03 October 2014

The Most Important Thing in Life Is Protein

Nothing fails to shock me more than the consistent whining of lifters about their stalled lifts, shitty lifts, or lack of muscular gains.  It doesn't take a genius to figure out the problem-the reason is always "your diet, bro."  It's not just that their diet sucks, which it almost invariably does, but that they're not eating enough.  I'm not referring to not being on a bulking diet- I'm simply referring to the fact that their total amount of food consumed would likely only be suitable for small children, emaciated models, or, say, grown men under 150 lbs who struggle to bench their bodyweight.

Before you fly off the handle and start screaming obscenities at your computer screen in a hilarious fit of impotent rage, consider the fact that nearly every great lifter in history is well known for their prodigious appetite.  Perhaps it was due to the fact that their training workload was often twice to three times as great as that of the modern lifter, and they simply had to eat or die.  Or maybe it was due to the fact that those lifters understood, unlike the modern trainee, that in order to get big and lift massive weights, one must eat a tremendous amount of food.

Larry and Vince are saying "Pay some fucking attention, little people" from the grave.

Over the years, I've noticed that the adage popularized by Larry Scott and Vince Gironda, that weight training or bodybuilding is 90% nutrition, seems to have become the byline of the douche in the gym swilling some day glow drink in the middle of the gym, clutching his fancy shaker bottle between his gloved hands as if it were a chalice containing the blood of a long-dead Jewish messiah.  That adage becomes their justification for spending innumerable dollars on supplements of dubious benefit in spite of the fact that they have no appreciable muscle and their best lift is probably a 25 lb concentration curl.  As a result, I've shied from agreeing with Scott's belief, as I'd not realized that the idea of proper nutrition was so ingrained I didn't think about it consciously, and I make a concerted effort to distance myself from the kids in the Bodybuilding.com shirts.

Meanwhile, on Reddit...

That, of course, was rather silly of me.  Though I write rather extensively on dieting, I don't think I've ever taken great pains to express the importance of it.  Clearly, training and sleep factor into the equation as well, but with insufficient food, all of the training and sleep in the world will amount to little more than fuckall.  So, allow me to take this time to climb atop the nearest proverbial mountain peak and proclaim to the world at large:

Diet is responsible for at least 50% of success in strength sports. 

Which, of course, leaves us with the question of what that statement should mean to the average trainee, most of whom seem to find themselves easily confused by conflicting information and the constant hammering of "NATTY LIFTERS CAN'T EAT PROTONZ LIKE GEAR MONKEYS BECAUSE NEBULOUS SCIENCE AND GENERAL SADDIFICATION."  They'll overwhelm you with studies about gut clearance and nitrogen retention and other assorted nonsense, most of which is related in such gibberish that you can be assured they don't understand what they're recounting (a good rule of thumb is that if someone cannot explain something in layman's terms, they don't understand it themselves).  Moreover, they have no knowledge of history or archaeology, so they will actually assert that something definitively proven to be possible is actually impossible, because fuck common sense, the historical record, and getting huge.

George Eiferman (r), who could bench 400 lbs cold at a bodyweight of 195, and Steve Reeves (l), who could clean 225 lbs while kneeling, both consumed incredibly high protein diets.

It's difficult, if not impossible, to find a pre-steroid era strongman or bodybuilder who didn't value protein above all else and eat it in massive amounts.  We'll skip over the archaeological evidence I've given previously in regards to the greatest conquering peoples on the planet having meat-heavy indigenous diets, and the fact that Cro-Magnons ate the same insanely meat-heavy diet as Neanderthals, which according to the the science "gurus" should have killed them, and get right to a few examples of a few lifters who based their diets on protein.

