Before their jacked brown bodies were pulled into the cold, clammy bosom of the British Empire, Indians were hard as fucking nails. I've already expounded upon this pretty hard, detailing the wacky shit up to which they used to get, like "sports" that consisted of angering male bulls in heat and dinging the world's most dangerous pole dancing, but it went further than that. Additionally, Indians were fucking jacked back in the day, though their physiques differed pretty markedly from that of what one would typically think of when they're thinking "jacked". Rather than looking like Ronnie "everybody wanna be big but don't nobody wanna lift no heavy ass weight" Coleman, they looked quite a bit more like what we'd all picture Paul Bunyan to look like- thickly muscled, big-ass forearms, and a thick midsection with a hint of abs but no real definition. They actually pursued that look actively, for some reason, thinking that bodybuilders simply look like a bunch of weird bodyparts jammed together and held in place with the liberal application of staples and hot glue. I don't think, however, it was their training that created the different physiques so much as their diets, however, and the modern diet of the pehlwans (which literally means "strong man", but essentially means "wrestler") is pretty much as wild as you can imagine. If you thought sumo wrestlers got up to some dietary shenanigans, prepare to have your your mind blown harder than a university of South Carolina running back's knees.
This was not the face of India 500 years ago. These "noble ascetics" would be called then what they are now- a pack of dirty bums that probably smell like the unwiped assholes of people who live on a diet of curry. That is to say, they smell like themselves.
Before I dive into the diets of Indian strong men, it bears mentioning that Indian diets differ considerably from person to person, as they base their diet on your general personality profile and your activity level. Thus, if you're quick-tempered and wrestle and lift all day, you want to eat cool foods, but if you're lazy and stoic, you should probably be eating hot food. Additionally, Indian Ayurvedic medicine actually prescribes differing diets for each season. There's a bit of weird logic behind it into which I won't really go, but they recommend, for instance, that you eat fattier foods in the winter, lighter foods in the summer, and lean, protein rich, dry foods in the rainy season. Basically, you're eating to balance yourself out with the world around you. This is, I realize, a far fucking cry from what you were probably expecting, given my penchant for breaking down shit by their macronutrients and delving into the complex physiological unpinning of a given dietary choice, but the Indians don't give a fuck about that shit. They're relying, it seems, on good old-fashioned alchemy, some guesswork, and possibly some magical chicanery for their diets. There are recommendations and prohibitions for flavor as well, which are too complex and numerous for me to detail but are as interesting as they are nonsensical and amusing to research if you find yourself bored on Wikipedia one day.
I cannot quite dive into Indian lifters' diets yet, though, because I have to debunk a common myth. That myth is that Hindu Indians eschew any and all meat, with beef being format amongst their dietary taboos. This is, like most "common knowledge", total fucking horseshit. Though I would hardly call myself an absolute authority on Indian history, I can state that there appears to be compelling evidence showing that vegetarianism in India is a remarkably modern phenomenon. It seems to have been imposed, over time, as an outgrowth of theocratic sentiment, rather than any religious prescription. Similar to the prohibition of meat eating on Fridays by the Catholic Church, there was a rather dark economic rationale behind the prohibition of beef consumption. Amusingly, the widespread prohibition of beef and other meat consumption occurred contiguous with India's precipitous fall from a position as a world power. That's not to say these dietary proscriptions were followed, however, but rather that the edicts themselves were issued.
How could you worship a blue-skinned god who rides a crocodile into battle and not eat a steak every day?
In the distant past, Indians ate just about anything made of meat of which you could think- their highest castes considered consecrated meat consumption to actually be a form of worship. The Rigveda frequently refers to the cooking ox meat for offerings to the gods (Jha 29), offerings of 1, 100, and 300 buffalo were made to the god Indra (Ibid), and cattle sacrifice to the gods Mitra and Varuna (Jha 30). Compounding this are statements in the Taittiriya Brahmana that "unambiguously" refer to the sacrificial killing of cows, which are "verily food" (Jha 31), and multiple mentions of beef as the best kind of food in the Satapatha Brahmana (Jha 32). Clearly, the ancient Aryans were busy grilling steaks every night while subjugating the existing populations, but you might wonder if the indigenous non-Aryans sided with or against the Chik-Fil-A cows. The answer's exactly what any rational person would think- they were sidling right up to the grill for seconds.
