ARTICLE: The History of Nutrition (supplements & Steroids) in Bodybuilding

  1. Post ARTICLE: The History of Nutrition (supplements & Steroids) in Bodybuilding

    Splendid Specimens: The History of Nutrition in Bodybuilding By Randy Roach

    The sport called bodybuilding demands the ex-treme in
    body presentation. No other athletic endeavor requires such high levels
    of regimentation for muscle development and body fat reduction. To outsiders,
    such efforts may appear vain and self-centered, even looming out there
    on the lunatic fringe. Nevertheless, the sport has had considerable
    influence on other fields of athletics, not to mention the general public.

    We must remember that the men (and women) who sweat it out in the
    gym year after year were using the low-carbohydrate diet long before
    Dr. Atkins made it popular. Many other dietary strategies of today such
    as all-raw diets, protein supplementation, eating multiple small meals
    a day, carbohydrate loading, meal replacement packages and macro-nutrient
    balancing all derived their initial popularity from the bodybuilding


    Credit for the Physical Culture movement in North America, the precursor
    to the bodybuilding movement, goes to Bernarr Macfadden, an extraordinary
    entrepreneur who published physical culture magazines, organized physique
    competitions, wrote 150 books and accumulated millions in the publishing
    industry. Macfadden preached clean living and whole natural foods. He
    ate vast quantities of raw carrots, beet juice, fruits, dates, raisins,
    grains and nuts. He abstained from meat but recommended copious amounts
    of raw milk. In fact he even recommended an exclusive raw milk diet
    for extended periods.

    The dominant star of the early years was Eugen Sandow, whose career
    spanned the late 1890s and the early part of the 20th century. He did
    not display the typical burly brute image, but a finely chiseled body,
    resembling those of Roman and Greek athletes. With the help of Florenz
    Ziegfeld, he marketed and displayed his physique in artistic fashion.
    In fact, it was through this artistic expression that Sandow inspired
    Macfadden in the mid 1890s. In an 1894 interview on his dietary habits,
    Sandow claimed to abstain from hard liquor, coffee and tea, but consumed
    the occasional beer. He ate mostly wholesome foods, but indulged at
    selected opportunities. Sandow, along with most of the other Physical
    Culturists of his day, placed more emphasis on the mechanical aspects
    of diet as opposed to the chemical. He believed in doing what was necessary
    to facilitate good digestion, including eating at regular intervals,
    selecting simple foods, applying thorough mastication, eating slowly
    and tying it all together with a good night's sleep. He was critical
    of over-indulgence and recommended foods with a high nutrient value,
    although he admitted to eating what he wanted, when he wanted, and however
    much he wanted during his younger years.

    Earle Liederman, author and friend of Sandow, also advocated whole
    natural foods. Liederman pointed out the importance of a strong digestive
    system enhanced by proper food mastication for men of strength and large
    appetites. He described the popularity of "beef juice" or
    "beef extract" for rapid muscle recovery. Liederman also
    felt obliged to mention that ice cream was very popular, referring to
    one lifter who often felt it necessary to finish his meals with a quart
    of vanilla ice cream.

    Arthur Saxon of the famous Saxon brothers trio and a contemporary
    of Eugen Sandow, also recommended nutrient-dense foods for endurance
    athletes. He warned against the dangers of hard liquor, but condoned
    beer. In fact, Saxon had a reputation for hefty beer drinking as did
    many men of strength of the time. He warned against smoking while admitting
    to being a smoker himself. For gaining muscle, Saxon recommended milk
    mixed with raw egg after a workout, milk with oatmeal, cheese, beans,
    peas, and meat. He called milk the perfect food.

    According to his brother Kurt, all three of the Saxon brothers had
    very hardy appetites. Along with his participation in the strength act,
    Kurt was also the trio's chef. Kurt's list of food consumed
    by the three brothers each day indicates substantial daily intake, with
    little self-denial. Milk is largely absent from Kurt's menus.


    A debate that has been on-going since the early days of Physical Culture
    is the relative virtues of raw food versus cooked. Sandow referred to
    the eating of raw eggs and under-cooked meats as nonsense and a practice
    that was "passing away."

    In the raw food corner was champion wrestler George Hackenschmidt,
    the "Russian Lion," a man rivaling Sandow's strength,
    and surpassing him in athletic ability. Like Sandow, he was small by
    today's standards, standing just under 5'10" and weighing
    about 200 pounds. However, he was enormously strong. Both a gentleman
    and sportsman, George Hackenschmidt reflected a spiritually conservative
    philosophy towards nutrition. In his book The Way to Life,
    he stated:

    "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." He stated
    that a diet of three quarters vegetable food and one quarter meat would
    appear to be most satisfactory for the people of central Europe but
    conceded a hardy appetite which, in his early training years, was based
    on 11 pints of milk per day, presumably raw, along with the rest of
    his diet. A prophet before his time, he warned about the dangers of
    refined sugar and meat from artificially fed and confined animals. He
    believed that most people ate too much flesh food from these improperly
    raised animals and encouraged more emphasis on natural raw foods.


