In the Battle of Pharsalus, the armies led by Julius Caesar defeated those led by Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus to end the Roman Civil War. Now, you may wonder, what in the world does this have to do with health? Let me explain.
Pompey the Great as he was known, was a highly successful general in the Roman army and was leading an army to put an end to Julius Caesar’s grab at dictatorial powers. His army was 2-3 times larger than Caesar’s but he was wary of starting a direct battle with his counterpart due to Caesar’s noted military brilliance. What he decided to do was to choke off supplies of wheat to his enemy. Roman soldiers marched on bread and stopping the flow of wheat meant no bread. Caesar was now in a bind.
Instead of feasting on bread the men were forced to forage for vegetables and fruits and to eat animal protein. This did not sit well with his men but Caesar’s troops remained loyal despite the lack of bread. When Pompey was finally forced to commit to facing Caesar in a direct confrontation he believed that he had starved his adversaries out.
The Battle of Pharsalus took place in August or July of 48 BC. Pompey was sure that Caesar’s army would be weak but the exact opposite was really the case. They had feasted on proteins versus the normal breads so in actuality Caesar’s men were better equipped to handle a long battle which is exactly what happened. Despite being out numbered 3-1, Caesar’s men wore out their carbohydrate-fed opponents and routed them causing Pompey and many of his senatorial allies to flee.
Moral of the story? Even historically, eating a high protein diet before physical exertion is vastly superior to carbohydrate loading. When I was a competitive runner back in the late ’70s and early ’80s, much of the dietary focus was on complex carbohydrates which turned out to be a big mistake. Luckily in today’s world, we know better.