“I wouldn’t advocate a 6,000-calorie diet,” Melanie Wilkinson, nutritionist at The Body Lab, told me via Zoom as we prepared for a week of doing just that.
Feels like a warning. In the next seven days of his life, my calorie count reaches such a huge height. He’s just under three times the recommended daily intake for an adult man, and contains a unit of measure that can only be described as a “bucket load.” ‘ and ‘This goes far beyond what the average person needs’.
But the diet person I emulate isn’t exactly what you would call normal. Many would argue that they are some sort of futuristic AI machine sent by the gods into the past to wreak havoc on defenses around the world. Statistics certainly seem to support that theory, as he has scored a staggering 138 goals in just 133 appearances for his club since 2018.
And his seemingly insatiable appetite for goals is matched only by a seemingly insatiable appetite for actual food. In the Norwegian documentary Haaland: The Big Decision, released in 2022, in which he reportedly can burn 6,000 calories in a day, Forward said, in his own words, “Other people eat less. Don’t.” Calf liver, beef heart and filtered water all stand out on the menu for this amazing once-in-a-generation phenomenon.
But expanding my culinary palate and feeling more than a little full was the least of my worries.
“A drastic change in diet can cause a number of symptoms,” adds Melanie. are sleep disturbances, digestive changes, and possible heartburn.”
It’s not the “suddenly I’ll be able to achieve my goals for fun and confidently wear my pajamas to restaurants” prognosis I was hoping for.
And after devouring porridge, pasta, protein shakes, chicken, and 32-piece sushi, the sluggishness quickly became an overwhelming sensation. And it was only the first day.
Before the experiment, I wasn’t entirely sure what 6,000 calories actually looked like. I drew it as something similar to the character in the sketch of the restaurant in .
So when I found out I had reached that level in less than two days, the novelty of cleaning up six meals in 12 hours and bragging to my friends how an elite athlete dieted was obviously skinny.
And just as Melanie predicted, I struggled to get a decent night’s sleep the first few nights. The idea of quickly pushing down large portions of , granola, nuts and berries became increasingly difficult.
But by the time Wednesday rolled around, things had started to go surprisingly well. Perhaps thanks to what Calum Sharma, head of exercise science at The Body Lab, describes as “a surplus of energy,” I started to feel more energized and even a little stronger.
Callum, who previously worked for AFC Wimbledon and the Saracens RFC, admitted that a 6,000-calorie diet in team sports is not unheard of, but “it’s a lot, even for professional footballers,” adding, “Rugby union props. Look at those numbers in your diet.
At this point, I decided it would be wise to have an exercise regime, so I hid in the dark, running in the streets near my house and limping with difficulty.
Thursday needed more motivation. It was Harland’s signature liver and heart day. Guts joke, but I found it was actually quite tasty when served with bacon, potatoes and roasted vegetables.
And nutritional benefits come as little surprise to the folks at The Body Lab to see such items featured so prominently in the Norwegian diet.
“These foods are rich in iron, which is associated with oxygen-carrying capacity,” explains Melanie.
“Although offal is high in cholesterol, it is a highly nutritious, micronutrient-rich food. It is also a bioavailable protein and has an excellent amino acid profile.”
That’s not to say that more processed products don’t have a place in Harland’s life. It is proof that you are human.
I’ll admit that ordering a doner kebab that I’ve never yelled Mr. Brightside while soaking in Jagermeister at 3am on a nightclub dance floor was an experience I’ve never had before.
Equally unfamiliar was layering it on top of a pizza and wolfing the whole thing down with a protein shake.
My Erling experiment didn’t have a fairytale ending. Not Pep Guardiola’s phone number, but 6 kilos fatter. A new appreciation for the time between meals instead of the six-figure deal.
Still, he wants to know if experts believe this kind of high-calorie, nutritious diet will be the future for budding footballers hoping to follow in Man City’s No. 9 footsteps. I was thinking
“There is no one-size-fits-all approach, as it is very individual-dependent,” explains Melanie.
“Football players may perform genetic analysis before evaluating their preferred food sources. There is also a growing body of research on the role of the gut microbiome in health and performance.”