    The early bodybuilders also debated the pros and cons of vegetarianism.
    Macfadden and Hackenschmidt inclined towards diets that excluded meat,
    or that at least derived a preponderence of calories from plant foods.
    Juicing was popular among some. In his book Remembering Muscle Beach,
    Harold Zinkin describes fellow beach comrade Relna Brewer. At 17, Brewer
    worked in one of California's first health food stores, located
    in Santa Monica. Relna's job was to run the juice press. Because
    the owners of the store could not afford to pay much, Relna took out
    her pay in the celery, watermelon, orange and carrot juice she made
    each day.

    Jack Lalanne was probably one of Relna's customers. Jack began
    his carreer as a vegetarian, bringing his own food, such as apple or
    carrot juice and vegetables, to train at the beach during the 1930s.
    However, Lalanne later ate meat when focussed on bodybuilding. In fact,
    Armand Tanny says that Jack would visit the local stockyards to acquire
    cow's blood to drink while in training. Later Lalanne reverted
    back to his vegetarian ways, but allowing some fish and eggs.

    Lalanne opened one of the first health studios in Oakland in 1936.
    A colleague writes that Lalanne would work 14 hours a day then drive
    through the night 400 miles so he could be with the gang at Muscle Beach
    to participate in all the activities. When it came to pure energy and
    vitality, Lalanne was, and at 90 today, still is unbridled.

    Another vegetarian was Lionel Strongfort who promoted a system of
    raw foods based on fruits, vegetables, eggs and milk. He recommended
    very little meat and cooked fat. Strongfort suggested eating only two
    meals a day, a strategy shared by Macfadden that would re-emerge in
    the 60s and 70s. Strongfort and Macfadden both advised against overconsumption
    of food. They claimed overconsumption created a negative stress on the
    body's systems, sensible advice that bodybuilding publications
    would ignore in the coming years.

    Perhaps the most accepted food across all the early eating models
    for bodybuilders was milk. One of the most popular protocols for building
    size and strength was the combination of back squatting and drinking
    large quantities of milk. Joseph Curtis Hise was a pioneer of this system
    in the 1930s and after 70 years this strategy is still going strong
    in the drug-free world of bodybuilding.


    Another Physical Culturalist who advised against over-consumption
    was Tony Sansone, but Sansone understood the importance of flesh foods,
    including animal fats and organ meats. He wrote extensively on nutrition
    for bodybuilders and recommended nutrient-dense "foundation"
    foods such as milk, eggs, butter, meat, vegetables, fruits, and some
    whole grains, in that order. He also stressed the importance of organ
    meats such as liver, kidney, heart and cod liver oil and recognized
    the need to drink whole raw milk instead of pasteurized and skimmed.
    He believed goats milk was more nutritious and easily digested than
    cows milk. Fresh butter and cream were his preferred fats. He also recommended
    six to eight glasses of water per day.

    Tony Sansone wisely stressed the importance of generous amounts of
    fat in the diet to allow the complete utilization of nitrogenous (protein)
    foods in building muscle tissue--a fundamental and important fact
    that would be lost as the era of protein supplements took hold. He also
    knew that weight loss was not a matter of simple calorie counting, as
    cellular uptake or utilization of food varied on an individual basis.
    In anticipation of Dr. Atkins, Sansone recommended his foundation foods
    of milk, eggs, meat, vegetables and fruit for strength and health, and
    starchy foods as weight manipulators. His recipe for gaining weight
    was to add more high-carbohydrate foods such as bread and potatoes to
    the diet, and for losing weight to simply reduce or remove them. Tony
    Sansone's caveat to lose no more than two pounds of fat per week
    is still the standard used in bodybuilding today.


    Muscle Beach got its start in the 1930s as the meeting place of young
    athletes who lifted weights, built human pyramids, tumbled, juggled
    and engaged in any other athletic endeavor they could think of. That
    era gave us many recognizable names such as Harold Zinkin (creator of
    the Universal weight machine), Joe Gold (creator of Golds Gym), Jack
    Lalanne, Harry Smith, and the Tanny brothers, Armand and Vic (who created
    a popular gymnasium chain). In fact, it is safe to say that much of
    the fitness industry grew out of Muscle Beach--gyms, gym chains,
    TV exercise programs, fitness equipment, women lifting weights, even
    aspects of the natural organic food movement stemmed from this small
    stretch of sand.

    According to Harry Smith, long-time gym owner, ex-pro wrestler and
    Muscle Beach alumnus, body builders didn't think much about specialty
    food or supplements in those days. The emphasis was on training rather
    than eating and resting. Harry did state that many of them tried to
    keep their eating clean, and that on a number of occasions they would
    frequent a small deli about one-half block from the beach. The deli
    offered freshly ground beef to which some of the guys would mix some
    raw onions and a little salt and pepper. The meat was eaten raw along
    with raw milk. Harry said it was a cheap and easy way to eat hardy and
    keep out of the restaurants.

    One important Muscle Beach raw food enthusiast was Armand Tanny. Originally
    a weightlifter, Armand had a fantastic physique and the strength to
    qualify him for the wrestling circuit. He visited the Hawaiian Islands
    just after the Second World War and came away with a lasting impression
    of the Samoans. "They ate everything raw," he noted. "You
    name it, fish, meat, beetles--everything! They were so strong and
    healthy." On his return to the US, he became interested in the
    work of Weston A. Price, stating that Price's book Nutrition
    And Physical Degeneration
    served as his Bible.

