Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 71.djvu/547

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541
THE INFLUENCE OF DIET ON ENDURANCE
During the thirty-five years of my own experience in physical training and teaching I have never tested a man who equalled this record. The latter tests, given in June, 1907, were more taxing than those given in 1903, but Mr. Fletcher underwent the trials with more apparent ease than he did four years ago. What seems to me to be the most remarkable feature of Mr. Fletchers tests is that a man nearing sixty years of age should show progressive improvement of muscular quality merely as the result of dietetic care and with no systematic physical training.

Such a record of endurance as this, especially when made by a man fifty-nine years of age, can hardly fail to attract our attention. Further, when it is remembered that the subject of this test was not in training, the question naturally arises as to the cause of this phenomenal showing. Why a man of fifty-nine years of age, without training, should be able to far surpass the record for endurance made by young and vigorous athletes can only be surmised, but it certainly seems plausible to assume that the explanation is to be found in the careful dietary habits which this man has followed for the past nine years. In any event, it is fair to suppose that habits of life, leading to a relatively small intake of nitrogenous food, are not inimical to a general condition of physical efficiency and muscular endurance. We may go even farther and assume that the remarkable showing made by this subject is due directly to his temperate dietary habits. Mr. Fletcher would doubtless lay special stress upon his habit of thorough mastication and of abstaining from eating until the appetite strongly demanded food. This phase of the subject we need not discuss here. The main point is that this particular subject has during these nine years made a practise of consuming daily a quantity of proteid food not more than one half that demanded by ordinary dietary standards. In other words, his habits of living have been essentially in accord with the conclusions arrived at by our experimental studies bearing on the requirements of the body for proteid food.

We see in these results possible progressive muscular recuperation after middle life by means of diet alone. If a man by careful attention to his diet can show progressive gain in endurance and general efficiency after fifty without systematic training, it is a fact well worth knowing. In any event, the data afforded by this particular subject corroborate in striking fashion the conclusions arrived at by laboratory experimentation, and tend to confirm the view that there is perfect safety and probable gain to the body in a system of dietetics which approximates to true physiological requirements and avoids undue excess.