The Saxon Trio
The Saxon Trio were basically the turn-of-the century Dream Team of strongman exhibition.  Not only were their lifts about as untouchable as a broad in a chastity belt's clitoris, but it was essentially impossible to out eat or out drink them as well.  
"For breakfast they ate 24 eggs and 3 pounds of smoked bacon; porridge with cream, honey, marmalade and tea with plenty of sugar. At three o’clock they had dinner: ten pounds of meat was consumed with vegetables (but not much potatoes); sweet fruits, raw or cooked, sweet cakes, salads, sweet puddings, cocoa and whipped cream and very sweet tea. Supper, after the show, they had cold meat, smoked fish, much butter, cheese and beer."
"Later, in England, as performers, Hermann and Kurt were partial to sweet foods and sugar. They tried very hard to gain weight but in spite of sweets and a terrific appetite, sometimes consuming one pound of butter between them, they failed to gain weight; sometimes only a few pounds which they could not hold. Arthur, the oldest, did not care for sweets and butter; even as a child he did not care for butter. Instead of butter he would use the lard from pork. Hermann and Kurt, in addition to other things, could make two pounds of marmalade and two quarts of very sweet cocoa disappear at one meal. Kurt was the heaviest eater of the three and for breakfast alone he could consume 24 eggs cooked in one-half pound of butter.
Their three o'clock dinner consisted mostly of roasted or fried meat, beef, pork or veal, not much potatoes, plenty of salads with oil just as in their childhood. Sometimes they had vegetables, but always lean meat. Every day they had pudding-yorkshire, rice, sago, etc., but very sweet. Then there was always raw or cooked fruits and nothing to drink. Sometimes, on one day during the week, they roasted poultry, goose, chicken, or turkey.

'Many times I ate an 11 pound goose alone,' Kurt informed me [Ed: That's 151 grams of protein and around 12,000 calories in a single sitting]. One day during the week they had fried or boiled fish, plenty of butter and toast but no potatoes. At six o'clock they had "tea"-this was mostly raw minced meat with raw onions, German bread and plenty of butter; sometimes sweet cakes and coffee were substituted.
Their late supper included herrings (when they could get them) and eaten in the same manner they had become accustomed to in childhood. The herrings were sometimes used in salad form; they made their own mayonnaise with raw whipped eggs and oil. There never was any whisky or brandy at home. Even as children they did not care for milk and as men they developed no taste for it. At 'tea' time they very often had whipped cream. They did not care for boiled eggs, instead, they went big for poached eggs with plenty of butter" (Gaudreau).  
This means that just in two meals, each of the men, who weighed 210 lbs or less, consumed at the very least 64g of protein from eggs, 48g of protein from bacon, and roughly 80g of protein from their meat.  Thus, before accounting for the protein coming from their cream or pudding and other assorted foodstuffs, they'd each eat almost 200 grams of protein, then have "tea' with raw hamburger and onions, and then a massive, multi-hour meal heavy in meats and cheeses after lifting.

Larry Scott
Larry Scott, first Mr. Olympia and possessor of some of the biggest and strongest arms in history, was adamant about consuming adequate amounts of protein.  According to the man himself,
"Basically I eat a lot of meat, cheese, and eggs. I like cottage cheese and meat-mostly beef in various forms. I eat almost no carbohydrates and very few vegetables. I supplement my diet with Johnson's Protein" (Training Methods).  
"I was using from 11/2 to 2 cups of Johnson's Protein (Rheo H. Blair's Protein) per day. I would mix it with cream and milk. I used about 2/3 of a quart of cream a day in mixing this along with the milk to make it the desired consistency. I took this protein-cream mix three times per day. I would eat 6 to 8 times per day. I would have breakfast, then a snack at 10 A. M. and then lunch at noon, then another snack at 2:30 P.M., then dinner plus the Protein-Cream drink. My evening meal is eaten after I work out" (Ibid).

Scott's diet was incredibly popular at the time, as Rheo Blair had popularized his protein drink, Johnson's Protein, and was basically an evangelist for high-protein diets.  It was common to drink the protein with Half-and-Half, and in the amounts Scott drank it amounted to 156 to 208 grams of protein all on its own (Rheo Blair).  Add in another three to four food meals consisting of nothing but meat and cheese, and the 208 lb Scott was certainly consuming 2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight or more.