    In 1948 he shut off his stove and ate just about everything raw from
    then on--tuna, beef, liver, lobster, oysters, clams, nuts, seeds,
    fruits and vegetables. Armand recalls wading out into the surf along
    the Santa Monica Pier and using his feet to kick up 6- to 7-inch Pismo
    clams, smashing them together to get at the pink and white flesh. Armand
    also took brewer's yeast, desiccated liver, yogurt, black strap
    molasses and wheat germ oil, all recommendations of Gaylord Hauser,
    a nutritional guru of the era. Hauser also recommended fish liver oil,
    but Tanny felt he was getting plenty from all the raw fish he was consuming.

    Armand credited his 1950 Mr. USA and the Pro Mr. America titles to
    his raw meat diet. In the 1950s, he helped his brother Vic in the gym
    business and appeared in a Mae West act. His bodybuilding articles appeared
    prominently in bodybuilding publications for the remainder of the century,
    thus providing a link to Weston Price during the decade of the 50s.


    The biggest influence on bodybuilding in the 1930s and 1940s was John
    Grimek, the second American Athletics Union (AAU) Mr. America and the
    first to win back-to-back titles, in 1940 and 1941. Many commentators
    believe that Grimek represents the beginning of modern bodybuilding
    as we know it today, describing him as the best physique of the mid

    During the early 1930s, at the start of his career, Grimek came under
    the influence of Mark Berry, editor of Strength magazine and
    an advocate of an eating protocol in which an athlete would bulk up
    in bodyweight and then train it off. At one point, Berry had Grimek
    beef up his 5' 8" frame to 250 pounds. The practice would
    become commonplace by the 1950s and maintain a foothold for several
    decades after.

    Grimek bulked up on whatever was put in front of him, reports his
    wife Angela in a 1956 Health and Strength article entitled
    "Life with John." "John has an enormous appetite.
    . . John has yet to find a restaurant that can do justice to his appetite.
    . . . Sometimes he goes on a restricted diet--and it is surprising
    how little he can get by on then. But when he goes all out, he can never
    be filled. . . . but the ‘hog' (our pet name for John) just
    eats and eats and still remains trim and muscular."

    By the 1950s, Grimek's diet included Hershey chocolate bars
    and hi-protein tablets manufactured and promoted by Bob Hoffman, publisher
    of Strength and Health, a magazine that provided a platform
    for Grimek along with the new-fangled supplements coming on the market.
    Hoffman used Hershey chocolate in his products, so Grimek and the rest
    of the York gang had easy access to some empty calories.


    In the late 1930s a young pharmacist named Eugene Schiff developed
    a method of processing whey from milk for human consumption. He created
    Schiff Bio-Foods, a whey packaging company. This was a half century
    before whey concentrates would emerge as a popular supplement in the
    bodybuilding scene. For a short time he sold his packaged whey to local
    drug stores, then sold his own store to enter into the manufacturing
    and packaging of health foods.

    Schiff focused on supplements made from natural products. He began
    to experiment with whole foods such as brewer's yeast, wheat germ
    and liver. He found that these foods were naturally rich in vitamins
    and minerals. The Schiff company claims that he was first to discover
    that rose hips was a superior source of vitamin C. Along with the first
    rose hip vitamin C supplement, he also launched one of the first multi-vitamin
    products, called "V-Complete."

    The demand during World War II for non-perishable foods allowed the
    food industry to expand and popularize the market for powdered or dehydrated
    foods and bodybuilders would eventually find their way into this market.
    Powdered milk and eggs, and later powdered soy protein, were promoted
    as an easy way to get additional protein into the diet. Breakfast drinks
    based on a protein powder emerged into the diet of the legendary Steve
    Reeves who years later wrote about this practice in his book Building
    The Classic Physique
    . Reeves' impressive natural physique
    landed him starring roles in the films Hercules and Hercules
    in the late 1950s and inspired thousands of young men
    to adopt weight training. His recipe for a breakfast drink included
    fresh orange juice, Knox gelatin, honey, banana, raw eggs and a blend
    of skim milk, egg white and soy protein.

    The first protein powders "tailored" specifically for
    athletes appeared around 1950. One of these was called 44, "The
    Supplemental Food Beverage," produced in California by a company
    called Kevo Products. The principle ingredient was dehydrated powdered
    whole soy beans, along with kelp, wheat germ, dextrose, and various
    dehydrated plants, herbs and flavorings. The supplement was sold at
    health food stores, body-building studios, and health institutes.

    Another popular product was Hi-Protein, "a protein food supplement
    derived from soya flour, milk proteins, and wheat. The free amino acids
    which include natural tryptophan and the other natural essential amino
    acids where produced by an acid hydrolysis." The product was developed
    by bodybuilder and nutrition guru Irvin Johnson with before and after
    photographs of weaklings turned musclemen. Bob Hoffman quickly capitalized
    on Johnson's success by following immediately with his own soy-based
    product marketed heavily in Strength and Health. Hoffman's
    infamous protein claimed many a victim with hives or gym-clearing gas.

