The Spartacus TV series has a little of everything: gruesome violence, sex, triumph, tragedy, and deceit. But one of the most intriguing aspects of the show is the gladiators themselves. Some of these men were absolute legends, larger-than-life physical specimens that got fame for being the biggest and deadliest. Although they were slaves, they rose to power by their victories and were considered heroes amongst the people. They were like modern day sports heroes but instead of being skilled with a bat and glove they were worshipped for the way they wielded a sword and shield. What's really interesting about these men is what they ate.
The Roman gladiators came in all shapes and sizes but new research is now showing most legitimate gladiators carried extra fat, on purpose. It became custom to gain fat around the chest and abdomen as an additional layer of armor to their vital organs, blood vessels, and muscle. This way, if they suffered a superficial wound, no serious damage would occur. The gladiators training was grueling, and the extra fat also protected them from training blows with wooden or blunted weapons. In addition, extra fat made them look bigger and more intimidating to opponents. The amount of fat they could accumulate while remaining strong and agile was the difference between life and death.
Now, how did these gladiators train so hard yet still manage to "bulk up" adding size and fat around their bodies? They ate a vegetarian diet. Bone analysis of gladiators show that they consumed a diet mainly of grains, mainly barley, legumes, dried fruit and beans. This not because of poverty or lack of access to meats, these diets were well calculated to put on size and fat. This vegetarian diet was lacking calcium, so the gladiators would drink a brew of bone ash and charred wood, which gave them a calcium count much higher than non-gladiatorial Romans. This diet helped protect their bodies from harm in the arena.
How can we learn from this Gladiator Diet? First, if you want to get fat just eat a diet centered around grains and carbohydrates. The gladiators did this on purpose and it worked. Dairy farmers give their livestock grains (instead of grass) so they will grow larger more quickly and their meat will be more marbled (fatty). A high grain diet is a "bulk up" diet. If I had a nickel for every time someone told me, "Yeah I don't lift weights because I bulk up really fast, like in 5 days fast", I would be able to buy a new weightlifting shoes. What these folks are really saying is, "I bulk up because I eat a diet full of crap carbohydrates." I'm not saying you can never eat a grain of brown rice again, but if the diet revolves around grains, processed carbs, and fruit it's likely going to be a weight gaining diet. It's also going to be a diet that increases the risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and metabolic disorders. Over two thirds of Americans are obese from eating this diet.
If you've been in the gym for awhile you know it's about that time of year where I go on my tardiness rant. PLEASE be a few minutes early to class at the very least. That hour mark is not something to shoot for and sometimes miss, that's the exact moment when class starts. We had 9 total people show up late today. Once in awhile is acceptable, but habitual is not. In addition, one of my biggest pet peeves is when people show up late, start chatting with other members, go over to the water machine, or walk in on their phone. Please try to show me that you care about being on time by having some sense of urgency when you are late. Thanks! Okay, till next March, I'm signing off!
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