The Harrappan civilization was already established in India when the Aryans invaded, bringing with them the religion that would later become Hinduism. These people weren't just lowly hunter-gatherers, either- they had advanced constructions in which they lived that featured toilets with flowing water sewage systems, the most advanced measurement system in the ancient world, the first dentists (evidence of the first drilled molars were found in Harrappan cities), and one of the oldest writing systems in the world. Despite all of that advancement, they were apparently shitty warriors and got the brakes beat off them by the Aryans, who conquered the Harappans and supplanted their existing culture with Aryan culture and religion. The produce of the Aryan religion were the Vedas, a series of Brahmanical texts written over time, not unlike the books of the Christian Bible. Similarly, these books often contradict each other, though the Vedas are fairly uniform in the stance on meat consumption- it's allowed. Most meat was allowed irrespective of the reason behind the animal's killing, though animals generally considered to be dirty were often avoided. Until the 19th century, Indian sages and Punjabi badasses alike reveled in their meat and ate the fuck out of it. It wasn't until Hindu temples laid down the law around the country to line their own pockets that meat really began to be eschewed on a wider scale, but cattle are still regularly slaughtered and eaten in rural areas of Eastern India, and the Indian Physical Culture Encyclopedia espoused the consumption of meat as well, particularly in the fall, which falls in line with the Ayurvedic dietary recommendations (685).
Jumping forward to the modern era, pehlwans unfortunately aren't snacking on beef jerky all day as a fuck you to the assholes who want to keep them from eating delicious, delicious beef. Instead, they eat a daily caloric catastrophe that makes sumo wrestlers look positively pro-ana by comparison. The pehlwan's specialized diet is referred to as khurak, and consists primarily of ghee, milk, and almonds They're not as concerned with what they eat, however, as how much of it they eat. Not unlike the sumo of Japan, these motherfuckers put food away like their name was JM Blakely and they hated seeing abs more than a fat admirer at a BBW pickup bar. Thus, they "drink buckets of milk, eat kilograms of almonds, and devour large quantities of ghi per day"(Alter). Because they're constantly training, pehlwans attempt to eat the coolest, most sattva foods. Though they don't always agree on what's most sattva, milk and ghee are considered to be paramount and are thus their two most important foods, and the foods around which they structure the rest of their diets. According to Joseph Alter, many pehlwans still eat meat, however.
"While meat is regarded as rajas in nature, wrestlers who eat meat tend to rationalize this. They argue that one can eat meat and to some extent avoid the consequences. The trick is to neutralize the rajas nature of meat by some form of counteractivity. I was not able to determine what these counteractivities were. However, many wrestlers implied that meat would only aggravate one's passion if one were “naturally” predisposed towards excitability, anger, and hypertension. Thus anyone who ate meat could, and often did, argue that they were so sattva by nature that meat did not adversely affect them. Moreover, by virtue of their naturally aggressive “military” disposition, Rajputs are thought to thrive on meat (cf. Carstairs 1958; Minturn and Hitchcock 1966; Seesodia 1915; Steed 1955). Some Rajput wrestlers argue that meat is good for them because they should, in a sense, eat what they are"(Alter).
Even their goddamned statues drink milk.
I'm just going to go on record and state that I think the vast majority of this shit is fully insane- for me, this is an entirely intellectual exercise. I'm sure there's something to be learned here, though, so it bears investigation. That investigation does not include ghee, however, as I fucking despise its taste and smell almost as much as yak butter, which smells like a sweaty old man's balls. It's fucking horrible. If smegma and dogshit fucked, their unholy spawn would smell like a mild peppermint candy scented candle compared to burning yak butter, and ghee doesn't smell much better than yak butter. Additionally, both of those horrid substances have scents that cling to your clothes through multiple washes, not unlike Animal Pak vitamins. Leave an Animal Pak in your pocket for a day and see how long it takes to get the smell out- this shit is the same way.