    The debates on raw versus cooked and vegetarianism versus meat eating
    that appeared in bodybuilding magazines during the 1940s gave way to
    numerous articles on protein supplements in the 1950s, including "Building
    Biceps Faster With Food Supplements (Iron Man, December 1950,"
    "More and Better Protein Will Keep you Well (Strength &
    , March 1953)," "The Magical Power Of Protein
    (Mr. America, February 1958)," "Food Supplements
    Build Rock Hard Definition (Muscle Builder, June 1958)"
    and "Everyone Needs More Protein (Strength & Health,
    July 1959).

    Meal replacement products also appeared during the 1950s, with much
    hype. One product, called B-FIT, was recommended as a replacement for
    two or three regular meals per day. According to its promoters, B-FIT
    "is scientifically formulated to contain all the needed vitamins
    and minerals, plus ample supplies of the effective proteins and yet
    is so low in calories that the fatty tissue literally melts away. .
    . . You will not suffer from any nutritional deficiencies because B-FIT
    is a complete food insofar as scientific experiment and research is
    possible to develop. Approved by dieticians."

    Advocates for new diet theories--food combining, alkaline-forming
    diets, even strict vegetarianism--promoted their ideas throughout
    the 1950s, but the big emphasis was on protein powders and supplements.
    For the 1954 world weightlifting championships, team coach Bob Hoffman
    hauled more than 100 pounds of his Hi Protein powder to Vienna, hailing
    it as the "secret weapon" for his athletes. But Russia,
    whose athletes finished no lower than second place, had a secret weapon
    of their own.


    It was John Ziegler, a doctor accompanying the American team to Vienna,
    who exposed just what this Soviet weapon was. Ziegler claimed that after
    a few drinks, a Russian doctor told him that the Soviet athletes were
    using--and abusing--testosterone. Ziegler was no stranger
    to testosterone. With his background in rehabilitation therapy and his
    connection with CIBA Pharmaceuticals, he was already experimenting with
    testosterone on himself, his patients and some novice athletes. In fact,
    author and historian John Fair writes that even the great John Grimek
    was cooperating with Ziegler and trying his drugs in the summer of 1954.
    Grimek reported disappointing results.

    Both American and German research scientists had identified testosterone
    and noted its effects as far back as the mid 1930s. CIBA Pharmaceuticals
    was already targeting bodybuilders with ads for synthetic testosterone
    in 1947. With Ziegler's help, CIBA manufactured the most popular
    anabolic steroid of the 20th century. The drug was Dianabol, which came
    out in1958.

    The acceptance of steroid drugs among bodybuilders got off to a slow
    start. Drinking a gallon of milk or swallowing 2000 protein pills seemed
    more logical to them than taking a tiny pill to do the job. Even those
    who did take them were slow in accepting or acknowledging the fact that
    it was the steroids that were giving them such tremendous gains in muscle

    Out on the West Coast, bodybuilding great Bill Pearl was also curious
    as to what the Russians were doing, so he took it upon himself to do
    his own research. During a visit to the University of California at
    Davis in 1958, he learned from a veterinarian about the successful use
    of steroids in beefing up cattle. Bill figured that if it was good enough
    for a bull, then it was good enough for him. While continuing to train
    hard, he took 30 mg of the steroid drug Nilevar (three times the recommended
    dose for humans, but an absolute joke by today's practices) for
    12 weeks and brought his bodyweight up from 225 to 250 pounds.

    Steroid use among athletes paralleled the challenge to conservative
    moral standards that characterized the era of the 1960s. It was a time
    that seemed ripe for the liberation of one's desires. Individual
    freedoms took precedence over the rules, morals and ethics dictated
    by a long established culture--and by Mother Nature. If the new
    generation could take mind-altering drugs, it could take body-altering
    drugs as well. Anabolic ("building-up") steroids such as
    testosterone ushered in a new bodybuilding look that was larger and
    more muscularly pronounced than ever before.

    During the early 1960s, the magazines emphasized caution about steroids.
    They acknowledged the rumors concerning Bill Pearl and others but tried
    to steer their readers away by stating that the drugs didn't work,
    wouldn't produce what bodybuilders expected, or were outright
    dangerous. Both Iron Man and Muscle Builder magazines
    warned of side effects and published articles claiming much better results
    with high-protein products. But behind the scenes, the athletes knew
    that they worked. Pearl openly acknowledged that he used them for a
    final time in 1961 to prepare for the 1961 National Amateur Bodybuilding
    Association (NABBA) Mr. Universe contest. He stated that the drugs by
    then were no longer underground but well known to the top bodybuilders.


    Still, most athletes relied on diet for strength-building, and protein
    occupied a large percentage of that diet. In the early 1960s, Irving
    Johnson targeted elite bodybuilders with a milk-and-egg protein blend
    considered far superior to competing products--including an earlier
    product of his own--based on soy. By the mid 60s, ads for Johnson's
    protein blend began appearing in the bodybuilding magazines. At that
    time he changed his name to Rheo H. Blair. Blair claimed that his protein
    powder was made from milk and eggs obtained from animals raised on the
    rich soil of Wisconsin and that the proteins were extracted at very
    low temperatures. Wary of the difficulty some might have digesting all
    that protein, he endorsed hydrochloric acid supplements, to be taken
    with any protein meal. He also sold supplements such as amino acids,
    liver extract, B-complex and soybro (a combination of wheat germ, rice
    germ and soy germ oils). In 1966 he introduced a new protein formula
    which he claimed had a biological value resembling mother's milk.

