Real Health Podcast: ‘I used to be very overweight, I was 114 kilos (17.9 stone)’ – Taoiseach Leo Varadkar reveals his fitness regime

By | April 4, 2019
Karl Henry pictured with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
Karl Henry pictured with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar Newsdesk

An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has revealed that he once weighed over 17.9 stone and had a 40-inch waist before he started doing triathlons.

Mr Varadkar (40) made the candid admissions to Operation Transformation’s fitness expert Karl Henry, on the latter’s Real Health podcast.


“I used to be very overweight, I was 114 kilos with a 40-inch waist once upon a time and have managed to improve that over the years,” Mr Varadkar said.

He told the podcast he trained four times a week, which he considers his ‘time-out’ as he only concentrates on his work-out during this time, which will include weight-lifting and high intensity training.

“[I train] Four times a week which isn’t huge in the greater scheme of things but as well as that though, it’s also very flexible because if I’m in a hotel room in Brussels, you know, chances are the hotel has a gym.

“If I’m in London, you’re never more than a kilometre from a park. Once you actually make it part of your routine, it’s pretty easy.

“And if I don’t do it, that’s actually when I get kind of stressed because you know… I’m like a dog that hasn’t been taken out for a walk for days or something like that,” he said.

He claimed he didn’t consider himself an “early riser” and would “get up at a normal kind of time for anyone who lives in ‘commuter land’ which I do, so maybe 6.30am or 6.45am”.

He told Karl he would be in the gym or running by 7am, finished by 8am and be ready for his first appointment by “nine-ish”.

Weekends are different as he gets a “little bit of extra sleep”.

Quizzed about winding down at the end of a busy day, and if he is able to get some sleep, he said he had no problems sleeping but contended he probably didn’t get enough.

“I don’t find it hard to get asleep. I’m quite tired at the end of a long day.

“It’s always possible to bore yourself to sleep with a memo on something very technical,” he joked.

“I probably don’t get enough sleep though but that’s just the nature of the game.”

When quizzed by Karl as to how much sleep he got each night, he replied: “Between five and six which probably isn’t enough, but isn’t awful.”

However, he agrees with the trainer who says getting eight hours sleep could help with weight loss.

“I had a couple of weeks off last August and I wasn’t training as intensively as ordinarily I would, and I was having a late dinner and plenty of wine every night and I lost three pounds on holidays and I kind of think this is probably down to me getting eight hours sleep which is just not practical during normal times,” the Fine Gael leader said.

Like many of us, he struggles to maintain a healthy diet.

“That’s a problem,” he said.

“In theory I follow a low carb, high protein diet. In reality that’s not what happens. Largely because I’m out and about a lot. I’m not really eating at home very much.

“It’s where I happen to be. I’ve also given up alcohol for Lent which I think will help because obviously alcohol is full of sugar.

“After you drink a few glasses of wine, you’re much more likely to have the dessert, eat something you shouldn’t eat, but yeah and I probably do, during the day, snack on crisps and sweets.

“You convince yourself you’re not having a lot of them but… if I were to put them all on the one plate during the day, it would be a lot.”

Karl offered the advice that keeping a food diary would help him track his intake.

“That’s what I tell the HSE all the time; what you don’t measure, you can’t improve. They don’t believe me,” Mr Varadkar joked.

Later he tells the podcast his journey into better health and fitness began when he became sports minister.

“I’m a former health minister, and a former sports minister so it was really back when I was sports minister that I started getting interested in my own health and physical fitness because I felt, particularly as Sports Minister, that I should lead by example.

“You can’t really preach participation in sport if you don’t actually practise it.

“It was a great job to have because it changed my life in so many way,” he said.

Keep sending your questions in to me via email or contact Karl on Twitter and Instagram @karlhenryPT.

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