Vegetarian Diet And Endurance
( Originally Published 1921 )
The history of nations, as well as the records of athletic con-tests, testifies that the vegetarian diet is capable of. developing the highest degree of strength and endurance. The seemingly invincible Spartans were an illustration of this fact. The Romans, moreover, were vegetarians in the days of their prime; and their degeneracy began when they gave themselves up to the indulgence of unrestrained appetite, including the use of flesh and strong drink. The fallacy of maintaining that the vegetarian diet will lessen energy is made plain when we consider the endurance of vegetarians generally. In India, China, and Japan there are possibly eight hundred million people, strong, active, healthy, and long-lived, the larger proportion of whom seldom if ever eat animal flesh. The Chinese coolie, though not a giant in stature, will draw a load of human freight at the speed of a horse's trot, for a distance of from thirty to forty miles at a time; and his diet consists of rice, dates, vegetables, and rarely a small portion of fish. The Hindu messengers, who carry dispatches long distances, day after day, live principally on rice. The Irish peasant, who ranks among the most active and aggressive of men, subsists chiefly on potatoes, buttermilk, and simple cooked vegetables. The native Andean Indian is able to do a day's work which for its magnitude is said to be beyond comparison with that of our ordinary day laborer, often carrying on his shoulder burdens of two hundred pounds weight, day after day ; and his food is largely bananas and whole meal cereal. The fare of the Russian peasant is for the greater part black bread, milk, and vegetables; yet he often works from sixteen to eighteen hours a day, and his strength is not inferior to that of his foreign neighbor.
With reference to the effect of the vegetarian diet, on the strength and endurance of animals, we may say that the elephant, the strongest animal known ; the horse, one of the fleetest ; and the camel, the most enduring,-- all proverbial for their hardiness and vitality,— subsist entirely upon natural foods. The vegetarian ox will plod on day after day without exhaustion; but how would it be with the flesh-eating,. lion or tiger? Though these are the strongest and most ferocious of the flesh eaters, and would be very quick for a fierce fight lasting but a short time, they would soon faint if attached to the plow. Anatomy, physiology, and instinct, all witness to the fact that man is by nature a fruit-eating creature. These expressions from well-known naturalists undoubtedly voice the sentiment of most persons who have made a careful study of the subject:
"The natural food of man, judging from his structure, consists of fruit, roots, and vegetables."— Cuvier.
"It is vulgar error to regard meat in any form as necessary to life."— Sir Henry Thompson.
"No physiologist would dispute with those who maintain that man ought to live on vegetarian diet."— Dr. Spencer Thompson.
In his article, "To Raise a Family in Whose Arteries the Blood Leaps," Mr. Heppe says :
"An excessive meat diet, while producing, in life's first half, extraordinary energy and restless activity, leaves the body a used-up empty shell after forty-five. It acts like a furnace with a forced draft."
"Simple fare and correctly prepared foods will keep the human body the replica of the divine form. It will not develop excessive fat or obnoxious pugnacity, but rather will it leave the mind free for the contemplation of life's highest ideals." "American Cookery," January, 1920.
Prize fighters, while in training for mastery in strength, discard flesh food as material not best suited to the accomplishment of their aim, that of developing the greatest possible endurance.
In the athletic contests that have taken place within the last few decades, such as walking, swimming, bicycle riding, arm holding, knee bending, leg raising, etc., and which have represented the vegetarian on the one hand, and the flesh eater on the other, the vegetarians have usually proved easy victors. Perhaps the most reliable endurance tests so far recorded, showing the effects of diet upon endurance, were made by Irving Fisher, professor of political economy, of Yale University, on a large number of men, to test the endurance of flesh eaters and flesh abstainers. These experiments showed that the vegetarians surpassed the flesh eaters on an average of from 50% to 200%. In summing up the results of these and other experiments, Professor Fisher says :
"These investigations, with those of Combe of Laussanne, Metchnikoff and Tissier of Paris, as well as Herter and others in the United States, seem gradually to be demonstrating that the fancied strength from meat is, like the fancied strength from alcohol, an illusion." "Scientific Nutrition Simplified," page 149.
Animal food as a strengthening article of diet is fast falling into the same category with alcohol. The id-1 sometimes presented, that in order to be strong, a person must partake of the flesh of a strong ox (without considering the source from which the ox obtains strength), is akin to the belief of the head-hunter, who imagines that by sacrificing a strong man's life and feasting upon his heart, he may imbibe the strong man's bravery and strength.
There were many ancient men of renown who are known to have been vegetarians. We may mention first of all, Daniel and his three companions in Babylon. He requested for himself a vegetarian diet in preference to the flesh and wine served from the king's table. His consequent good health and physical vigor made possible a great intellect ; and at the end of three years, he had ten times as much wisdom as the great men of the king's realm. (Daniel 1 : 8-21.) Then we may mention the well-known names of such men as Plutarch, Tolstoy, Pythagoras, Linnaeus, Seneca, Buddha, Plato, the Stoics; and a host of others if time and space would permit.