Irish prop explains just how hard it is to consume 5,000 calories per day
Denis Buckley is listed on the Connacht Rugby website as being 109kg (17st 1lb) but he is currently a kilo or two short of that.
The loosehead prop, who was in training with Ireland's World Cup squad last month, is well into his preparations for 2015/16.
He covered for the rehabbing Cian Healy in training with the squad but only injury misfortune to the likes of Jack McGrath or Dave Kilcoyne will see him travel to that tournament.
For Buckley, his focus is on getting himself in prime condition for the start of Connacht's season.
We spoke with him at a Mazda brand ambassador announcement in Galway this week. To get in prime condition, Buckley needs to put on some more timber.
Modern rugby is all about being lean and mean. Have you got a more, ahem, athletic build from when you first started?
No. I have put on a good bit of weight in the last while. A couple of seasons ago, I was a little too light so that was my focus - to put a bit of weight on. It definitely helped improve my game as I was a few kilos short of going really well at this level. We committed to doing it, I put the weight on and it helped a lot.
How do you keep up that necessary speed while building up weight?
With the strength and conditioning guys in here, now, I actually find that when you are gaining weight, you are also building muscle mass. That improved my speed and fitness scores. They both went up. You're faster and more explosive.
How do you fuel this weight gain?
You have to increase your calorie intake as you are burning so much, working out. You then need to be taking on 500 to 1,000 more calories than you are using up, so that you can put on weight. That way, you can build up that muscle mass. You need a big calorie surplus to be gaining weight. [Connacht head of Fitness] Paul Bunce and Marcus Shortall [Performance Nutrionist] are great for working towards that.
At the moment, because I am trying to put on that weight, I am up on over 5,000 calories a day* and have been quite strict on it for the last number of weeks. I'm recording exactly what I am eating so I'm hitting all my targets each day. I'm on quite a high amount of carbs and proteins. If my carbs are high, I'd reduce the fats a little or vice versa.
[*Note: The average calorie intake for Irish men is 2,000-2,500]
Can you have a down day?
At the moment, because I am trying to chase a few kilos, it is tough to have a down day where you switch off. I would [then] find that I'm light the next day and am having to catch up for the next two or three.
Having to gain weight is not an everyday dilemma for most Irish people? Do you find you get little sympathy from friends and family?
The way things are going nowadays, everyone is into their fitness a bit more. Even people that don't play sport are going to the gym a lot more, and looking after their diets. It's not as bad as that but sometimes you pull out a lunchbox full of cold leftovers and they are asking, "Aw, why are you eating that?"
It sounds a bit more enjoyable than it actually is. You get a bit sick of it; trying to force-feed yourself a bit. It will hopefully help you power through pre-season a bit and you will get good results out of it.