    Blair promoted his products with skillful salesmanship but he also
    made an important suggestion that would ensure that his products actually
    worked--he insisted that his protein be taken with raw cream or
    half and half. He was smart enough to know that you must replace the
    fat removed from protein during processing. He also recognized the benefits
    of raw dairy products. Athletes of the 1960s used a variety of recipes,
    varying the proportions of Blair's protein product with raw cream,
    raw milk and raw egg yolk. Weight-trainer Don Howorth remembers eating
    3 dozen eggs, 1 quart raw cream, and 2 pounds ground sirloin along with
    2-3 cups of Blair's protein powder per day.

    Blair had a special method for cooking his eggs. He did not cook them
    in boiling water but recommended cooking many eggs at one time in water
    maintained at 181 degrees for 31 minutes. The eggs were then left in
    the water to cool down slowly. Blair claimed that putting the eggs under
    cold water "shocked" many of the nutrients, rendering them
    ineffective and that cooking eggs in this fashion preserved much of
    their nutritional value.

    It is interesting to read Perry Rader's "Reader Roundup"
    column in his Iron Man magazine during this time. He tries
    to explain the spectacular gains made by some of the popular bodybuilders
    who were using Blair's products. Many of them were eating 6000
    to 9000 calories a day in the same fashion as Don Howorth and gaining
    muscle while maintaining or even trimming their waist size. Rader published
    Blair's response in a 1966 issue of Iron Man. Blair claimed
    that his protein powders, along with all of his other supplements, were
    formulated in a special manner to metabolize fat more efficiently. He
    also warned that taking cream with any protein powder other than his
    own would result in fat accumulation.

    But Blair could not help knowing that these dramatic results were
    not achieved on food and protein powders alone. Bodybuilders knew that
    they could expect to build muscle consuming 8000 calories per day, but
    not lose fat at the same time. That required some additional anabolic
    assistance. Blair knew his guys were taking steroids. Don Howorth readily
    admitted his past use of Dianabol, but was adamant about the importance
    of diet along with it. In fact, some bodybuilders were quite open about
    drugs. When Larry Scott, two-time winner of Mr. Olympia, was asked about
    his steroid use he said without hesitation, "Sure, doesn't
    everyone?" However, the bodybuilding magazines continued the deception
    that the new, larger physiques were built on powders and supplements.
    Thus steroid use artificially inflated the already marketable commodities
    of bodybuilding.

  3. Post


    One man who had definition dieting mastered and who never used drugs
    was the Iron Guru Vince Gironda. Pioneer of a technique involving intense
    abbreviated training routines rather than long workouts, Gironda began
    competing in the 1950s and then trained both athletes and movie stars
    for many decades after. So defined was his physique, he often found
    himself penalized by judges who seemed confused over his appearance.
    Says Gironda, "The men who judged physique contests at this time
    were puzzled by so much muscularity. Quotes from physique magazines
    stated I didn't place higher in whatever contest because of too
    much muscularity. They thought that this type of cut-up physique was
    slightly repugnant so I lost most muscular titles to smoother men who
    had that type of definition for that day."

    Gironda often stated that nutrition was 85-90 percent of bodybuilding.
    His alternative to drugs was eggs. Like Blair, he advocated up to 36
    eggs a day for 6 to 8 weeks to produce muscle buildup. (He also took,
    among many other supplements, "orchic tissue tablets," that
    is, dried testicles.)

    He recommended following this "anabolic phase" with a
    short-term vegetarian diet to "re-alkalize" the body. Similarly
    he alternated a low-carbohydrate diet with periods of carbohydrate loading.
    He was careful to point out the difference between natural and refined
    carbohydrate foods. He presented research data that strongly indicted
    refined carbohydrates as the real culprit in much of the century's
    degenerative disease. His articles went into surprising detail on the
    biochemical pathways through which sugar did its damage, pointing out
    the relation between sugar and atherosclerosis, abnormal increases in
    height and weight and skeletal anomalies.

    As for protein, he believed the average American could get along fine
    with just 45 grams of quality protein a day. However, he insisted that
    bodybuilders needed over 300 grams daily for several weeks to force
    the growth process. He believed in quality protein powders and used
    Blair's milk-and-egg blend until he came out with his own product.
    When he used the powders, he blended 1/3 of a cup with a dozen eggs
    and 12 ounces of raw cream or half & half. He was also big on steak
    and often ate his meat raw.mmended germ oils, amino acids, vitamin and
    mineral supplements, and hydrochloric acid (HCL). He recommended mineral
    rich sea kelp for its iodine content and dried liver extract for blood
    building and oxygen capacity boosting. Many bodybuilders used desiccated
    liver after the early 1950s experiments of Dr. Benjamin Ershoff. Ershoff
    who conducted the famous liver study wherein rats fed 10 percent desiccated
    liver swam far longer compared to controls.


