Magnus Samuelsson: World's Strongest Man to Viking Warrior

| © BBC

For 14 years he was a staple of World’s Strongest Man events, but today Magnus Samuelsson now lifts a longsword in the BBC’s epic Viking and Saxon drama, The Last Kingdom. Culture Trip sat down with the strongman-turned-actor to discuss both careers.

A farmer by trade, Samuelsson holds the record for reaching the World’s Strongest Man finals 10 times – something he achieved during a 13-year span from 1995 to 2007. The 6ft 6in Swede reached the podium on five occasions and won the title outright in 1998. When competing at the peak of his career, Samuelsson was packing away 8,000 calories of food per day, with plenty of meat, fish, beans and vegetables – across seven meals a day – all needed to ensure the son of a former arm wrestling world champion had all the bulk and power to compete against the best in the world.

Magnus Samuelsson’s 8,000 calorie diet (per day):

1. One litre of milk, with 5 dl (2 cups) oats and 2 dl (0.84 cups) sugar.
2. Potato and meat (lots of it), vegetables.
3. One litre of milk and protein powder.
4. Pasta and chicken with vegetables.
5. One litre of yogurt.
6. Tuna fish, bread.
7. One litre of milk, with 5 dc (2 cups) oats.
Long before the Scandinavian diet became the food industry’s latest trend, Samuelsson was chowing down on cuisine not dissimilar to his Viking ancestors, apt given his role today. He may no longer weigh in at 160kg or eat the same crazy amount – he’s reduced to his daily intake to 4,500 calories (still nearly double the recommended amount for the average male) – but his current Viking diet doesn’t include the pasta, gluten or other slow-release carbohydrates that he needed when competing.

Magnus Samuelsson’s 4,500 calorie viking diet (per day):

1. Six eggs, cottage cheese and coffee.
2. Protein shake (40g (1.4 oz) of protein), 4–5 slices of barbecue bacon and a full hand of hazelnuts.
3. 500g (18 oz) of chicken or beef, 400g (14 oz) kidney beans and vegetables, mostly broccoli, and salad.
4. Cottage cheese and a full hand of hazelnuts.
5. 500g (18 oz) of chicken or beef, 400g (14 oz) kidney beans and vegetables, mostly broccoli, and salad.
6. Protein shake (40g (1.4 oz) of protein), 4–5 slices of barbecue bacon and a full hand of hazelnuts.
7. Banana, handful of hazelnuts, cottage cheese.

Samuelsson has now swapped lifting stones and carrying cars for a career in acting, most recently appearing in The Last Kingdom, the historical drama from Carnival Films – the makers of Downton Abbey – that follows the battle for supremacy between the separate kingdoms of 9th-century England. The eight-part adaptation is based on Bernard Cornwell’s historical novel series The Saxon Stories, with Samuelsson playing ‘Clapa’, one of the best fighters in protagonist Uhtred’s band of men. Despite his hulking frame and savagery on the battlefield, there is a softer side, full of loyalty and comedy; things far more akin to the actor portraying them.

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The Last Kingdom is on Thursdays at 9pm on BBC Two. Catch up on the season so far on BBC iPlayer.

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