Eating Advice from the Russian Lion


While the name George Hackenschmidt is often associated with wrestling more so than physical culture, there is no doubting the strength and physical prowess of the ‘Russian Lion’. An adept weightlifter and renowned grappler, Hackenschmidt’s career in the early twentieth century saw him become of the most famous athletes throughout the Western speaking world.

Coupled with this, his intelligence and writing ability, saw him spread the message of physical culture and clean living to thousands around the globe. Today’s short post features extracts from Hackenschmidt’s 1908 book, The Way To Live.

Regarding the general dietary guidelines he followed, Hackenschmidt informed readers that

I believe I am right in asserting that our Creator has provided food and nutriment for every being for its own advantage. Man is born without frying-pan or stewpot. The purest natural food for human beings would, therefore, be fresh, uncooked food and nuts. It is not my intention to discuss here the old problem, whether meat is necessary as food for man or whether man was created and should remain a vegetarian.

My experience has taught me that foodstuffs are of secondary importance. There are very strong people who are strict vegetarians, whilst others eat a good deal of meat. A fare which consists of three-quarters of vegetable food and one-quarter meat would appear to be the most satisfactory for the people of central Europe.

Coupled with his fondness for vegetarian foods, something which should displace any doubts about how vegetarianism affects athleticism, Hackenschmidt preferred to eat his meals as is, without the need for seasonings.

Every one should and can find out which diet best suits his constitution, and he should avoid all food which disagrees with it. I would shun altogether all highly seasoned and sour dishes. Much has been said lately in praise of sugar as food, but as artificial sugar is an acid-forming substance, I should not recommend it.

Natural sugar, such as is contained in dates, figs, and other fruit, is certainly preferable. Highly flavoured or seasoned food produces thirst and therefore acts harmfully.

Finally, regarding teas, alcohol and spirits, Hackenschmidt went on to say that he avoided such toxic substances entirely. Instead he much preferred to drink milk, which is some sources are to be believed, is an understatement. According to some of his contemporaries, Hackenschmidt often drank the equivalent of 11 pints of milk a day! Something which undoubtedly accounted for his impressive physique.

Surveying the above we can say that Hackenschmidt advocated for:

  • A diet primarily composed of nuts, vegetables and fruits in their raw form.
  • Some meat, if necessary, depending on one’s constitution.
  • The avoidance of seasonings or processed sugar
  • Abstinence from teas, spirits and alcohols.
  • Finally and most importantly, Hackenschmidt was a proponent of listening to one’s body and adjusting the diet justly. A timeless lesson we often need to remember!

If you’re interested in learning how the Russian Lion worked out, feel free to check out our previous post here.

6 thoughts on “Eating Advice from the Russian Lion

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  1. Thanks for your article. You might be interested in these additional facts.

    After Hackenschmidt retired from the ring, he became a strict vegetarian. You can read about it in Ina Zweiniger-Bargielowska’s scholarly book “Managing the Body: Beauty, Health, and Fitness in Britain 1880–1939”.

    Also Hackenschmidt never consumed 11 pints a day, this was a myth. The myth was started because of American/English translators made a mistake translating him. Hackenschmidt later told the English wrestler Atholl Oakeley that it was a misprint and he had never consumed that much milk.

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