January 1, 210
A Comparison of Ancient Greek and Roman Sports Diets with Modern Day Practices
Celsus preferred beef while Galen preferred pork in terms of providing the best nutrition.
In the early days, athletes relied on their trainer to make sure that their dietary needs were met. However, it was not long before medical doctors took over, and the first sports physicians were created. In a report from Philostratos we learn .
“...The Sicilian style of fancy food gained popularity; the guts went out of athletics and, more important, trainers became too easy on their pupils. Doctors took the lead in introducing permissiveness, setting it up as an adjunct to their treatment...from these Doctors athletes learned to be lazy and to exercise after sitting around stuffed with enough food to fill an Egyptian or African meal sack; they gave us chefs and cooks to please our palates. They turned athletes into gluttons with bottomless stomachs.”
However, whilst it was popular or fashionable to have a physician designing your diet, it seems that these medical doctors did not always share the same opinion about what the athletes should eat. Celsus, who was not trained as a medical practitioner, although he wrote a great deal about medical practices, and Galen, who was medically trained, did not agree on the type of meat that was the “strongest”, that is to say the most nutritious, for an athlete. Celsus preferred beef whilst Galen, who was particularly enthusiastic about the advice given, considering him to be an expert on diet and exercise , gave the Olympic gold, so to speak, to pork, which he felt was the most nutritious form of meat. Maybe this was based on his own positive experience with pork when he was a medical practitioner in Pergamon where he took part in the training of gladiators.
Ancient athletes would most likely not have been able to afford very much protein in the form of meat, and would as a consequence not have eaten meat on a daily basis. However, we know from Celsus  and Galen  that meat in the form of terrestrial and aquatic livestock was considered nutritious, and was classified among the “strong” foodstuffs. Celsus and Galen [19,22] could not, however, agree as to which meat was the “strongest”, Celsus  favoured beef, whilst Galen  never misses a chance to sing the praises of pork, which alongside fresh milk was his favourite food.
“Among food from domesticated quadrupeds pork is the weakest, beef the strongest. And so also of game, the larger the animal the stronger the food yields” 
“Flesh, when well concocted, produces the best blood, especially in the case of animals such as the pig family, which produce healthy humour. Pork is the most nutritious of all foods, and athletes provide a very visible test of this. For when, after identical exercises, they take the same amount of a different food on one day, straightway on the following day they appear not only weaker but also obviously less well fed.”
“Beef itself gives a nutriment that is neither small in quantity nor easily dispersed; yet it produces blood that is inappropriately thick” .
“Lambs also have flesh that is very moist and productive of mucus. But that of adult sheep is more productive of residues and more unwholesome. The flesh of goats is unwholesome too, with bitterness” .
Poultry was also considered a nutritious foodstuff, although here size mattered. Celsus  ascribed poultry to the “medium” class of foodstuffs, whilst Galen was not so generous in his appraisal, preferring once again to extol the virtues of pigs and terming poultry meat as “poorly nutritious”.
“Likewise of those birds, which belong to the middle class, those which rely more on their feet are stronger food than those which rely more on their wings; and of those birds which depend on flight, the larger birds yield stronger food than the smaller, such as fig-eater and thrush. And those also which pass their time in the water yield a weaker food than those which have no knowledge of swimming” .
“The family of all winged animals is poorly nutritious when compared with that of terrestrial animals, especially pigs: you would find no flesh more nutritious than theirs” .
Fish too were classified as a “middle” foodstuff by Celsus , although here preference was given to the oily fish such as mackerel in comparison with bass and mullet. This is in accordance to general recommendations today concerning intake of oily fish like salmon and tuna, although the reason given here is to prevent heart diseases. Galen goes one step further in his assessment of fish, telling us that they are not appropriate for athletes but should rather be reserved for those who are weak and ill.
“The fish most in use belong to the middle class; the strongest are, however, those from which salted preparations can be made, such as the mackerel; next come those which, although more tender, are nevertheless firm, such as the gilthead, gurnard, sea bream, eye fish, then the flat fish, and after these still softer, the bass and mullets, and after these all rock fish” .
“But from all the above fish the nutriment is best for those who are not in training, and the idle, frail and convalescent. People in training need more nutritious food, about which there has been previous comment” .
“...the best milk is just about the most wholesome of any of the foods we consume”.
