Bodybuilders and Strongmen of the Past consuming Gelatin Protein, Saturated Fats, and Healthy Sugars: Paul Anderson


“My search went on for more protein foods that could be used in a concentrated form and taken in liquids. One day I was reading the label on a plain gelatin product, and saw that they advertised it to be very high in protein. I thought this would be something to try, so I started putting it into orange juice, stirring it up briskly and drinking it. I used this along with the diet of milk, raw eggs, and soybeans. Now there was a greater vitality in my life, and certainly a marked difference in my training. I varied the gelatin products, many being on the market, and started buying it in a bulk form. Now I started to learn that both animal and vegetable proteins were better when they were used together.

“There is no doubt in my mind that the secret to success in any sport is diet along with rest and exercise, and of course the proper mental attitude. As I grew in size and my lifting progressed to world record breaking performances, I knew that one secret to my success was the ability to train more than anyone else. I could actually train on the same lift every day by furnishing the body with enough digestible protein to allow the muscle tissue to rebuild quite rapidly. The more I learned of nutrition the faster my strength increased, and the more I was able to train. I also learned that my body needed all types of protein, but it could develop better on the animal variety. Not that I had any desire to omit the valuable protein coming from vegetables, but I felt that I should pursue other forms of animal protein.

I remember that during the time I started really making progress in my convalescence, from the illness as a small boy, my mother not only gave me meat, milk, fish and eggs prepared in various ways, but she also prepared various strength-building soups for me. This soup was usually made of some canned variety in which she added a liquid that she squeezed with a hand press from ground beef. She would put the beef on the stove in a large pan and add some water. As this started to get hot she would allow it to simmer for about a minute, actually just long enough for it to get hot, and then pour it through a lemon-squeezing press, that would extract all of the fluid. She would pour this fluid into the soup and serve it to me in that manner. Thinking of this, I decided I would add this type of strength-builder to my then fortified protein diet, and every morning for breakfast this is what I would have to start my strenuous day. With these great quantities of protein, I found that my body was growing a little stale, and even though I ate many green vegetables and salads, and tried to have what I would call a well-balanced diet of various vegetables both cooked and raw. Occasionally I would drink soft drinks during my training and noticed when I did this I could perform much better, and my digestive cycle would work much faster. This proved to me that I needed a great deal more sugar. It seemed that the more protein I took, the more sugar I needed to help digest the protein, and also give me quick energy. I turned to the greatest sugar supply I could find, which was honey. I soon found that much of the honey that could be bought in grocery stores did not do me as much good as honey direct from the beehive, bought from a farmer. It was my personal belief that much of the honey that was on the market had been heated in a pasteurizing process and had lost some of its quick digesting qualities.

Diet cannot do it alone. There are many qualities that make up the champion, or just the person who wants to live a full and vibrant life and get the most use out of what God has given him. Certainly all will agree, the type of fuel we put into the wonderful machines we call bodies is what determines the efficiency of their operation.” Paul Anderson, “Diet and Nutrition

“Approximately 90% of Anderson’s diet (by weight) is in liquid form. A large percentage of his solid food is eaten during the evening. The gallon and a half of milk consumed daily constitutes the main portion of his dietary intake. This quantity is not gulped down in large amounts but consumed slowly throughout the day. Plain gelatin and protein supplements are other key items in Anderson’s food intake.

His breakfast usually consists of three glasses of orange juice and a quart of milk, plus several packages of plain gelatin. Just before his workout he has a bowl of soup containing the juice from beef liver, to “aid in producing good blood.” He replaces the liquid lost through perspiration by consuming two or three quarts of milk during his workout, which lasts from three to four hours. About six o’clock each evening he consumes a regular meal which usually consists of beef or liver, green salad, and a quart of milk. When he goes out at night he may have a steak and salad, or egg-enriched milk shakes.” Michael J. Salvati, “Feeding Techniques

Further Resources:

  1. Gelatin | Broth: Reference Page
  2. Enter the WABAC: Gelatin
  3. No Whey, Just Eat Real Nutrient Dense Food: Old School Nutrition for an Old School Physique
  4. The Thyroid: Reference Page
  5. Sugar | Carbohydrates: Reference Page
  6. Enter the WABAC: Sugar is Healthy
Paul Anderson Flexing
Image: Paul Anderson of the US Olympic weightlifting team shows off his bulging muscles to an open-mouthed stewardess, after winning the Super Heavyweight gold medal at the Melbourne Olympics, November 27, 1956. Keystone Hulton Archive.

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