Tuesday, November 15, 2011

An athlete's diet from antiquity

If we are to assume that Eliano is a reliable source, the first athlete who ever followed a special diet was Ikkos from Taranto, who lived in the 5th century BC. Plato affirms that he followed a very disciplined program, whilst making the phrase "Ikkos's meal" legendary. However, Milo of Croton, an Olympic wrestler, consumed 7.5 litres of wine, 9 kilos of bread and a lot of meat on a daily basis. Before him, the athletes of the classical era followed a diet based on dry food, including figs, cheese and bread.


Pythagoras is believed to be the first to advise athletes on consuming meat. Also the coaches advise the athletes who wish to win an Olympic title to abide by a special diet, whilst not eating any dessert, not drinking cold water and not consuming wine whenever  they felt like it. Most importantly this special diet should involve meat, as Pausanias confirms. 
The physician Galen argues that an athlete's diet should be tailored to the specific needs of each person. As is evident, success is not easily achieved and all are designed to promote a victorious career. The athlete's diet is supervised from the very beginning by the trainer. Ikkos from Taranto, a Pentathlon athlete who won in 476 BC, supported the view that sexual abstinence before the Games is crucial whilst Asilos from Croton believed that an athlete should eat lightly.

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