19th century bodybuilding book proves the key to weight loss has never changed 9 months ago

19th century bodybuilding book proves the key to weight loss has never changed

Eugen Sandow was one of the very first bodybuilders, but his approach to diet and training is still relevant today

Fitness fads come and go, but Sandow's 1897 book Strength and How To Obtain It proves weight loss is far more straightforward than you'd think.

Eugen Sandow was one of the very first bodybuilders (Credit: Wellcome Trust)

Over the years, people have overcomplicated diet and training advice in the pursuit of trying to get ripped quick. Looking for that shortcut to getting in shape has given rise to various fad diets such as low carb, low fat, Atkins and Keto.

Protein and calories: the keys to weight loss

When it comes to weight loss, what works is pretty simple. And that is to get in a calorie deficit.

When diets such as those mentioned above work, they do so because they've created a calorie deficit - not because they've removed specific foods from the diet.

Protein is also an essential component of a successful diet, for a variety of reasons:

  • It's satiating: this means eating protein makes you feel fuller for longer
  • Protein protects muscle tissue: why would you want to sacrifice strength?
  • It burns a load of body fat: protein has the greatest 'thermic effect' of food, meaning your body burns more calories digesting protein than it does carbs or fat

Even back in 1897, Sandow realised how important protein and calories were for weight loss and optimising physical performance.

Fitness coach Eric Helms shared the following passage from Sandow's book to his Instagram account:

View this post on Instagram

Believe it or not, this is a page from Eugen Sandow’s book “Strength and How to Obtain it” published in 1897. At this time, Dr Atwater’s work was revolutionary, pioneering research that literally began the science of nutrition. He invented the respiration calorimeter to measure the energy provided by food and created a system to measure that energy in units, known as food calories (you might have heard of them? Haha). The point being, bodybuilding isn’t about science vs practice or bros vs evidence based. It never has been, Science has been the partner of bodybuilding leaders from the beginning as even the “Father of Modern Bodybuilding” Eugen Sandow included the cutting edge research of his time in his book, and understood and promoted the importance of protein intake and calories.

A post shared by Eric Helms PhD, 3DMJ R&D Chief (@helms3dmj) on

Founded on flexibility

Granted, foods such as mutton and oysters are not typical of a modern-day diet. However, adjusting what you eat according the protein and calories they contain will help you smash your gym goals.

Protein is vital for building and repairing muscle tissue. We now know you need 1.2-1.6 grams of protein per day to boost muscle growth and protect muscle tissue when dieting.

This approach also allows you flexibility with food.

Know how many calories you've had for the day? Where there's space left over, that is potentially room to consume your favourite foods without cost to your weight loss efforts.

Sandow was arguably one of the very first personal trainers, too. His magazine, Sandow's Magazine of Physical Culture, was run on a subscription basis and provided readers with a wealth of weightlifting and diet advice.

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