Sunday, May 8, 2011
Secrets of Strength - (Circa 1925) - Chapter 8 - Strength from Perfect Digestion - By Earle E. Liederman
There is no question I am asked more frequently than "Mr. Liederman, what shall I eat to make me strong?"
Perhaps you remember the fairy-tales you read in your childhood days. The hero of the tale at some magic food, or drank some magic potion, and would immediately become so strong and brave that he would go out and clean up an army single-handed. I assure you, there are people today who almost believe that kind of thing. I once met an undersized young fellow who was quite convinced that if he could only hit on the right kind of food preparation, in a couple of months' time he would become a sort of combination of Sandow and Jack Dempsey. And when I told him that I knew of no such food or drink I could tell he thought that I was "holding out on him." I have never yet met a "Strong Man" whose digestion was poor. Their powers of digestion and assimilation are on a par with the power of their muscles. Now, whether their muscular strength comes from the perfect working of their organs, or whether their perfect digestion comes from their muscular strength, it would be hard to say; but undoubtedly there is a connection. I have observed that the very strong amateurs and professionals with whom I am acquainted have two noticeable characteristics. They eat in a deliberate manner and masticate the food thoroughly; and they have a marked preference for concentrated nourishment. Also it must be admitted that some of them are what you would call "large eaters."
It stands to reason that a large man with powerful muscles, and who uses those muscles, will require more nourishment than will a small man who uses his muscles but little. It is further noticeable that when an active and powerful man changes his occupation to some inactive employment his appetite will gradually become less. A "Strong Man" does not deliberately eat a lot of highly nourishing food with the fixed intention of keeping up his strength. He does so instinctively, for the exercise or work at which he spends his strength gives him a grand appetite, and he instinctively satisfies that appetite. Under certain conditions you, the ordinary man, do exactly the same thing. You have been working all week, and on some crisp Saturday afternoon you go off on a hike, climb a big hill, play 18 holes of golf, or perhaps take part in a game of football. In two or three hours you are continually using your muscles; which means you are spending physical energy in large quantities. When after a bath and rub-down you sit down to your Saturday evening meal, you discover that you have a "whale of an appetite," and you amaze and dismay your family by the amount of food you eat. If you ate a meal like that after a day in the office you would probably have unpleasant consequences in the way of a headache and indigestion. But after vigorous exercise the organs will take care of a lot of nourishment.
If you take vigorous exercise regularly you develop a regular appetite; and along with the appetite comes a definite increase in the ability of the digestive organs to turn food into energy and muscular tissue. And these "Strong Men" by virtue of their employment and physique require a lot of food to keep them going. And so does a stevedore, or a ditch-digger or any other man who uses all his muscles continuously. When a man eats unusual quantities his friends will say "he has an appetite like a farm-hand."
If you go to college and are on the football or rowing squad, you are made to eat at the training table; where you are provided with food that is easily digested and which provides nourishment. You are given no choice, as the dishes are selected by an experienced trainer. It seems to me these very "Strong Men" develop an instinctive taste for that kind of food. Go to lunch with one of them, and while you are hunting over the bill-of-fare for some dainty dish that will tempt your appetite, your companion will fix the waiter with a stern eye, and say, "Bring me a big steak, a lot of potatoes and a pitcher of milk" or perhaps, "Bring me a big order of pork and beans, and when I am through, bring me another." When it comes time for dessert he will wave away the French pastries and either have ice cream, pudding or some kind of fruit-pie.
I sometimes wonder if anyone besides myself ever noticed the similarity of the diets of an invalid and a "Strong Man." A man recovering from an illness will be given broths, beef tea, milk-and-eggs, ice-cream, milk-toast; and as he gets stronger, meat. That is just the kind of dishes the "Strong Man" naturally prefers. I know professionals who at the end of an exhausting act will consume large quantities of beef tea, or some meat extract. They claim that it immediately restores their strength; the explanation being that the juices of the meat are assimilated very rapidly.
An invalid can "keep down" ice cream, when his stomach will reject everything else. Some of these "Strong Men" positively inhale ice-cream. I asked one of my Herculean friends, who thinks nothing of finishing every meal with a "quart of vanilla," why he ate so much ice-cream. All he had to say was that it somehow "reached the spot."
Another professional of my acquaintance always breakfasts exclusively on milk-toast; his ration being about a loaf of bread toasted and put in a quart of hot milk. A tubercular case, a consumptive, when sent to a sanitorium, is made to consume an "egg-and-milk" at regular intervals during the day, and this simple diet seems to check the disease and restore the wasted tissues. A " Strong Man" who happens to like eggs will think nothing of eating half a dozen at a meal. As to the regularity of their meals--well, there is no such thing. They will eat at any time, before or after a performance, and sometimes both. They eat whenever they are hungry--and some of them are hungry all the time.
Now I suppose all that is very unscientific, and that it seems to contradict all the theories of those authorities who insist that the human body thrives best on a "balanced ration," that every day one must absorb a certain variety and quantity of different food elements; who insist that only one kind of bread is nutritious, or that one must eat exclusively of fruits and vegetables. All I am doing is to tell things as I have seen them; and I do not mean that there is nothing in what those food experts teach us.
A busy banker might be much healthier, if instead of eating rich and expensive dishes, he confined himself to a diet which was scientifically planned in quantity and food-values. But that is no reason for believing that a "Strong Man" should eat exactly the same quantity and kinds of food. No one would expect the average banker, or lawyer, to carry a thousand pounds of iron on one shoulder, or to match his strength against that of a team of horses; and neither should anyone expect a big husky to maintain his strength or create new power, on the diet of an indoor worker of average physique.
There are some people who simply cannot understand that the man who has power and muscles of phenomenal size and strength is almost bound to have digestive organs of equally exceptional power. I believe that the almost perfect digestion of those who are very strong is mostly due to the development of the muscles in the neighborhood of the digestive tract. Like other teachers of physical culture, pupils are sent to my by physicians, with the requirement that I prescribe an exercise program to cure chronic constipation, or chronic looseness of the bowels. I know that one kind of exercise will relieve constipation by promoting the activity of the liver and intestines; and that another kind of exercise will cure the other condition through toning up the organs and regulating their secretions; and that still other exercise will improve the quality of the blood.
In such cases in notice that an exercise which benefits the liver will develop the muscles at the sides of the waist; and that by the time those muscles have grown large and shapely the liver will be working properly. Also that the development of other muscles near the waist-line will "tone up" other organs.
As the real "Strong Man," the symmetrically developed, well-knit chap, is equipped with a wonderful set of muscles encasing his digestive organs, he is immune from any digestive troubles. He is even better off than that. With him it is not just a matter of being free from organs the work properly or improperly, for he has organs that function with immense vigor. I hope you see what I mean. There is an immense difference between being merely free from disease, and being immensely vigorous. Undoubtedly there are business men of advanced age who have never taken any more exercise than they could help; who have "never been sick in their lives"; who have never become either emaciated or grossly fat. Why? Because they are blessed with almost perfect digestion and assimilative processes. So there is a connection between good digestion and continued health. And there is just as close a connection between an extraordinarily vigorous digestion and extraordinary bodily strength.
In concluding this chapter I wish to emphasize the fact that any exercise program which is designed to increase the size and strength of your muscles should add to the permanent vigor of your digestive organs. Therefore, when you exercise you should keep a careful watch on your appetite. If you have a good appetite and crave nourishing foods, you are on the up-grade and can expect rapid increases, if you satisfy that appetite. If on the other hand, you lose your appetite, it means that you are over-exercised or under-exercised; and that your muscles will not grow, nor your strength increase until the appetite returns.
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