It doesn’t take a rocket scientist (or even a nutritionist) to know that no matter how much you exercise, you won’t get the results you want if you’re not eating right.
If you’re exercising for weight loss, around 75% of your success will be down to diet and only 25% to exercise (but don’t under estimate how important exercise is for toning and health!).
Even if weight loss isn’t your primary goal, any kind of intensive exercise requires quality fuel to keep the body going. This isn’t anything new however. We’ve always known that we need to eat right to achieve our goals.
Our goals haven’t always involved multiple bench presses or a rippling six pack however. Archaeologists have suggested that Roman gladiators ate a high carbohydrate, largely vegetarian, diet consisting of foods like barley and legumes. As a result, rather than showing off ripped torsos akin to Russell Crowe’s Maximus Decimus Meridius, gladiators were more on the podgy size. Fat even.
But there was a reason for this – subcutaneous fat protected the nerves from damage, as well as as allowing the fighter to last that little bit longer.
Moving on to the Tudor period, the invention of suits of armour rendered a tubby tummy unnecessary for defence, and diets changed to reflect this. Henry VIII was a famed athlete in his youth (before a jousting accident and ongoing domestic problems put paid to that), and fueled this athleticism with huge quantities of meat, including the usual mutton, venison and pork, along with slightly more unusual delicacies such as lamprey, curlew and peacock.
This is not to say you should dash out for a quick swan kebab (that would be illegal). I’m also assuming you’re not aspiring to the porky physique of a Roman gladiator either. But we can learn some lessons from our predecessors. Henry’s diet was pretty deficient in vegetables and fruit (which probably contributed to his later health problems), but was very rich in protein.
Combining protein (grass fed beef paleo diet) with resistance exercise helps to build lean muscle, preserve muscle as you get older and also helps muscles to recover more quickly. Protein is particularly important after exercise, with 20g-30g of high quality protein recommended immediately after exercise.
So how do you get this high quality protein? You could dash out and buy a barrel of whey protein (and there’s nothing wrong with that if that’s what you choose to do). But a far more delicious source of protein is good quality meat – how about organic free range chicken, pork and steak?
Organic raw milk and cheese are also a good source of protein – these have the added benefit of being a terrific source of calcium – calcium is essential for maintaining healthy bones, and you aren’t going to get very far with your exercise without healthy bones.
Even the tubby gladiators knew the importance of calcium, but they got theirs from brews made from charred wood or bone ash, which sounds like a far less tasty option.