    In his early years, Blair recommended a very low carbohydrate diet.
    Later he advocated a diet consisting of 1/3 protein, 1/3 fat and 1/3
    carbohydrates to build muscle; then he reversed himself and again urged
    avoidance of carbohydrate foods. But other bodybuilders included high
    levels of carbs in their diets. For example, teenage sensation Casey
    Viator, who became the youngest Mr. America ever at age 19, had his
    own special peanut butter pudding that consisted of 2 pounds of peanut
    butter, 1 jar of grape jelly and 3 or 4 bananas. The bananas were optional.
    This was part of a diet that also included 2 dozen eggs and 2 gallons
    of raw milk per day. Casey recalls his father not shedding too many
    tears when he finally moved out.

    A columnist in Strength & Health magazine recommended
    the following carbohydrate-rich concoction for "getting big"
    along with a diet that allowed unlimited meat and eggs:

    A one day supply of Hoffman's Gain Weight formula (based on soy
    2 quarts milk
    2 cups skim milk powder
    2 raw eggs
    4 tablespoons peanut butter
    brick ice cream
    1 banana
    4 tablespoons malted milk powder
    6 tablespoons corn syrup

    By the 1960s, bodybuilders had figured out what they had to do to
    attain specific goals. Getting lean or "ripped" for a contest
    required stripping the diet of all carbohydrates, including milk and
    cream. Milk was a favorite for building muscle, but for losing fat,
    it contained too much carbohydrate and held water under the skin. Ketogenic
    diets consisting of meat and water were commonly used to prepare for
    the shows. During the 1950s, two English researchers--Professor
    Kekwick and Dr. Pawan--claimed to have isolated a fat-mobilizing
    substance that showed up in the urine along with ketone bodies after
    24 hours on a no-carb diet. In spite of considerable scientific debate,
    the Ketogenic diet remained a constant in the field of bodybuilding
    until the 1980s.

    Yet it was in the early 70s that the lipid hypothesis began to take
    hold. The result was a series of diets that emphasized carbohydrates
    over protein and fats. The pre-game meal of beef was giving way to one
    of lasagna or spaghetti.

    The magazines of 1970 mirrored this confusion. For example, in an
    issue of Strength & Health, publisher Hoffman praises the
    African Masai tribe for their reverence of whole milk, while in his
    other publication, Muscular Development, he recommends skim
    milk because it is lower in saturated fats. (The vast majority of the
    nation was now drinking pasteurized milk--long time strength trainer
    Jim Bryan remembers avoiding raw milk because he was given the impression
    that it was dangerous.) MuscleMag publisher Bob Kennedy told
    his readers not to let anyone scare them away from eggs. Frank Zane,
    Mr. Olympia champion from 1977-79, was still eating the old way with
    plenty of eggs, lamb, beef, pork, heart, liver, raw milk, protein powder,
    vegetables, fruit with some potato and brown rice, educating his readers
    on the misconception of cholesterol and warning against over-consumption
    of polyunsaturated vegetable oils. But in Iron Man, Sterri
    Larson was telling readers that the diet of the bodybuilder was not
    necessarily one to produce good health. He believed that eggs were the
    best for both building muscle and losing fat, but that saturated fat
    and cholesterol could prove hazardous. According to bodybuilder Brian
    Horton, some of the athletes were now eating chicken and fish instead
    of beef and eggs.


    Meanwhile, by the end of the 1970s, professional bodybuilders were
    using a number of metabolism-enhancing substances such as amphetamines,
    Armour (Thyroid), human and animal growth hormone, and multiple steroids
    (a method referred to as "stacking"). Some of the top pros
    worked with physicians to monitor their blood parameters as they prepared
    for their competitions. During the months before an event, these athletes
    would swallow and inject any substance that would facilitate tremendous
    muscularity. Very few, if any, bodybuilders could attain such condition
    without this assistance.

    Steroid use suffered a setback with the revelation that 1988 Olympic
    gold medal sprinter Ben Johnson had tested positive for anabolic steroids,
    which had been banned from use in the Olympic games since 1975. In 1990,
    the Food and Drug Administration added steroids to the Schedule III
    list of the Controlled Substance Act. Since then, any athlete seeking
    to build muscle via anabolic steroids could just as easily find his
    next workout conducted in a Federal prison gym -- and several have,
    to the dismay of many in the legal, medical and sports arenas.

    The ban on steroid use was no surprise to the bodybuilding world since
    abuse of the drugs, even at the high school level, was well known. Not
    only was the number of users growing, but so were the dosages and arsenals
    in professions where size and strength really made the difference.

    The magazines were not yet labeling heart disease as a side effect
    of steroid use. However, by 1970 they were starting to mention the fact
    that a number of strength athletes were succumbing at their prime. Columnist
    Bob Brown described his concern over losing friends at an early age
    to heart disease and wrote an article in Iron Man entitled
    "Will Weight Training Kill You?" Brown compiled some death
    statistics on prominent men of the iron game throughout the century
    and compared them to some mortality stats supplied from an insurance
    company. He concluded that even though strength trainers were not immune
    to early death, they fared better than the average American and stood
    a much better chance at living a longer life.

