First off, what exactly is a ‘protein’?
Type protein and bodybuilding into Google and chances are you’ll be told your not eating enough protein to build muscle. The bodybuilding and health industry have themselves up around the twin pillars of marketing and selling. The key claim for advertisers is that you need protein and you’re not getting enough as is. Nowadays the health enthusiast is bombarded with advertisements for protein powders, bars and cookies. Many of these products are simply sugared candies with a scoop of protein added in but we as consumers buy the message that protein is the be all and end all of muscle building.
How have we ended up here in a world where diets recommending upwards of 300 grams of protein are the norm?
All of us have done. We’ve run down the stairs in our pyjamas, headed straight for the kitchen and once there, it’s cereal time. Out comes the bowl, the milk and the prize possession, Kellogg Cornflakes. What may be a simple morning ritual for us was at one time a serious health remedy for Dr. John Kellogg, the inventor of Kellogg Cornflakes.
For Dr. Kellogg a healthy diet led to a healthy lifestyle and in line with this way of thinking, Kellogg Cornflakes and Granola were invented to help curb what Dr. Kellogg saw as an unhealthy habit of masturbation in America’s youth. Yes that’s right, one of our favorite cereals was invented as masturbation repellent.
So why was masturbation such a hot topic for the cereal king?
Ah the low-carbohydrate diet, a form of eating that has become so ingrained in 21st century culture that you could be forgiven for thinking it was a relatively new idea. The truth is that low-carb diets have existed since the 19th century, when an Englishman named William Banting began promoting a low-carb way of life. Although clinical obesity is a relatively new phenomenon (it only really came to the fore in the 20th century), people for centuries have dealt with weight issues. William Banting was one such man, who so impressed with the result’s of his diet, began to market the low-carb way of living.
So who was William Banting and how did he discover this diet?
Picture the scene. It’s 1911 and famed Wrestler George Hackenschmidt has finally retired from the squared circle. Looking forward to a life of relaxation and leisure, the man from Estonia grants you the privilege of an interview. In his strength and wrestling career, Hackenschmidt has popularised the Bear Hug, the Hack Squat and even set a world record in the Bench Press. His athletic exploits have dazzled crowds around the world for years. So when you sit down with him to talk training, a nervousness enters your body. The ‘Russian Lion’ is known for taking no prisoners.
Q] You have your first question lined up. Nervously you look George in the eye and timidly ask how to become strong like him…
Puffing out his chest, Hackenschmidt bellows out
“It is only by exercising with heavy weights that any man can hope to develop really great strength.”
How many times do you eat a day? Do you eat carbs after 3pm? Post-workout protein shake?
Such are the questions faced by the modern day strength enthusiast. Are we overthinking the way we eat? In a world faced with a growing obesity epidemic and continuous production of low quality foods the answer may appear no. If we dig deeper however we may begin to question why we stick to rigid diet tips by people supposedly in the know. Where should we turn for diet advice? The muscle mags are one place, yet one often has to traverse through forty pages of advertisements before stumbling upon anything remotely sane.
What about the strongmen of yore? What about Eugen Sandow? How did he eat and why?