Beer During Workouts? Arthur Saxon Approves!

Should you drink beer during workouts? It may seem a ludicrous suggestion but this is exactly what famed German strongman, Arthur Saxon, did in the early 1900s. Previously on this website we have discussed the huge appetite Saxon and his traveling trio of strongmen had during the height of their careers. In the space of 24 hours, Arthur and his two brothers – Kurt and and Herman – could eat enough food to feed a small family. Don’t believe me? Check out this menu that Kurt had to cook every day to satisfy the group’s hunger.


  • 24 eggs
  • 3lbs. (1.4kg) smoked bacon
  • Porridge with cream and honey
  • Tea with plenty of sugar


  • 10lbs. (4.55kg) of meat
  • Vegetables
  • Sweet Fruit (raw or cooked)
  • Sweet Cakes
  • Salad
  • Tea
  • Sweet Puddings
  • Cocoa and whipped cream


  • Cold Meat
  • Smoked Fish
  • Lots of butter and cheese
  • Beer

Was all this necessary? It’s hard to truly know. For contemporaries, and for later strength historians, Arthur Saxon was, and is, regarded as one of the strongest men of his generation. When Rogue Fitness did a documentary on Saxon’s life, which I would really recommend watching, the general consensus among experts was that Arthur Saxon boasted a level of strength unrivaled by many of his closest competitors. This included, the great Eugen Sandow, who Arthur actually defeated in a weightlifting contest.

There are two things I love about the Saxon brothers and there story. First that they were incredibly strong and made no apologies for it and second, that they enjoyed their fair share of beer – no matter what time of day it was. Regarding the former, Arthur Saxon never pretended to be anything other than strong his entire life. Other physical culturists, like Eugen Sandow or Charles Atlas, often claimed that they had grown up as weak children. This was an excellent way of encouraging others to buy workout courses from them because they ‘understood’ how to make anyone strong. Arthur, on the other hand, made no apologies for his own strength

I have always been strong and can only guess what it feels like to be weak …

So the man enjoyed being strong.

Second, Arthur, and his traveling strongmen brothers, enjoyed alcohol. In fact, they enjoyed a LOT of alcohol. In 1906, Arthur wrote down his exact ideas on diet so that fans could learn about what foods made the strongman so successful. Spirits were forbidden, but beer could be enjoyed –

Spirits I have proved to be disadvantageous to the would-be athlete, and my favorite drink is lager beer. Beer and stout should be among alcoholic liquors the best drink for the weight-lifter, as they are better calculated to build up the physical powers than any spirit drink, such as whiskey or brandy. If a man has been all his life teetotal, then my advice is “stay so.” It must be admitted that anyone who commences to take spirituous liquors in moderation is, at any rate, running the risk of eventually succumbing, and drinking to excess.

At this point that we must move on to my favorite strongman anecdote. One of Arthur’s good friends in England was the strongman Thomas Inch. Inch, as we have previously discussed, was a write, coach and strongman from the early 1900s. He seems to have been particularly fond of Saxon and there is some suspicion that Inch may have written (or co-written) Arthur Saxon’s two weightlifting books.

As the two men were close friends, they sometimes trained with one another. It was here where Inch learned of the Saxon’s trios fondness for alcohol. Writing years after the event, Inch recalled

After setting out their big plate bell and plenty of discs in the middle of the garden, they (the Saxons) knocked the bung out of a barrow of beer, and then set to work, knowing that liquid refreshment was arranged for.

It seems that drinking beer and weightlifting together are quite the common pastime on the continent, or so the brothers claimed!

It was rather funny to see the trio running backwards and forwards with their jugs to the beer barrels between lifts … [there] was seldom that any beer was left in the barrel. I may say!

They explained to me that this was the proper German custom, and the appeared to regard me as slightly unbalanced because I did not follow their example.

Is this something everyone should do in their training? No, not at all. Most trainees are probably better off sticking with water, or maybe a pre-workout shake. If, however, you boast the strength of the Saxons, and can push hundreds of pounds overhead in the bent press, then maybe it is time to knock back some beer mid-set to let the gains come.

Arthur would have approved.

As always … Happy Lifting!

Image Source

The featured image at the top of this post comes from the wonderful Rogue Fitness Index.


  1. I have long had the impression that beer drinking among 19th century German physical culturists, Turners, etc., was fairly commonplace, even during workouts.

    The notion that beer could be a healthful drink was longstanding. When I visited England in 1954, I saw lots of signs saying, “Guiness is good for you!” Years later I was in the company of an old Englishwoman and her grandson, and she proclaimed Guiness stout to be “a very healthful drink” and that in her day pregnant women were encouraged to drink it. I guess they hadn’t heard of fetal alcohol syndrome back then!

    1. That’s a big one Jan! My own family experimented with Guinness for Strength! Funnily a great bulking routine from yesteryear in England and Ireland was Guinness, Steak and Eggs!

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