This section is from the book "The Hygienic System: Fasting And Sun Bathing", by Herbert M. Shelton. Also available from Amazon: The Hygienic System Vol III Fasting and Sun Bathing.
"Most men can understand eating to get strong," says Dr. Tilden, "but it takes a long time to educate them to stop eating to get strong." As paradoxical as it may seem to those who have had no experience with fasting, there is a frequent, and perhaps always a gain in strength while fasting. Let me begin with a quotation from a thoroughly "orthodox" and "scientific" source. Prof. Benedict, in his report, details a number of experiments upon, the strength of Prof. Levanzin during his experimental fast. Then referring to similar tests made by others, he says:
"In the test made by Luciani on Succi in which a dynamometer was used, the strength of the right and left hands showed results seemingly at variance with the popular impression. Thus on the twenty-first day of the fast, Succi was able to register on the dynamometer a stronger grip than when he first began. From the twentieth to the thirtieth day of the fast, however, his strength decreased, being less at the end than in the beginning of the fast. In discussing these results, Luciani points out the fact that Succi believed that he gained strength as the fast progressed. Considering the question of the influence of inanition on the onset of fatigue, Luciani states that the fatigue curve obtained by Succi on the twenty-ninth day was similar to those obtained with an individual under normal conditions."
"On the last days of his fasts Succi would ride horseback or ascend the Eiffle Tower of Paris, running up the tremendous staircase that tires the average man to merely ascend it."
Levanzin lost no strength during his thirty-one days' fast as shown by the dynamometric tests. On the last day of the fast, this non-athletic man, used to taking no regular exercise except walking, was able to press up to one hundred and twenty pounds with his left hand.
It is somewhat amusing to read that at the end of his fast of thirty-one days in the Carnegie Institute, Levanzin wanted to continue it up to forty days and that Prof. Benedict objected because it would be very expensive and fatiguing to his well-fed men.
Dr. Tanner's strength decreased until after he began to take water, but increased thereafter. He was challenged by a reporter who declared one could not keep up his strength without eating. The Doctor said: "Here have I been for several years a semi-invalid, suffering from all kinds of diseases, and now I have fasted for two weeks. You are young, healthy, strong and vigorous. I will just take a drink of water and then I will run you a race around this hall and see who can endure the longest."
The reporter confidently accepted the challenge and the race began. To the amusement of the audience, who had expected to see the young man easily win, the doctor easily and speedily outran his competitor, who puffed and blowed in his distress.
Mr. Macfadden says: "In several cases treated by myself, and also in a number of cases quoted by Dewey and Carrington, the strength increased from day to day, until the patient was enabled to walk several miles a day toward the close of a long fast, whereas at first he was unable to walk at all!"
Again he says: "It is a fact that has been demonstrated again and again that many individuals instead of losing strength by fasting, gain it. In one case a woman was carried to one of our institutions on a stretcher, so weak from malnutrition that she was unable to walk. Her physician had prescribed all kinds of nourishing diets which she had been unable to digest and in spite of food (or because of it--author's note), drugs and nursing she had rapidly grown weaker. She was at once placed on a fast, and to her amazement, she, day by day, increased in strength."
In my own practice there is the case of a man who was confined to bed and unable to get out of it, although eating three meals a day. At the end of a week of fasting he was able to get up and walk about the room, although still fasting. There is the case of another man who was so weak he could not walk from one room to another of his home without support. After two weeks of fasting he was able to go downstairs unsupported, go outside and have a sun bath and return upstairs to his bed. After fifty-five days of fasting he was still able to do this. He was much stronger at the end of his fifty-five days without food than when he began the fast.
In 1925, it was announced, from the University of Chicago, that football coaches have found that if they force their players to go without food a short time and then feed them a hearty meal a few hours before the game they are "raring to go, both mentally and physically." Many athletes have found that short fasts during their training periods aid them considerably. The late Harry Wills, Negro heavyweight pugilist, was an outstanding example of this. As an opposite example, habitual gluttony came very near to permanently retiring Babe Ruth from the baseball diamond. Somebody pointed out to him the causes of his troubles and reduced eating restored him to good physical condition, as well as overcame his irascible temper.
In his "Why Did Jesus Fast," Rev. H. Arndt tells of an Italian fencing master who prepared for contests with a week of fasting and continuous practice and who had never been vanquished.
Freddy Welsh, one time light-weight champion of the world, always started his training for important fights with a fast of a week. He found that this shortened considerably the time required to get in condition for the fight. He never had to postpone any fights because of colds, boils, etc., as was often done by Joe Beckett, George Carpentier, and others.