Brent Fikowski does not necessarily like the title, “Second Fittest Man on Earth.” He understands it. It’s punchy and works for branding. But he’d much sooner call himself a silver medalist. He placed second at the 2017 CrossFit Games. But there’s no question that you’ve got to be one of the fittest athletes on the planet to stand anywhere on that podium.
Everything from the way that he trains, what time he wakes up in the morning, how he sleeps and recovers must all be meticulously accounted for. And of course, there’s a high priority on food. And Fikowski eats like an animal.
No, seriously. He eats like an animal.
“Recently I’ve been experimenting with some foul parts which will be like tongue and heart and kidney and liver, because it’s cheaper,” Fikowski recently said while he was in New York promoting the release of Reebok's new Nano 8 training shoe.
Fine. So there’s a benefit to your spending budget but … OK, what?
“Someone has to eat it and I’d rather do that than see it getting wasted,” he said. “When you look at an animal in the wild and they kill another animal, that’s what they’re going for, it’s the guts. That’s the good stuff. And there’s a lot of high micronutrients.
“I started doing a lot of research to hopefully justify this weird stuff I was eating. That’s basically what it came down to. I asked my nutritionist, ‘I’m not going to die from doing this right? Is this a good idea?’ And she said actually yeah, you get a lot of vitamins and minerals that you not going to get from, say, a thigh or something.”
Fikowski does have a point. And that’s not just because the 26-year old Canadian can snatch 300 pounds. Animal organs like the liver, kidney and heart offer some of the densest sources of iron, copper, magnesium, phosphorus, B vitamins and vitamins A,D, E and K. Beef heart, for example, can offer 20 grams of protein per 4-ounce serving, with just 4 grams of fat.
There are things Fikowski eats that we’d consider “normal.” His go-to is sweet potatoes. He also scarfs down a ton of vegetables with every meal, which typically include breakfast, two lunches and a light dinner.
And while just about any part of the cow is fair game for eating, Fikowski gave up on milk years ago. We talked to one of CrossFit’s most quickly rising stars recently while he was in New York promotion Reebok’s new Nano 8 training shoes, about his diet, training and his preparation for the upcoming CrossFit season.
AM: Let’s start by telling me how you feel now about your performance at the 2017 CrossFit Games and your expectations for the coming season.
Brent Fikowski: I felt really good about last year’s Games and the Games before that. I was really happy with how I performed. Some people, when I came fourth in 2016, were like, ‘oh you were so close to third you must be really upset.’ I was like no man, I was just really happy with how I performed and I had a great time. I know I have stuff to build on but it’s not hanging over my head.
It’s good because I think that attitude paid off and helped me climb my way up to second place this year. And it’s the same thing, would I have rather had a gold medal? Sure. But at the end of the day I’m really happy with how well I performed all year and it was just a really good time.
Do you look back and say I need to fix this and this or do you keep things exactly how they are?
It’s a bit of both. You don’t want to drastically change everything you’re doing because I’ve seen every year myself getting better. But you can’t be afraid to also continually sharpen the saw. I think the same principles, the big things like my nutritionist, my coach, I’m keeping those things the same. But little things along the way like slight changes in diet or my coach, who’s smarter than me, will say I think we need to do this this year and I’ll trust him because he’s the guy that got me here. And you know, I’m changing so maybe what I’m doing needs to be changing a little too. But I think any smart athlete is constantly looking for ways to improve while also keeping the good things that have given them success.
What’s what thing you need to improve?
Similar to the last few years, just raw strength. So things like my bench, my strict press, my upper back strength, my deadlift, my back squat — those are things I’ve always struggled with and I probably always will, you know, relative to some of the other high level CrossFit competitors. But I’ve seen a lot of improvements and with those improvements that’s when I’ve started to make climbs on the overall leaderboard.
Related: Want To Master The Deadlift? Follow These Three StrategiesReebok
Any changes in your diet?
Nothing major. I guess I’m always looking for little things to improve on whether it’s just finding a better place to buy eggs, you know, some different vegetables to mix in or different supplement to try out, stuff like that.
How is your diet different now than it was before you were an elite CrossFitter?
I’ve always eaten healthy. I think I was 15 and I didn’t eat dessert for a month or two because I had a big swimming race and I wanted to win. I’ve always kind of been that guy that’s understood that correlation between eating well and performing well and I cut out dairy, as a teenager, just because I thought it would be a good idea and I wanted to try it and see if it made a difference.
And… did it?
Yeah. I mean, I have some dairy now but it’s all from a local grass fed cows so I don’t get much of a reaction. But before, I had a lot of dairy. I drank a lot of milk. I would always be at least a little congested. I would always have a runny nose, always get phlegm in my throat and I thought maybe I just had allergies. Then I had read a few things as a teenager about how they may be correlated and I thought, oh, maybe I’ll just cut that out. My parents were cool with my trying that out and supportive of that and I noticed a difference so I haven’t really drank milk since. I used to love it. I would drink 2-3 bowls of cereal a day.
Man, I still do that. I just try to dump the leftover milk after. But OK, so what about when you just started CrossFit? Anyway, you started to talk about when you first started CrossFit.
Like a lot of people when I first started CrossFit I went strict Paleo. I thought I’d try that out and it had it’s benefits but I was different under-fueling myself, especially carbohydrates. Then I got onboard with a nutritionist. I was eating similar items but just changing the values. So I started decreasing the fats, upping the carbs; started feeling a lot better. I started gaining some good weight like a bit more muscle because I was really lean and I needed to gain a bit more strength and muscle comes along with that. Since that sort of switch, and that was in 2013, my diets remain fairly unchanged. I eat a lot of sweet potato. That’s where I get a lot of my carbs. I eat a bit of oats in the morning, variety of a lot of different types of meat and then I eat a lot of vegetables. There’s a lot of seasonal vegetables where I’m from so depending on what’s in season I try to eat that and then just move with the season.
So describe a typical day of eating for you.
Usually I wake up and I train, and I train on an empty stomach. I wake up around 5:30 usually and get to the gym. After that I’ll have a protein shake with some supplements and also usually have carbohydrates as well to replenish some glycogen, liquid carbs. It’s really the only time that I’ll have any kind of refined sugar at all. I don’t even eat a lot of fruit. But directly after a training session or if it’s a really long training session I’ll have some liquid carbs.
Then I’ll have a breakfast, which is a lot of vegetables heated up in a pan and then once those are heated up I’ll fry 3 eggs. Then I’ll usually have some oats with yogurt and berries.
I have two lunches and I have a dinner and they’re usually about the same. My two lunches each one is going to have 300 grams of cooked sweet potato and then about 150 grams of meat. The meat sorta changes depending on what I can get for cheap. Recently I’ve been experiment with some foul parts which will be like tongue and heart and kidney and liver, because it’s cheap.
Someone has got to eat it and I’d rather do that than see it getting wasted. When you look at an animal in the wild and they kill another animal that’s what they’re going for, it’s the guts. That’s the good stuff. And there’s a lot of high micronutrients. I started doing a lot of research to hopefully justify this weird stuff I was eating. That’s basically what it came down to. I asked my nutritionist I’m not going to die from doing this right, is this a good idea? And she said actually yeah you get a lot of vitamins and minerals from that that you’re not going to get from a thigh or something. So I incorporated more of that. So yeah, 300 grams of sweet potato and about 150 grams of lean meat which equals to about 30 grams of protein and then just a lot of vegetables. So those are two lunches and then dinner is kind of the same. I kind of go off feel though. If I’m not really hungry I don’t eat much more and just have a bit of salad. And if I am hungry I’ll just have a bit more maybe a bit more carbs.