Thursday: The Gladiator Diet


In 10 Minutes:

600m Run

50 Pullups

In 10 Minutes:

600m Run

50/35 Cal Row

In 10 Minutes

600m Run

50 DB Power Snatch (45/30)


I was talking with Jim Sullivan a few days ago and he mentioned he was watching the show "Spartacus". It reminded me about this blog I wrote a few years ago:

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 achieved fame for being deadly. They resemble 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, and they did this on purpose. It became custom to gain fat around the chest and abdomen. This created 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, including 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.

What can we learn from this Gladiator Diet? First, this case study shows that eating a diet high in grains will help one gain fat. 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. I hear this quite often: "Yeah I don't lift weights because I bulk up really fast, like in 5 days fast". What these folks are really saying is, "I bulk up because I eat a diet full of simple carbohydrates." I'm not saying you can never eat a grain of brown rice again, but if the diet is centered around grains, processed carbs, and and sugar 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.

Eat clean, organic, grass-fed, local, fresh food. Meats, fish, egss, veggies, nuts, seeds, fruit, and superfoods. Limit grains, beans, dairy, and alcohol.