A flamethrower is about the only solution to the Animal Pak problem.
Before you start googling, here's the nutritional breakdown on ghee- it's comprised entirely of fat, and the majority of that is saturated. Ghee has 5 grams of fat per teaspoon, which will be an important metric when you see how much of it these maniacs consume daily. According to Indians, ghee is "good for nearly everything" and "serves as a perfect, natural health tonic"(Alter). They have a variety of ways to get what amounts to liquified fat into their systems, and surprisingly none of them involve a caulking gun and an open wound. Among the preferred ways to get ghee into your diet, here are the highlights:
- After exercise, place as much ghi as you are accustomed to drinking in a pan. Cover this pan with a fine cloth and sprinkle ground-sugar candy on it. Then take some milk and pour it through the cloth into the pan with the ghi. Drink this mixture. There are a number of variations on this basic prescription. All entail the use of various specific, medicinal, tonic digestive powders referred to generically as churan. In all such prescriptions, churan, ground pepper, milk, ghi, and honey are mixed together in various proportions. Milk is always the final ingredient and is mixed in with the other items (Atreya 1984: 28).
- After exercise, take powdered black pepper and mix it in with as much ghi as you are accustomed to drinking. Heat the ghi to a point where it is compatible with your strength (the “heat” referred to here is not only the temperature of the ghi but its latent energy as well). Drink the ghi in its melted form.
- In its melted form ghi is also consumed with food. It may be drunk before the regular meal or mixed in with lentils and vegetables or poured on bread and rice.
- One of the best ways to take ghi in your diet is to mix it with dried, powdered nuts and grains. Basically anything which is dry in nature—dry in the sense of being non-unctuous—can be mixed with ghi in this way. Take whatever it is that you wish to mix—almonds, chana, (p. 122 ) dried peas, pistachios—and grind them into a fine powder. Put this powder into an iron skillet and brown it over a fire. Add some water and continue cooking the mixture until about 150 grams of water remains. Take the iron skillet off the fire and heat up as much ghi as you are accustomed to drinking. Once this is hot, remove it from the fire, take the powdered mixture and add it to the ghi so that it is lightly and quickly browned. Drink/eat this mixture after you have finished your exercise regimen.
- In the evening, take your usual quantity of milk and warm it. Add to this as much ghi as you are accustomed to drinking. Allow this mixture to form into yogurt through the addition of the correct culture. Drink this yogurt after your morning exercises. Be sure not to add any water.
- Grind almonds and black pepper together with some water. Heat up as much ghi as you wish to drink and then add the almond paste to the ghi. Add some sugar and drink this mixture.
- Mix together equal parts ghi, gur (hard molasses), and besan (chickpea) flour. Eat this mixture as a snack after exercise.
- Mix as much ghi as you wish to drink with as much warm milk as you are able to drink. Consume this after exercise. This is different from the other prescriptions in that no digestive tonics are mixed with the milk and ghi (Alter).
Unsurprisingly fat man who eats almost nothing but fat and sugar.
My abject hatred of ghee aside, there appears to be a little method to this madness. Ghee's rendered butter, which means it's almost entirely saturated fat. As such, it's incredibly anabolic. The pehlwans seem to like to add both high-glycemic carbs and protein to ghee post workout, making what would probably be the world's most disgusting but reasonably nutritious post-workout shake. Perhaps a bit more reasonable are their post-workout milk drinking habits. Depending on the wrestler, they consume milk either raw or boiled, and then alter it for fat content to suit their needs. Based on their digestive abilities, wrestlers seem to either go high-carb/low fat, or moderate carb/stupidly high fat. For the former, they add sugar or molasses to low fat milk, and in the latter they add fruit and yogurt to full-fat milk to make a high-fat milkshake called lassi (Alter).
There is no reason to include this pic other than its existence.
