tom stoltman

Protein and powerlifting: Tom Stoltman on what it takes to be the World’s Strongest Man

21 Mar 2023 | |By Annie Lewis

Ahead of the 2023 World’s Strongest Man competition, the current champion tells us about living with autism, the importance of routine and being part of the sport’s biggest bromance

A breakfast of eight eggs, a large bowl of porridge and a loaf of bread before deadlifting 400 kg might sound like an extreme morning routine to most, but for World’s Strongest Man Tom Stoltman, this is an everyday reality. Alongside his brother Luke, who became Europe’s Strongest Man in 2021, the Scottish champion is rarely seen outside the gym — but for very good reason. 

Having been crowned the strongest man in the world twice — first in 2021 and then again last year — Tom is getting ready to defend his title at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, next month. So, how is he feeling about the competition? Pretty good, it would seem. “I know what to do. I’ve done it once, I’ve done it twice, so I just have to go in at 100 per cent and do the same thing I’ve done [for] the last two years,” explains Tom. “I’m confident and hopefully I can take that third title home to Scotland.”

Born in Invergordon in the Scottish Highlands, Tom found weightlifting at 16 after Luke won Scotland’s Strongest Man. Within a year, Tom showed such potential that Luke decided to coach him for strongman. Today, the duo are now known as the world’s strongest brothers and often document their extreme lifestyle on YouTube and Instagram (current following: 666k combined). When they’re not training, you can find them at the Stoltman Strength Centre — the gym in Invergordon from which they run an online Strength Academy and merchandise shop. 

“I started training when I was 16 and was into bodybuilding before I went to work on oil rigs,” says Luke. “Bodybuilding wasn’t the easiest thing to keep up with when I was offshore but I carried on and when I was 26, I entered [my first] competition.”

But for Tom, training was more about boosting his confidence. “I just wanted to do something that would make me feel happy,” he explains. “I was a bit scared going to the gym with all of these big guys at first but I ended up falling in love with it. The routine, simplicity and repetition of it really gelled with me and I knew then that I wanted to do it for the rest of my life.” 

I always say to tell everyone about your autism and the relief you get will be amazing. You’ll have a support network around you who will accept you for who you are

Tom Stoltman

Having been diagnosed with autism at five years old, Tom found his time at school difficult. Bodybuilding, he says, quite literally took a “weight off [his] shoulders” and enabled him to open up about his feelings. “When you’re living with autism and you’re not able to go out with your friends or you’re getting pulled out of classes and you’re not telling them why, people ask ‘why is he getting extra help?’

“People message me every day saying [they’ve] been diagnosed with autism and [they] don’t know what to do. I always say to tell everyone about your autism and the relief you get will be amazing. You’ll have a support network around you who will accept you for who you are,” he adds. “It’s a superpower, at the end of the day. That’s how I describe it. I want everyone to know that it is a superpower.”

tom and luke stoltman

Nicknamed ‘The Albatross’ thanks to his wide arm span, Tom weighs in at a whopping 29st 2lb and towers at 6ft 8in. At 28 years old, he’s pulled more than his fair share of planes, lorries, trucks and trains, as well as taking on World’s Strongest Man’s most fearsome challenge – the Atlas Stones – which requires athletes to lift five enormous stones as quickly as possible. To sustain such a body mass, Tom sticks to a strict routine and, of course, diet. “Luke and I do the same thing every single day. We get up and the first meal of the day is the most important, so we have eight eggs, porridge, and toast and then we have a mid-morning snack, which is a protein shake and some fruit. 

“Lunch is a cheat meal for us before we go to the gym for two or three hours. Then we’ll have a mid-afternoon snack which is the same as the morning one and dinner is usually 300g of protein, 300-400g of rice or potatoes and some vegetables. That’s what we do all the way up to our competitions. Wednesday is a recovery day [of] physiotherapy and hot/cold therapy. We spend weekends with our families and try to keep away from the gym.” 

So with a stringent routine nailed and several trophies already on the mantelpiece, what does the future look like for the Stoltman brothers? 

“For me, it would be to win the World’s Strongest Man,” says Luke. “Sharing podiums [is] something that’s really important [to] both of us. We do this because we enjoy it so it’s very important for us to have that love and passion for what we do. 

“We also want to keep showcasing the potential the Highlands have. We’ve set up a business here and are very fortunate that it’s been so well received. Thanks to Primal, we’ve now renovated our gym back home and we think it’s a very special place for the people of Invergordon and the Highlands to use. 

“We try to be good ambassadors of strength, mental health and autism. Being happy and doing things that make us feel passionate is the main goal.”

tom stoltman

And, with competitors like the legendary Mark Felix still challenging at 56, Tom has no plans to give up strongman just yet. “I want to be the greatest of all time at the World’s Strongest Man. I want to keep winning the competition for as long as I can and keep the Stoltman legacy going. 

“I also want to be a big ambassador for autism. Autism for me is the biggest motivation, proving that people with these needs can do things that other people don’t think they’ll ever be able to do. I want to show people that they can do anything in their life.” 

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