“For cows´ milk is very thick and fatty, while milk from the camel is very liquid and much less fatty; and next to the latter animal is that from mares, and following this, ass´s milk. Goat´s milk is well proportioned in its composition, but ewe´s milk is thicker” .
“Its continued use also harms the teeth, together with the flesh surrounding them, which they call “gums”. For it makes these flabby, and makes the teeth liable to decay and easily eaten away. Accordingly one should rinse the mouth with diluted wine after consuming milk, and it is better if you put honey with it” .
“Moreover it is neither unwholesome nor very markedly productive of thick humour, a common charge against all cheeses. A very fine cheese is the one highly regarded by the wealthy in Rome (its name is bathysikos), as well as some others in other regions” .
“Among pulses, beans and lentils are stronger food than peas” .
“However, they [Figs] do not produce firm, strong flesh like bread and pork do, but a spongy flesh, as the broad bean does” .
November 16, 1907
Cyclist favors all meat diet: Eddie Root, Star of Six-Day Race at Boston, Pooh-Poohs idea of Vegetarian Feed for Athletes During Contests
Eddie Root, a cyclist, swears by an all-meat diet to help his long distance cyclist race career. "And during the six-day races I keep on eating meat--in fact, I eat nothing but meat. About every two and a half hours I get either two chops or a small steak. And the meat is what keeps me going. I wouldn't last a day in the race if I tried to last on a vegetable diet. I know what I am talking about, because I have tried them all and I have my training down to a science now."
Boston, Nov. 16 -- "Say, I see they are training football players on vegetables, and the college professors are preaching vegetarian diet. What for? Don't they want 'em to go some? If they do, they had better cut it and feed 'em on meat. I ought to know."
So said Eddie Root, who is taking part in the six-day bicycle race. Root is the six-day champion. He and his teammate have won the event at Madison Square Garden three times running. If any man on earth is qualifed to say what food is denduring it is Eddie Root.
"Root is right," said Alfred Shrubb, the English champion runner, who can trot faster and longer than a horse. He recently outran a horse attached to a runabout in a fifteen-mile race.
"I eat flesh three times a day, and have always done so," said Shrubb.
"When I am in training," declared Root, "I eat nothing but eggs and meat. Spinach is the only vegetable I touch aside from potatoes. I eat a lot of spinach for its medicinal effect. It is the greatest vegetable going."
"And during the six-day races I keep on eating meat--in fact, I eat nothing but meat. About every two and a half hours I get either two chops or a small steak. And the meat is what keeps me going. I wouldn't last a day in the race if I tried to last on a vegetable diet. I know what I am talking about, because I have tried them all and I have my training down to a science now."
"I never take any dope during the race. I have been accused of taking dope, but I never took dope in my life. I take a little champagne--about a quart a day. I take the champagne because usually I am used for the spurts, and when they stir me out of toy nap I take a quick drink of champagne and am off a-flying."
"I don't know whether it is the meat diet or not, but I grow fat during the races. The last race I weighed 142 pounds when it started, and I finished weighing 154 pounds. During the six days I usually average about eight hours' sleep a day, taken in naps."
January 1, 1911
Effects of Severe Exertion - Diet as to Meat Eating
A study in the American Physical Education Review studied meat eaters and vegetarians who ran marathons to see how their habits affected their performance.
This was very interesting. Six were classed as vegetarians, one of whom was not permitted to run owing to a marked arrhythmia of pulse and generally poor condition. The other 5 did not quite hold their own with the meat eaters, 60 per cent finishing. The greater number ate meat once a day, and of them 65 per cent finished; out of the 10 who ate meat twice a day 70 per cent completed the race. Beef was by far the most popular meat.
December 1, 1916
Elliott P. Joslin
The Treatment of Diabetes Mellitus
Joslin compiles 1,000 of his diabetes cases and concludes in the first English textbook 'The Treatment of Diabetes Mellitus' that fasting, low carb dieting, and exercise are key to improving health.
On Dec. 1916, Boston pathologist Elliott Joslin compiles 1,000 of his own cases and creates the textbook The Treatment of Diabetes Mellitus. In it he reports that ‘the mortality of patients was approximately 20 per cent lower than for the previous year’, due to ‘the introduction of fasting and the emphasis on regular exercise.’ This book and Joslin’s subsequent research over the next five decades establishes his reputation as one of the world’s leading expert in diabetes.