Reg Park
Reg Park, who is both Arnold's idol and the first bodybuilder to bench press 500 lbs., pretty much sweated masculinity the way most hipsters sweat douche.  He was so virile that women spontaneously gave birth in his presence, and his steely-eyed glare could break a man's jaw from across the room.  Given those facts, it's unsurprising that he often started his day with cereal sprinkled with protein powder, slammed 4kg of steak a day with only a cursory attempt to chew it, and drank enough Guiness to permanently disable most people every day (Croft).  In detail, his diet looked like this:

A glass of fresh orange juice
Papaya and banana
A large soup plate of oatmeal with full cream/whole milk & fresh cream
A plate of bacon, eggs, tomato and toast

Large bowl of soup (tomato, pea, minestrone etc.) with rye bread
Steak (2 Kg)
Tea and chocolate
Wine or stout beer

Same as lunch

Just from the steak alone, assuming he was a man of good taste and was eating something like a ribeye or t-bone steak, Park was getting a whopping 380 grams of protein at a bodyweight of 245 lbs.

Bill "Peanuts" West
Frankly, if your nickname is "Peanuts", you're either shopping for a shotgun to pain the walls with your brains or a bonafide hardass.  Though Bill "Peanuts" West was, by all accounts the nicest guy in history, his lifts put him definitively in the "hardass" category.  At a bodyweight of about 198, Peanuts hit a 435 lb bench, a 525 lb squat, 175 lb strict curl, box squatted 770 lb, power cleaned 305 lb, and push jerked 330 lb... at a time when powerlifting didn't actually exist and without even training the Olympic lifts.  Though he started out at just over 100 lbs as a teenager, Peanuts built his body with just that, in massive quantities.
"The nickname "Peanuts" was bestowed upon Bill because he was given a rigid diet at Muscle House of proteins, chiefly peanuts. He ate one pound of raw peanuts daily, also a half-cup of peanut butter each day as well as six spoonfuls of raw peanut oil every 24 hours. Of course, in addition to all this peanut intake he had numerous protein drinks and raw milk as well as many assorted fruit juices" (Liederman).
Peanuts eventually upped his intake of peanuts to push him over the 200 lb mark, though there's no info on how many he ate.  One pound of raw peanuts, however, yields 112 grams of protein all on its own, while the peanut butter yields about another 36, and that hardly accounted for all of his food.

She's the only one allowed to have a stupid, whorish mouth around here.

Certainly, there are far more examples we could examine, from Louis Cyr's attempts to eat all of the food on Earth to Sergio Oliva's see-food diet, even precontest, which consisted of banana pancakes, sodas, boatloads of eggs, hamburgers, chocolate shakes, steak, and pre-and post-workout protein shakes, but I think I've made my point.  To get big and strong, one has to eat like they want to get big and strong.  Before I hear a "but, but, but, I caaaaaaaaan't eat that muuuuuuuuuuuch", allow me invite you to slap yourself in your stupid, whorish mouth and remind you that yes, you fucking can.  Stop being a little fucking bitch.

Always nice to see another strength author who practices what he preaches.  McCallum was no bitch.

To that end, John McCallum, longtime writer for Strength and Health, has your back.  I've written in the past about his "Souped Up Soup", which he recommended you add to every meal, but McCallum had another trick up his extra-tight sleeves.  Second only to Rheo Blair in his attempts to spread the gospel of the ultra-high protein diet, McCallum created the Get Big Drink to get his readership jacked.  Unlike Rheo Blair, McCallum didn't own a protein company- he was just serious about his protein.  "You've got to eat protein like it's going out of style.  I keep protein tablets in my mouth all the time.  My meals are heavy protein.  I drink milk instead of water.  I pack the tablets down the beach and eat them constantly" (McCallum 473).

McCallum recommended that the following recipe daily and store in a jug in the fridge.  Every hour or so, he recommended hitting the fridge for a glassful, drinking the shake following a meal, but never in the place of one.

