Men’s 212 Bodybuilding legend Flex Lewis used every weapon at his disposal to cement himself as a dominant Olympia winner. In a recent podcast with MMA fighter Jack Shore, Lewis reflected on his career diet, which totaled over 8,000 calories a day. He also opened up on his struggles to make weight before winning titles from 2012-2018.
Testing himself against 212 mainstays such as Derek Lunsford and Shaun Clarida, Welsh’s Flex Lewis dominated his peers with granite muscle hardness, massive forearms, and a sculpted back. With little to no weaknesses on stage, Lewis’s title reign remains the most impressive the 212 category has ever seen, by a long shot.
In May 2022, Lewis announced his retirement from competitive bodybuilding. Acknowledging challenges with his appetite, Lewis thought it was best to hang up his trunks. He has teased a possible return but only for a ‘7-figure’ price tag. Now, with time on his hands, he is looking back on the monstrous diet that factored into his decision to step away from the stage.
Flex Lewis Reflects on 8,000-Cal Diet & Making Weight for 212: ‘It Became Very Very Hard For Me’
As a 212 bodybuilder, Lewis was tasked with consuming approximately 8,000 calories a day.
“That’s what I had to do, on some days I had to eat close to it was normally around about 8,000 but every here’s the thing right, oh people say oh I could do a 10,000 calorie challenge, every day?
Every day? Most of these guys who do the 10,000-calorie challenge, now there’s 20,000 whatever else, most of that stuff you can build up fast.”
To make weight for the 212 category, Lewis revealed he had to ‘shrink his stomach,’ stressing that he could only consume clean foods.
“I could do that even when I was eating all the time because you can get a lot of hidden calories in shit food. But when you’re eating good rice and fucking baked potatoes and all that stuff, that’s a lot of food.
So, I went from shrinking my stomach for the 212 and also I want to note this too: it became very very hard for me to make that 212 class.”
To keep his off-season weight cap at a reasonable number, Lewis would purposely travel more often to stay busy, adding that he ‘always’ had to over-diet throughout his career.
“To the point where I was booking myself on the road to travel as much as I could just to keep my off-season cap low, I couldn’t allow myself to go over 235, I always would keep myself in that range. Being on the road, believe it or not, traveling was helping significantly.”
“When I came down, and when I was around my create comforts, I would blow up. I was in my gym, my elements, obviously eating consistently. For the last three Mr. Olympias, five, six, seven, I had to really suffer to get into them weights. For me to walk on stage, I wish, I wish I was able to show the best version of myself, and no one has ever seen the best version of myself because I always had to over diet.”
Weeks before Mr. Olympia competitions, Lewis remembers having to cut weight from 224-226 pounds.
“Me stepping on stage about 224, 226, I’ve got photos like four weeks out, ready and I had to find 12 pounds to come off of me. Me and my coach were like where the fuck is this coming. Neil would be like don’t worry we’ll get it out. Inside his head, he’s like this fucking ass hole again.
We had to find our way to get in. When you’re dieting down for a show you have to eat into muscle. For four weeks out, I smelled like piss. When you lose muscle you get the secretion or smell,” said Flex Lewis.
Despite his absence from the sport’s greatest battlegrounds, Lewis has made meaningful improvements to his health and body. He celebrated his 40th birthday with a jacked physique transformation, promising an even better look in 2024.
Content with retirement, Flex Lewis won’t forget how challenging his 212 diet was at the height of his career. As the most successful 212 bodybuilder in the sport, Lewis’ perspective on nutrition sheds light on the difficulty of remaining one of the best in the world.