This section is from the book "Practical Dietetics With Special Reference To Diet In Disease", by William Gilman Thompson. Also available from Amazon: Practical Dietetics with Special Reference to Diet in Disease.
The object of dietetic "training" in athletics is to fit men either for feats of great muscular endurance and strength or for exhibitions of dexterity requiring accurate and quick muscular movements and nerve control. The method of training naturally differs considerably according to the object to be attained. Professional athletes, who are more or less constantly employed in exhibitions of strength or muscular skill, are obliged to adopt very regular habits of life in regard to sleep, bathing, and diet, and abstinence from the excessive use of tobacco and strong drink. In addition, when they enter special contests requiring continued feats of endurance, as in prolonged bicycle races or walking matches, for example, they have to undergo a period of special training for several weeks before the contest. Young men who devote themselves to athletic sports in college usually do so for a comparatively limited period, and are not subjected to such special strain or feats of endurance excepting, perhaps, in boat races, which are of short duration.
As a general rule, from six to ten weeks is ample time to cover their course of special dietetic training, although they usually exercise ordinary care in such matters for a longer period before their contests.
The physiological objects to be attained by any system of dietetic training are to reduce the fat and water contained in the tissues of the body, to increase the functional activity of the muscles, to train both muscles and nerves, improve the breathing power or "wind," the heart action and the condition of the skin. This is accomplished by carefully regulated diet, systematic exercises directed to the increase of oxidation processes, and the more perfect elimination of waste matter from the system. Dietetic training prevents the withdrawal of protein from other tissues than the muscles and supplies an excess of protein to make good any loss of this material. The protein is needed to build up muscle protoplasm and repair it.
Rigorous dietetic training should be conducted with great care and supervised only by those who are experienced in such matters, for any system carried to excess may cause too great a reduction in weight, and its object will be defeated by breaking down the individual at the moment of critical contest or laying the foundation for future organic weakness and disease. The heart may become hyper-trophied and subsequently fail in accommodation.
It may be observed, however, that much of the ill effect of athletic training may be due not so much to any particular form of exertion or to being trained "too fine " in diet, but to the fact that the system brings to light constitutional weaknesses which were unsuspected until revealed by unwonted effort - in short, the system involves survival of the fittest.
The transition from ordinary diet to that of any training system should be made gradually, and the return to the usual diet after a period of rigid training should be similarly slow. For the first two or three weeks of training athletes usually lose in weight an amount proportionate to their previous condition of robustness, but after several weeks an equilibrium should be reached in which, upon an established diet, the body weight remains practically the same while the muscular strength and vigour and power of endurance increase; the complexion improves in appearance, the skin becomes clear, the muscles become firmer, and all superfluous fat disappears.
While individual dietaries differ in training for the various forms of contest, most of them include lean meat, chiefly rare or "underdone," either roasted or broiled; the bread should be dry or toasted; a moderate quantity of potatoes and green fresh vegetables and fruits are usually allowed. The class of foods to be especially forbidden are sweets, pastry, entrees, rich puddings, sour pickles, and condiments. For beverages, weak tea or coffee may be allowed, although sometimes, where the object of training is the attainment of special skill in feats of delicate balancing, all forms of nerve stimulants, including tea, coffee, and tobacco should be prohibited. Chocolate and cocoa, if not too sweet, may be sometimes allowed, and in some training systems the use of light beer and light wine in moderation is included, but strong alcoholic spirits are absolutely forbidden. As a rule, three meals a day at intervals of about six hours are recommended.
The ancient Greek and Roman athletes used to train very largely upon a dry diet, which at first consisted of fresh cheese, dried figs, and preparations of wheat. Later they ate such meats as pork, beef, and goat flesh.
Parkes gives the amount of fluid which may be allowed as about five pints in winter and six in summer, a little over one fourth of which is contained in the food. Drink should not be taken either shortly before exercise or during meals. If the mouth be well rinsed before drinking, less fluid will be required, and what is taken should be drunk slowly.
The use of tobacco, particularly in the form of cigarette smoking, must be forbidden, and as alcohol in excess lessens the power of sustained muscular exertion, not over two ounces per diem can be allowed.
The following dietaries of training have been kindly furnished me by Dr. Hartwell, who has had much personal experience in such matters: