This article discusses the old time strongman diet. Of course every old time strongman ate differently so we’ll just be looking at a few different examples. The truth is like the greatest strongmen today you’ll find lots of differences, so if you’re looking for the magical diet you need to gain their strength, you’re out of luck.
Still looking at their diets can be informative and may give you some ideas on what you can do yourself. Though you may not want to follow them. The Saxon brother’s eating, according to this article, may have been more legendary then their strength.
For breakfast they ate 24 eggs and 3 pounds of smoked bacon; porridge with cream, honey, marmalade and tea with plenty of sugar. At three o’clock they had dinner: ten pounds of meat was consumed with vegetables (but not much potatoes); sweet fruits, raw or cooked, sweet cakes, salads, sweet puddings, cocoa and whipped cream and very sweet tea. Supper, after the show, they had cold meat, smoked fish, much butter, cheese and beer. Following this they had a chat and at one o’clock went to bed.
The Saxons did have a “health drink” which I presume they concocted themselves. The ingredients were dark lager beer (or Dublin stout) mixed with Holland gin, the yolk of an egg and plenty of sugar. “It is a very good but strong drink” was the Saxon opinion, “but, if you are not used to it you will get dizzy very quickly.” It seems to me that one would have to be a very strong man in the first place, in order to drink it.
In there childhood, breakfast, for the Saxons, consisted of a thick soup made from white flour, rolls or white bread with butter or marmalade. On week-days dinner was at one o’clock; there was no soup, but instead, vegetables of all kinds, cooked or steamed, with fat on them, and some potatoes; after this, raw or cooked fruits. Other days they had green beans, white beans, peas and all kinds of food like this and rice cooked with milk and plenty of sugar. This was varied at other times by having salted herring that had been watered for 24 hours and eaten raw with boiled potatoes; there was also pickled cucumbers and raw onions with a little vinegar and plenty of oil; they had milk or sweet cream made by their mother. Salads and celery were also part of their meals, particularly in the summer when they had salads with plenty of oil on them.
Dinner was usually followed with fruits or sweet cakes made from white flour and sometimes, berries on top of the cakes. They were very fond of these. There was also plenty of mushrooms eaten raw or fried with fat; their mother used to go out in the morning and pick about 10 to 12 pounds of these in the fields. She also used to make big cakes, 24″ by 36″, and spread with butter, or beaten egg whites, sugar and chocolate. The was often eaten with apples.
At dinner time, there was usually nothing to drink but plain water. Other meals included soup, black German bread, butter or lard, cheese, smoked fish, raw cucumbers and radishes and onions. There was never any kind of meat on weekdays except for their father’s meal; their mother did not care for it and it was only when they went to England, as professional performers, that the Saxon brothers learned to eat meat every day; the meat in England was very good.
For more about Arthur Saxon and his brothers, including how they trained I recommend you check out the Arthur Saxon Power Pack.
Now here is the Russian Lion George Hackenschmidt’s take on the subject of a strongman’s diet. This is from his book The Way to Live.
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.
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.
Here is Thomas Inch’s take on the strongman diet from his book On Strength.
THERE is nothing so wearisome as having to be extremely particular about what one eats or drinks. I can never believe that the food faddist is happy, that it can be nice to go through life feeling that it is extremely difficult to get the peculiar meals which have been adopted on some nature-cure plan, that everything has to be exact in quantity with nuts and fruit predominating.
All my life I have partaken of a mixed diet, and although eventually I was led to delve more deeply into the exact make-up of various foodstuffs, I never had reason to believe that my instinct had led me wrong as to what contained the constituents needed to quickly repair broken-down tissue following in the train of more or less strenuous physical exercise.
Diet plays an important part in connection with certain ailments. Those who suffer from rheumatism must keep down red meats, and alcoholic drinks. The constipated ought to avoid cheese and eggs; a little olive oil with salads, plenty of green-stuffs and fruit, Hovis bread instead of white, hot water before the first meal, stewed rhubarb or stewed apples, also raw apples, assist materially. The obese should avoid rich greasy dishes, fattening drinks such as cocoa, ale or stout, much liquid of any kind, pastries, potatoes, any starchy foods, pies, soups, white bread, sweets.
It may be helpful and of interest to many readers if I outline a dietary which is calculated to assist muscle-building and with the object of helping one stand hard training. Cheese, beans, lentils, Hovis bread, oatmeal porridge with milk and treacle added, Bovril instead of soup (nothing replaces broken-down tissue and gives energy so quickly as Bovril).
Whilst those threatened with increasing weight must avoid sweets, chocolates and sugary foods, the athlete in training has a somewhat strange leaning towards the same, the simple explanation being that sugar is energy-producing. It is not generally known that one famous rowing race trainer always allows each man in his boat one or two pieces of lump sugar about half an hour before the event, solely to give energy for the coming struggle. So that the physical culturist who aims at development of muscle and is training for feats of strength might with benefit include the very items which the obese must perforce avoid.
While this is not a complete picture, this should give you an idea of the old time strongman diet. Be sure to look around the site and you’ll find much more on what they ate and how they trained.