    Others noted the shortened careers of top bodybuilders. The 1967 Mr.
    America Don Howorth considered a comeback, but stated he knew his body
    would not do well with what he had to take at that stage of his life.
    Even the genetically blessed Casey Viator who was a serious contender
    for the Mr. Olympia title, walked from any more attempts in 1983 knowing
    that his body had had enough.


    In the early 1980s, bodybuilders became interested in the glycemic
    index of carbohydrate foods. A team of researchers at the University
    of Toronto, led by Dr. David Jenkins, demonstrated that different foods
    affected blood glucose levels at different rates. They developed the
    Glycemic Index in which many carbohydrate foods were measured against
    selected reference foods on how quickly they raised glucose levels.

    Many bodybuilders and other athletes used the glycemic index to plan
    their daily menu and carbohydrate selection. With the insurgence of
    carbs into the diet, along with a well-established reverence for protein,
    bodybuilders discovered there wasn't much room left for fat. In
    fact, by the end of the decade, many found themselves in a competition
    for who could get their dietary fat the lowest. Some even attempted
    a theoretical zero fat diet.

    But not everyone was taken in. I interviewed bodybuilder Ron Kosloff
    who said he didn't change a thing. "I knew what I saw,"
    he told me. "My grandparents lived on a farm and ate whole milk,
    cream, eggs, butter, meat, potatoes and homemade bread. My grandfather
    often ate 6 eggs a day for years, many of them raw, along with lard
    sandwiches. He lived to 98 while my grandmother lived to 101. What astounded
    me most was their farmhand who went by the name of Indian Joe. When
    I first saw him he looked in his 40s and was incredibly cut and muscular.
    He looked like Conan. I was shocked when I found out he was well into
    his 70s. Indian Joe lived to 115 years of age and ate nothing but meat,
    glands and intestines
    !" Kosloff had consumed a minimum of
    6 eggs daily for the previous 20 years with no ill effects. Ron also
    noted that bodybuilders like Gironda and Blair were warning him back
    in the late 60s of the real hazardous fats--hydrogenated oils!

    Armand Tanny, now in his 60s, was also writing articles contradicting
    this new trend. All through the 1980s he wrote articles for Joe Weider's
    Muscle and Fitness magazine such as: Caveman Diet (March 1986),
    Meat and the Bodybuilder (Dec 1986), Good Nutrition and Sex (June 1987),
    Streamline Meat (Oct 1987), Uncooked Delicacies (Dec 1986), and Those
    Beefs About Meat (Oct 1985).

    In the midst of the cholesterol scare in 1984, Vince Gironda released
    his book Unleashing The Wild Physique, still recommending 36
    eggs a day to produce an anabolic effect. However, he also wrote an
    article defending carbohydrates and warning of the potential risks of
    high protein consumption.


    A major trend in the 80s and 90s was the concept of carbohydrate loading,
    first popularized by Vince Gironda back in the 50s and 60s. "I
    believe that every 3 to 5 days you need to get a ‘carbohydrate
    loading meal' into your body

    . . . I feel that carbohydrate is necessary every third or fifth day
    in order to get the glycogen back into the liver."

    Also back in the 1960s, cyclists were using a technique of loading
    their muscles with carbohydrates to give themselves an endurance edge.
    Bodybuilders were also loading their muscles just before a competition
    to give them a fuller look. Into the 1980s, the competitive bodybuilders
    had brought it into a science with their knowledge of the hormones vasopressin
    and aldosterone and how they controlled the sodium/water balance in
    the body. The challenge was to stand on stage on competition day with
    as much body fluid sucked into the muscles with the carbohydrates and
    not under the skin. The effect of this technique was so dramatic that
    hit or missed timing could represent a victory or looking terrible for
    bodybuilding standards. Often bodybuilders would be banging their heads
    off the wall one to three days after a big show when all the fluids
    would shift into the right places--too late!

    Similar diets followed including Cyclical Ketogenic Dieting (CKD)
    variously known as the "Ultimate Diet," the "High-Fat
    Diet," the "Anabolic Diet," "Bodyopus,"
    the "Metabolic Diet," "Anabolic Solution," and
    the "Ultimate Diet 2.0."
  4. Post


    Amino acids in their many forms (peptide-bonded, free-form, branch
    chained, L-crystalline) were popular in the 80s, based on the notion
    that certain isolated amino acids could stimulate the pituitary gland
    to release growth hormone. Claims that the free-form amino acids arginine
    and ornithine could help bodybuilders lose fat and gain muscle actually
    led to a world-wide shortage of arginine and ornithine. I remember contributing
    to that shortage. Others touted the amino acid lysine as a growth hormone
    releaser. Lysine is plentiful in milk, which is what bodybuilders used
    in the days before amino acid supplements.

    Soy protein powder made a big comeback in the 1990s with enough market
    hype to force the bodybuilding community to take another look. However,
    soy has never been accepted as a quality protein by the bodybuilders
    who knew anything about protein. Blair dumped it decades ago for the
    higher quality from milk and eggs. Vince Gironda simply referred to
    soy as "that s***!"

