller than that of other competitors at around 6000 calories a day.
"Horse meat isn't the one for me - I much prefer grass-fed Buffalo and instead of cow's milk I'll have sheep's," he added.
The 1.95m Scotsman has his own gym near his home, complete with a jacuzzi and an ice-water bath, where he jokes he is trained by his "coach" Leo - his Labrador, who even has his own set of dog-friendly kettle-bells.
This article originally appeared on The Sun and was reproduced with permission