TV personality Davide Sanclimenti on overcoming body image issues, finding balance with his fitness, and breaking the news to his Italian mother that he was going to need to cut back on the pasta portions

Having won 2022’s edition of Love Island, clocking up a hefty 1.6 million Instagram followers in the process, you could forgive Davide Sanclimenti for taking his foot off the gas as 2024 gets underway. But before finding fame – and love – on the ITV2 show, Sanclimenti’s original passion was fitness. A qualified personal trainer and entrepreneur, with degrees in economics and finance, Sanclimenti’s journey to becoming one of the UK’s most renowned fitness fanatics didn’t start easily. As he wrote on Instagram at the end of 2023, his focus on fitness started after a period of body shaming, which he suffered as a child growing up in Italy.

‘I was body shamed in school,’ he wrote. ‘I was classed as overweight as a teenager, so I started training. Running like I was in a marathon and swimming like an Olympian. I was eating almost nothing, until I lost an unhealthy amount of weight.’

“When you’re teenagers, if guys are going to make a joke about your body, they don’t keep it back,” says Sanclimenti when we speak over Zoom. “That happened a lot. I remember a friend who was like, ‘You will never have abs because you’ve got a belly.’ Many jokes like that, and they affected me back then.” 

Sanclimenti says that after four months of hardcore running, swimming and playing tennis, he lost so much weight that his mum began growing concerned for his wellbeing. Her intervention meant he was able to find a healthier, more balanced approach to training. One that soon began to deliver the results he’d hoped for. He became a regular gym-goer at 17, initially focusing, in his own words, “…on the chest and the biceps, as those were what people appreciated more and probably what the guys wanted more.”

How Davide Sanclimenti learned from the best

However, he soon brought a passion for research into his fitness journey, studying how fitness influencers in the USA trained and what diet they followed. “From there, every day I was reading and learning about the gym or fitness or health in general. I started with three workouts a week, and then after one year I was training four or five times a week and have been the same for the last 12 years.”

He takes a multi-frequency rather than a mono-frequency approach. That means working multiple muscles in each workout, rather than having separate chest days or arm days. In doing so, he trains each muscle twice a week, with one heavy session and one light session, leaving 48 hours between working out specific muscles, allowing for maximum recovery. He does, however, have one leg day, but adds to his leg workouts by running and playing tennis.

Rest is essential, too. Sanclimenti takes two days off a week. “I love rest days,” he says. “You’ll see the day after that when you hit the gym, you will feel even stronger and more motivated.”

This consistency, he says, is the key to becoming successful and getting the body you want. That means going regularly and having a plan, without being overly critical of yourself. And, crucially, having the correct diet to match.

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Davide Sanclimenti stands holding an upright barbell in one hand

Protein over pasta

Being Italian, food has been at the centre of Sanclimenti’s life since he was a small child. The transition towards a more protein-, less carbohydrate-rich diet wasn’t, he says, challenging for him, but more so for his mum, a keen cook: “She wanted me to eat pasta every day! But since I left home at 18, it’s been easier. At the beginning it was hard, because I was like, ‘No, Mama I don’t want to eat lasagne today; I’m going to eat my rice and chicken’.”

Naturally, Sanclimenti keeps a keen eye on his protein intake, and tries to get this from a variety of sources: “I usually try to get between 2.5g and 3.3g per kg. So if I’m around 80kg, I eat around 220g of protein a day.”

That starts in the morning, with five egg whites and one or two yolks depending on how hungry he is after a full night’s sleep. He pairs it with a banana and any other fruit that happens to be to hand. That’s followed by a mid-morning sandwich made using granary bread.

“At lunchtime I try to always put together a source of protein and a source of carbs, and always lots of vegetables,” he adds. “Dinner is the same.” Carbs, he says, usually come via basmati rice, wholegrain pasta, sweet potatoes and quinoa. He also emphasises the importance of good fats with lunch and dinner, such as olive oil.

“Pre-workout,” Sanclimenti continues, “I have Greek yogurt that’s high in protein. Maybe with fruit and some rice cakes. Post-workout is usually when I have my protein shake.”

Supplementary benefits

That’s where SCI-MX comes in. Sanclimenti recently partnered with the nutrition brand, to promote the importance of well-balanced supplements that place quality of ingredients front and centre. Taking such care of what goes into his body, Sanclimenti is keen to espouse the importance of not going for a supplement that features hundreds of ingredients, many of which are either not properly researched or have little actual impact on pre-workout performance or post-workout recovery and muscle gain.

“A lot of companies in the fitness industry, maybe for marketing reasons, add hundreds of ingredients,” he says. SCI-MX is different, with a greater focus on quality. As the company itself states, it has three core aspects: ‘Developing sports performance, enhancing physical appearance, and positively aiding health and wellbeing.’ Its products range from pre-workout drinks to plant-based post workout shakes and snacks.

“I’ve been to the factory and seen how they make their product,” he adds. “We know, according to science, that there are very few ingredients that are actually tested and work on the human body.” SCI-MX, he says, has got the approach nailed down.

Balancing act

For Sanclimenti, the balance between the gym and diet is complicated by another factor: social media. With his fame and influence growing, ensuring he protects his mental health when using platforms like Instagram has become every bit as important as keeping his body in shape. It is, he says, an ongoing process: “I’m still working on this to find out which is the best solution. Sometimes I like to go to the gym and just focus on the workout. Sometimes it’s good to have an hour in the gym for your mental health.”

Working out, clearly, gives Sanclimenti a purpose. “The gym has been so important in my life,” he says. “I realised over the years that if I could be the artist of my own body and be so motivated about one thing, I could put the same effort into everything else in life. It helps you understand that you can reach everything you want.”