While they have a bit of nutritional logic on their side for the inclusion of ghee in their diets, the volume thereof is another matter entirely. these motherfuckers drink liquid butter in amounts that make me ill thinking about it, and i just finished eating four pounds of beef ribs. According (again) to Joseph Alter,
"Wrestlers tend to increase the volume of consumption in proportion to the number of exercises they do in their vyayam (p. 126 ) regimen. There is no simple equation for this but wrestlers who do 1,500 dands and 3,000 bethaks consume about half a liter of ghi and two liters of milk per day. Since the amount of milk, ghi, and almonds one can eat is a direct reflection of one's strength, wrestlers tend to eat increasingly larger quantities of these items. In many respects being able to eat and digest half a liter of ghi per day is regarded as a kind of exercise in its own right. One must work up to this volume gradually. It is said that Sadhiki Pahalwan, a great wrestler of the late nineteenth century, consumed a canister (five kilograms) of ghi per day."FIVE FUCKING KILOGRAMS A DAY. Let's do the math, kids.
5 Kg = 5000g
5000 g ghee = 4995 g fat
4995 g fat = 44955 kcal from fat
That is, of course, impossible for a human being to consume or digest, but even if it was a tenth of that, it'd be a hell of a lot of fat. No matter what kind of silly-assed Herschell Walker workout nonsense you're doing, that's a ridiculous amount of fat, and an astonishing amount of calories for a single food source... a food source that is a fucking condiment. Even the half a liter a day number is ridiculous, however- a half liter of ghee a day yields 499.5 calories of fat, which is 4495 calories from fat. That's a preposterous amount of fat for a person to consume in a day.
Grind them almonds!
As I mentioned, the third member of the pantheon of food that comprises the pehlwan's dietary abomination is almonds, which they believe improve their stamina and speed. Almonds are crazy expensive, however, so chickpeas are often consumed as a substitute. The almonds get mashed into a paste and then added to milk or ghee, whereas the chickpeas are left to sprout in water, then seasoned with salt, pepper, and lemon. The water used in the sprouting process is then drunk to increase the pehwan's strength, apparently utilizing some metabolic pathway of which I am wholly unaware. They appear to eat the fuck out of chickpeas, however, as they're the cheapest protein source available to the average Indian.
Beyond the aforementioned, pehlwans eat a variety of foods, ranging from in season fruits to green veggies to grains to meat. All of those, however, are simply considered supplements to the aforementioned 4 foods. There's actually more to the Indian dietary craziness, but it's too weird and too complex to go into right now- as a preview, it involves trying not to cum for as long as possible. If you cannot figure out what that has to do with eating, we're in the same boat, but I'll make an attempt to explain it going forward.
Did You Know?
- not all Indians are Hindu. A mere 8 of 10 Indians are Hindu. My failure to mention this makes me a bad person, apparently. Although Indians invented Buddhism, no one in India appears to give a shit, since they're less than a percent of the population. Muslims and Christians make up the majority of the remainder, and are not vegetarian. Well, not as a general rule. Some of them might be. We can only hope they're not.
- it is not nice to make fun of ascetics, no matter how much they beg you to with their existence.
- although I mentioned that certain regions of India eat meat, some of you missed that part. Vegetarianism is widespread in India, especially in major population centers, but is not universal.
- chickpeas are also called garbanzo beans, and might be magical. To get 150g of protein from them, you need only eat 10 cups of them, or a bit over a kilo and a half of them (about 3.6 lbs)
- although I mentioned it's difficult to cover all of India given it's wacky diversity, I am a bad person for failing to mention every specific subset of Indian culture, am extraordinarily mean, and might be a communist. Oh, and I know nothing about India.
That's about the only way my diet's going to include much milk.
Alter, Joseph. The Wrestler's Body: Identity and Ideology in North India. California Scholarship Online. 12 May 1992.
Jha, D.N. Holy Cow: Beef In Indian Dietary Traditions. New Delhi: Matrix Books, 2001.
Mujumdar, DC (ed.). Encyclopedia of Indian Physical Culture. 1950.