January 1, 1965
Jean Mayer, dean of Tufts University, argued that obesity was caused by a lack of exercise, a view that is now consensus, yet wrote “These mice will make fat out of their food under the most unlikely circumstances, even when half starved.”
This observation about the physiological nature of obesity was made decades ago, perhaps centuries ago. The most conspicuous examples are animals (as Astwood noted with his “consider the pig” point) and the animal models of obesity that nutritionists and obesity researchers have studied since the late 1930s. Indeed, researchers would occasionally admit that it’s clearly true about animals and animal models of obesity—that some animals get fat effectively independent of how much they eat and even when they eat no more than lean animals—but then somehow reject its relevance to humans on the basis that everyone knows that humans get fat because they eat too much. Their devotion to their energy balance thinking and to its implications was so great that they couldn’t escape it.
Take, for instance, Jean Mayer, the most influential American nutritionist in the 1960s and into the ’70s. Mayer started his research career at Harvard in the late 1940s and then moved on to become dean of Tufts University. The nutrition school at Tufts was later named after him. As a nutritionist, Mayer got some things right and many things wrong, as scientists often do, even the best of them. He spent the later years of his life arguing that people with obesity get that way because they don’t exercise enough. Our current obsession with physical activity is largely rooted in Mayer’s proselytizing in the 1970s. But at the beginning of his career in the 1950s, he studied a strain of obese mice. “These mice,” he wrote, “will make fat out of their food under the most unlikely circumstances, even when half starved.”
That’s the nature of overweight and obesity. That’s what it means to have a “compulsory tendency toward marked overweight due to abnormal accumulation of fat.” Mayer’s mice did not get fat by overeating. They got fat by eating. Half-starving them didn’t make them lean. It only made them hungry and slightly less fat. So let’s redefine what we mean by obesity. People with obesity are not thin people who couldn’t control their appetites (for whatever reason, psychological or neurobiological) and therefore ate too much. They’re people whose bodies are trying to accumulate excess fat even when they’re half-starved. The drive to accumulate fat is the problem, and it’s the difference between the fat and the lean. The hunger and the cravings, and then the failures and the sins, as Astwood suggested, are the results. This observation should be blindingly obvious to anyone who has ever had a weight problem, who fattens easily. Those who fatten easily are profoundly different from those who don’t and may have been from the womb onward. Their physiology is different; their hormonal and metabolic responses to foods are different. Their bodies want to store calories as fat; the bodies of their lean friends don’t. In George Bernard Shaw’s play Misalliance, written in 1909–10, his character John Tarleton puts it this way: “It’s constitutional. No matter how little you eat you put on flesh if you’re made that way.” Shaw, via Tarleton, may have been exaggerating slightly, but that’s as good a way to capture the simplicity of the idea as any. If these people want to be relatively lean and healthy, if such a thing is possible, they have to eat differently. There may be foods they cannot eat. Foods that make them fat may not make their lean friends fat.
Gary Taubes. The Case for Keto: Rethinking Weight Control and the Science and Practice of Low-Carb/High-Fat Eating (Kindle Locations 697-700). Knopf. Kindle Edition.
Mantineia 221 00, Greece
A Comparison of Ancient Greek and Roman Sports Diets with Modern Day Practices
Dromeus, a long-distance runner, is said to have first thought of eating meat for training instead of just cheese and won multiple victories.
The second report is that of Pausanias, who writes of Dromeus, a long-distance runner from Stymphalos .
“...he won two victories in the dolichos at Olympia, the same number in the Pythian Games, three at the Isthmian and five at the Nemean. He is said to have first thought of eating meat (as part of his training diet). Until then the food for athletes was cheese fresh out of the basket.”
Clearly, if his success is anything to go by, then Dromeus had really found a winner’s diet. There are also reports of athletes eating meat from oxen, bulls, goats and deer, a very” red-meat” diet which is a rich form of protein. Moreover, with meat as a part of their diet, the performance of competing athletes would most certainly have improved noticeably.
5 A man named Dromeus from Mantineia was said to have been the first we know of to have won the pankration by default [ = akoniti]. Pausanias 6.11.4
Dromeus, Long-Distance Runner
There was a man from Stymphalos, named Dromeus, whose record as a long-distance runner was exceptional: he won two victories in the dolichos at Olympia, the same number in the Pythian Games, three at the Isthmian and five at the Nemean. He is said to have first thought of eating meat (as part of his training diet). Until then the food for athletes was cheese fresh out of the basket.