Calum adds: Diets are now tailored to each individual, taking into account so many variables.
“Now we know that calories don’t always equate to things like muscle gain. It’s how it works on a cellular level.
“Everyone is different. He’s in great shape, so there’s no doubt something is working for him.”
I think I’ll stick to just 2,000 calories a day for now.
protein powders and bars offered by myprotein
Other groceries offered by Aldi
Weight before experiment: 76.8kg
Weight after experiment: 83.8kg
Breakfast – 200g porridge oats with semi-skimmed milk and honey (1080kcal)
Snack – 2 grilled chicken breast sandwiches (926kcal)
Lunch – 32 pieces of sushi (1286kcal)
Snack – Protein Shake (350kcal)
Dinner – Two chicken breasts and pasta (1002kcal)
Snack – 200g granola and Greek yogurt (1330kcal)
Total calories for the day = 5,974 kcal
Breakfast – 4 slices of whole grain bread and 100g of peanut butter (994kcal)
Snacks – 200g granola, blueberries, bananas, 200g Greek yogurt with almonds (920kcal)
Lunch – Two turkey burgers on a bagel (930kcal)
Snack – Protein Bar (350kcal)
Dinner – 500g grilled salmon, 400g rice, roasted vegetables, protein shake (1920kcal)
Snack – 80g almonds, protein bar, 2 apples, 1 banana (1030kcal)
Total calories for the day = 6,144 kcal
Breakfast – 3 scrambled eggs, 4 slices of bacon, 1 large avocado, 2 slices of whole grain toast, butter (1120kcal)
Snacks – oat and berry smoothies and protein bars (700kcal)
Lunch – Two ham bagels and a protein shake (1200kcal)
Snack – 800g of lentil soup and 2 slices of whole grain bread (600kcal)
Dinner – 4x chicken wraps (965kcal)
Snack – 200g granola, 200g Greek yogurt, 1 apple and protein shake (1260kcal)
Snack – 2 slices of whole grain toast with peanut butter (300kcal)
Total calories for the day = 6,145 kcal
Breakfast – 4 pancakes, 1 banana, 100g Greek yogurt (965kcal)
Snack – 3 scrambled eggs and 2 large avocados on toast (1100kcal)
Lunch – 200g veal liver, 300g rice, vegetables (735kcal)
Snacks – oat and peanut butter smoothies and protein bars (1250kcal)
Dinner – 200g beef heart, 300g pasta and vegetables (870kcal)
Snacks – 4 25g packs of beef jerky, 1 bagel with 120g peanut butter (1259kcal)
Total calories for the day = 6,179 kcal
Breakfast – 3 spinach and oat egg omelets and a summer fruit smoothie (850kcal)
Snack – 2 medium avocados on toast, 1 chicken breast (750kcal)
Lunch – 2 chicken breasts and 300g sweet potato mash (730kcal)
Snack – 2 apples and 50g peanut butter (411 calories)
Dinner – Beef Lasagna (2500kcal)
Snack – 200g Greek yogurt, 50g almonds (900kcal)
Total calories for the day = 6,141 kcal
Breakfast – 4 pancakes with 100g granola and fruit (1000kcal)
Snack – Protein Shake (350kcal)
Lunch – 500g minced turkey, 200g pasta (800kcal)
Snack – 120g granola and 200ml semi-skimmed milk (550kcal)
Dinner Sweet and sour chicken egg over rice (2500kcal)
Snack – 3 slices of whole grain toast, 2 bananas, 100 g peanut butter (1004kcal)
Total calories for the day = 6,204 kcal
Breakfast – 120g of granola and 200ml of semi-skimmed milk (550kcal)
Snack – oat and fruit smoothie, almonds 50g (600kcal)
Lunch – 200g mackerel fillet and 200g rice (930kcal)
Snack – 400g of minestrone soup and 2 slices of whole grain bread (400kcal)
Dinner – a large pizza with a large doner kebab (3130kcal)
Snack – 3 boiled eggs and a protein shake (600kcal)
Total calories for the day = 6,210 kcal
Total calories for the week = 42,997 kcal