Ancient Olympians Followed “Atkins” Diet, Scholar Says


Ancient Olympians came from the upper social strata in Greece, since wealthy families could feed their children more protein-rich legumes and meats to build muscle.

The earliest records point to a cheese- and fruit-based diet for the first Olympic athletes, but somewhere along the line, dietary emphasis shifted to meat, Grivetti said.

While much of what’s known about the diet of ancient Olympians comes from other sources, the Deipnosophists tells the tale of the wrestler Milon of Croton, who won competitions at six different Olympics:

Milon of Croton used to eat 20 pounds [9 kilograms] of meat and as many of bread, and he drank three pitchers of wine. And at Olympia he put a four-year-old bull on his shoulders and carried it around the stadium; after which, he cut it up and ate it all alone in a single day.

—Theodorus of Hierapolis, On Athletic Contests, cited by Athenaeus in The Deipnosophists

According to food historian Francine Segan, an ancient Olympic runner won several competitions while following a meat-only diet. “This started a meat-only craze,” Segan said, noting that other diet tips for athletes included avoiding bread right before competition and eating dried figs.

Ancient Olympians Followed “Atkins” Diet, Scholar Says

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