McCallum's Get Big Drink
  • 6-8 scoops of protein (144-192g protein)
  • 2 quarts of whole milk (62g protein)
  • 2 cups of dry skim milk (48g protein)
  • 2 eggs (16g protein)
  • 4 tablespoons peanut butter (16g protein)
  • Half a brick (.875 quarts or 462 grams) of chocolate ice cream (15g protein)
  • 1 small banana (1.3g protein)
  • 4 tablespoons malted milk powder (17g protein)
  • 6 tablespoons of corn syrup

That brings you to between 319 and 367 grams of protein per day, in addition to the three food meals you're already eating.  Frankly that might seem like overkill to some of you, but it wouldn't have to the Saxon Trio- they'd probably call you a lightweight and then go juggle triangular weights you couldn't lift off the ground.  After 6 weeks of McCallum's drink and hard training, however, it's safe to say you might have a shot at budging a weight or two off the floor.

For myself, I add two tablespoons of cream to my protein shakes when keto dieting, to add calories and slow the digestion of the shake.  I've also found it useful to ass a single scoop of protein in water to the tail-end of any meal to add in adding weight.  I recently discovered Jim Wendler does this as well, and if he's cutting he adds it to the beginning of the meal, to help reduce his appetite.  Either way, you're getting extra protein and ensuring that the gains will come.

So, there you have it- if you're weaker than you should be, smaller than you should be, or a combination thereof, it's your own fucking fault.  Eat more and lift heavy and the gainz will come as the wise ones hath foretold.

Bryant, Josh.  The M&F “GFH” Diet.  Muscle and Fitness.  Web.  3 Oct 2014.  http://www.muscleandfitness.com/nutrition/gain-mass/mf-gfh-diet?page=2

Croft, Henry.  100% British Beef: The Reg Park Story.  Gym Talk.  24 Jun 2013.  Web.  3 Oct 2014.  http://www.gym-talk.com/the-reg-park-story/

Everson, Jeff.  Incredible muscle mass: How Sergio Oliva and Victor Richards built theirs.  Strength Old School.  8 Jan 2010.  Web.  3 Oct 2014.  http://www.strength-oldschool.com/topic/108-incrediable-muscle-mass-how-sergio-oliva-and-victor-richards-built-their-physiques/

Gaudreau, Leo.  The Saxon trio: what they ate and how they trained.  Natural Strength.  Web.  3 Oct 2014.  http://www.bobwhelan.com/history/saxontrio.html

Liederman, Earle.  Bill "Peanuts" West.  The Tight Tan Slacks of Dezso Ban.  17 Sep 2009.  Web.  3 Oct 2014.  http://ditillo2.blogspot.com/2009/09/bill-peanuts-west-earle-liederman.html

McCallum, John.  Keys To Progress.  Nevada City: IronMind, 1993.

Rheo Blair Protein- How to mix the protein drink.  Iron Guru.  Web.  3 Oct 2014.  http://www.ironguru.com/rheo-blair-protein-how-to-mix-the-protein-drink

Training Methods of Larry Scott.  Iron Guru.  Web.  3 Oct 2014.  http://www.ironguru.com/training-methods-of-larry-scott


  1. My appetite is fucking huge. It's just I'd get fat as fuck if I actually ate as much as I want. Fuck better up the dose for better nutrient partitioning I guess.

  2. Tag, expend more energy, thats what Saxons did. Bike everywhere, get a pyhsical job, wrestle vagrants on the street, etc.

  3. What about your blog post, getting strong as fuck despite calories? Warriors, slaves, prisoners, etc. basically willing themselves strong despite less than optimal situations. Kinda contradicts the first part of this post.

    1. They generally weren't all that big- it's possible to get strong on a shitty diet, if you have to be. These kids don't have to be and aren't doing what they need to get strong if that's what they want to be.

  4. Why would you eat like a slave or a prisoner if you didn't have to?

    1. Exactly- triumphing over self-imposed obstacles is hardly a triumph.

  5. Have you ever discussed the topic of how much protein you need to consume with Paul? As far as I know he believes that carbs are more important for building mass than protein so it would be very interesting to see a discussion between you two.

    1. I have but we're not going to discuss training or nutrition on the new series, haha.

    2. I remember the podcast where Paul told you you would have to eat carbs to get massive and you were all " Nope!" Shit was funny. I just disembarked from the K-train myself because my sprints and whatnot were suffering without the glycogen. Still eat my face off, though. More so, in fact, to counteract the increased activity. Getting bigger. Not dying. And without even a periworkout super drink! Heavens, it must be a miracle.

    3. Not possible to get swole without a precise mixture of superawesome-hydrolysates, cyclic dextrins, unicorn cock and blow. Everyone knows that.

      The Saxons were on gear. So were Goerner and Hackenschmidt. Before it was invented. For real.

  6. A while back, I recall you made a small list of what you considered necessary strength training books to read.

    Has that list changed over the past 4-5 years?

  7. I have all your books and have read your blog for a while. I never implemented any of your advice until 2 months ago. Despite my budget for food I have gained a lot of strength and size despite being a 30 y/o fattie. I increased the strict Military Press with my feet 2" apart by 50 lbs! I look better than ever. Thank you very much for your efforts. I really enjoy lifting 90% very frequently.

  8. Jamie, what's your opinion on 'Dietary Protein and Resistance Exercise' by Lonnie Lowery and Jose Antonio?

  9. What amazes me is these guys sugar intake. Holy shit how did they not all end up diabetic

    1. All that activity makes a difference. Sloth is also a risk factor for type 2 Beetus. I lived on Sprees, Snickers, M&Ms, and Sweetarts when I was in school. Not to mention all the soda and Kool-aid. On the other hand, I ran track, played football, soccer, ran cross-country, and lifted. Even African-American and still beetus free.

  10. I'm really surprised you didn't have JM Blakely in this bitch! He was a master at gaining weight and ate like no other. Check this shit out guaranteed to give you a laugh: http://70sbig.com/blog/tag/dave-tate/

    I'm definitely trying the Get Big Drink. McCallum is the man! I never could do his training style though its too infrequent. Looks like it worked for him though lol I've never seen that pic of him. His arms are fucking tanked

    1. I wrote about his weight gaining method three years ago! http://chaosandpain.blogspot.com/2011/08/cant-gain-weight-guess-what-youre-doing_12.html

    2. Awesome! thanks man. That blog is kickass as well!

  11. What are your thoughts on Layne Nortons Protein research?

  12. I remember posting my food logs where I was consistently eating 2-3kg of meat daily and swallowing 100g protein shakes. I sat at about 400g+ protein daily at a bodyweight of 85-90kg. The StrongLifts forums were in awe, "you must be rich", "this is impossible!", "it's not good for you!".

    I still don't understand how people can not gain weight and then turn to 'roids "cuz I'm ecto, brah".

  13. Malted milk powder is only 120 calories and 3 grams of protein in 4 Tbsp. McCallum claimed this drink was 3000 calories and 200g of protein. Since he didn't give hard numbers, and, as far as I can tell, his recommendation for protein powder was "a whole day's worth," he either thinks 40 grams of protein is a whole day's worth, or he is grossly mistaken with his 200 gram total protein count.

    It's actually 4700 calories with 8 scoops, 4500 with 6, and still 4000 if you want the total to be 200g of protein. So in any case he's significantly off on the calorie total. And, thus, I assume he is off on the protein total as well. I wouldn't nitpick, but we're talking errors of over 50% here.

    I'm not sure what this adds to the discussion, I'm just a numbers geek so I can't resist such analysis.

  14. I'll bet you can't guess what muscle in your body is the #1 muscle that eliminates joint and back pains, anxiety and burns fat.

    If this "secret" highly powerful primal muscle is healthy, you are healthy.