13 May 2010
To purge or not to purge
At the time of the Beijing Olympics a lot of publicity was given to Michael Phelps’s astonishing intake of food, which came to over 10,000 calories per day, most of them in the form of carbohydrates. The BBC listed everything in awe-inspiring detail at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/7562840.stm and it struck me on reading it that the list flew in the face of the usual advice about the correct proportions of fats, sugars and proteins in the diet, and the importance of vitamin-packed superfoods like leafy vegetables and brightly coloured fruits. Clearly, Phelps’s first need was to cram down daily as many calories as was humanly possible, given his huge expenditure of energy in training and competition, but the report did get me thinking about how advice on nutrition changes over time. One of the pleasures of working here is that in the course of your work you run across all sorts of publications that lurk in the archive largely undisturbed, and while researching an article on early coaching books I became fascinated by the types of foods that athletes were recommended to eat.
Walter Thom’s Pedestrianism (1813) was one of the first books to be published on running (and walking). His ideas on coaching were adapted from those of the celebrated race walker Captain Barclay who was a folk hero in
Mussabini, Scipio Africanus.
The Complete Athletic Trainer. By S. A. Mussabini, in collaboration with
Charles Ranson. With thirty illustrations.
Methuen & Co.:
Pedestrianism; or, an account of the performan