    Carbohydrate loading was made easier with drinks like CarboPlex, containing
    maltodextrin. Other products contained medium chain triglycerides (MCTs)
    derived from coconut oil, to provide energy while bypassing the normal
    fat-assimilating channels in the body.

    It was almost impossible to keep up with the new ergogenic and anabolic
    aids promoted in the magazines. They had bizarre names like Gamma Oryzanal,
    Osterolwere, Dibencozide and Inosine. A product called Metabolol containing
    glucose polymers, MCTs and various ergogenic agents became popular.
    Completing products--with names like "Ultimate Orange"
    and "Hot Stuff"--were promoted with clever and outlandish
    marketing tactics.


    During the 1980s, the world of competitive bodybuilding could be summed
    up in one name--Lee Haney. Haney ruled the Mr. Olympia competition
    from 1984 to 1991. He was followed by Dorian Yates, winner for six straight
    years and then Ron Coleman who is the reigning Mr. Olympia in 2004.
    These two men ushered in a big jump in size and hardness. To put the
    size in perspective, Arnold Schwarzenegger was a huge athlete back in
    the 70s competing at 235 pounds at 6 feet 2 inches. In the 2003 Mr.
    Olympia contest, Ron Coleman stood under 6 feet and weighed 287 pounds--and
    he was even leaner than Schwarzenegger!

    Were these men better bodybuilders than Schwarzenegger and Haney?
    Not necessarily, just more daring chemists. Two very anabolic compounds
    had muscled their way to prominence in the pro ranks in a much bigger
    way than ever before. These compounds were insulin and growth hormone.
    Bodybuilders were using natural growth hormone from human cadavers and
    rhesus monkeys back in the 1970s. However, with the introduction of
    recombinant Human Growth Hormone in 1985, this product became more widely
    available. Another anabolic compound was creatine monohydrate, a muscle-hydrating
    substance. Whey protein came into prominence. Bodybuilders will ingest
    just about anything in the quest to build muscles--powders, pills,
    raw meat, blood, glands, and a whole assortment of esoteric concoctions
    that have been slam-dunked for the sake of the gain.

    Until the end of the 1980s, athletes sat on two distinct sides of
    the line--those who took steroids and those who did not. As Nelson
    Montana once stated, "Steroids do what all bodybuilders want --they
    build muscle!" That distinct line became blurred in the 1990s
    with the fall of the Berlin wall and the introduction of Eastern Block
    performance enhancing compounds known as "pro-hormones."
    In the mid-1990s, supplements of Androstenedione, Androstenediol, Norandrostenedione,
    Norandrostenediol and DHEA appeared in the magazines. Originally deemed
    safe alternatives to steroids, the same side effects that manifested
    with steroids soon became apparent--male pattern baldness, prostrate
    enlargement, acne, reduced libido, liver and kidney toxicity, and--every
    bodybuilder's favorite--gynecomastia (***** tits).

    As more side effects revealed themselves, more precursors (pro-hormones)
    came on the scene to replace their predecessors. Baseball's Mark
    McGuire helped the market in a big way. Bodybuilders started stacking
    these hormones like regular anabolic steroids along with estrogen blockers,
    growth hormone enhancers, cortisone inhibitors, stimulators (ephedra),
    creatine, protein powders and, if there was any cash left, perhaps some
    vitamins. The recommended diet today is high-carb, high-protein, and
    low in fat--skim milk, egg whites, protein powders. . . anything
    but real whole foods. It's no surprise that early natural bodybuilders,
    such as LaLanne, Tanny, Gironda and Grimek, enjoyed good longevity in
    the sport while the health of today's muscle stars is a huge question
    mark. As five-time Mr. Universe Bill Pearl recently remarked: "The
    guy left standing on the stage today at the end of a bodybuilding show
    is probably the guy in the arena who is closest to death."

    It's unfortunate that today's young athletes who have
    that genetic potential to excel in bodybuilding really have no choice
    but to go down that pharmaceutical road if they want to achieve top
    honors at the shows. A friend of mine and long time gym owner Marty
    Hodgson stated to me, "We must remember it was in fact drugs that
    played a significant role in building those comic book characteristics
    that attracted us to the sport over the past 40 years. But those very
    substances that help make the sport are the same ones that are, with
    no doubt, destroying it."

    About the Author

    Bodybuilder and trainer Randy Roach has followed most of the bodybuilding
    diet trends over the past 30 years including methods not so embraced
    in bodybuilding circles, such as complete vegan vegetarianism. During
    his protein-drink phase he ate egg whites and discarded the yolks. He
    has discovered that too many carbohydrates give him all sorts of problems.
    Over the past 3 years he has migrated to a total raw diet. This includes
    raw meat, dairy, eggs (especially the yolks), honey, green juices, and
    some fruits with their seeds. Food for a typical day includes 1/4-1/2
    pound raw chicken,1/2 pound raw beef, 1/4 pound raw liver, 16- 32 ounces
    of raw milk, 2-3 ounces raw cream, 6-8 tablespoons raw honey, 32 ounces
    raw green juice (celery, parsley, lemon, zucchini, honey, beets) and
    occasional fruit.

    This article is excerpted from his forthcoming book Muscle, Smoke
    & Mirrors
    , available at

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