To visit the Vegan Bodybuilding website click here

Saturday, 22 November 2008

A review: Muscle, Smoke & Mirrors vol 1 by Randy Roach

Here's a quick summary of the above book. Basically before we start this book was funded by the Weston Price foundation, so we kind of have an idea exactly which direction this book is going to take & where the main focus is going to be turned before we even open the pages (we all know about the Weston Price Foundation & their anti-veg stance).

First of all the book opens in the early days of strongman (Sandow et al), & on to Barnarr McFadden (& that silly veggie diet he promoted-yep, a negative view straight from the start), then takes a quick swerve to suddenly include the dentist Weston Price (who up until this moment history has never mentioned as being so important in the physical culture movement :-), but according to this book, he appears as an almost pivotal figure, there is a brief mention of Robert McCarrison & his study of the virtually veggie Hunza, but that is soon passed over as we moved back to the momentous events of Dr Price!

This book makes a few errors in their timings in my view. It is implied that any interest in vegetarian living is just about replaced by the high (meat) protein diet by the 1940's (possibly only slowed by war time rations in the UK & Europe-although this isn't mentioned), but in the 1940 Bob Hoffman book "Better Nutrition" He clearly states that a lot of his mail to the magazine "Strength & Health" is still concerned with having more articles on vegetarian eating & planning vegetarian bodybuilding diets! Not quite so dead really (& Hoffman is a renowned "anti-veg", so for him to confess that must have been difficult). As a side note I believe it was actually Hoffman & the introduction of steroids that really hit vegetarian physical culture movement, keeping these drugs secret while Hoffman could show his athletes success story on the 'Hoffman diet' that was high meat & dairy, but as I said that's just a theory, but the dates do seem to fit rather nicely & Hoffman did basically own both the bodybuilding & weightlifting community at that time.

Anyway, back to the story, the next anti-veg statement is first a story about how amazing Armand Tanny (Mr America 1950) is eating a diet of predominantly raw meat (something Armand only admitted publicly only later), which he accepts, without question & yet when Roy Hilligenn (Mr America 1951 & pound for pound the strongest clean & jerk in the world ever-according to some sources) admits to being a life vegetarian who has never consumed an animal in his life he basically calls the guy a liar (because you can't get big &/or strong without meat-that's about the perfect example of circular logic as you're going to find!). It then goes on about how the high (meat) protein diet really improved physiques, with some mention of steroids. He also takes issue with Bill Pearl & his disservice to the sport by giving up meat & goes on to say that Bill is wrong as there are substances in meat that are vital (classic Weston Price Foundation propaganda with no basis in truth). Mr Roach also calls Bill Pearl a liar about his steroid use (which Bill admits taking), but he's always said he gave them up towards the end of his career, which Mr Roach discounts without proof (as it would also mean a veggie, ex-steroid taker could compete against the best in the world, which to Mr Roach's eyes is impossible, as you cannot be big & strong without eating meat - again note the circular logic - it cannot be true because you cannot build or maintain a big body without meat, so he must have eaten meat???).

I know a small bit about oldtime physical culture & even my limited knowledge could pick flaws in the book. From the early days when George Hackenschmit mentions in his book "The way to live" published in the early 20th century that he knew many vegetarian men who were very strong (so is George a liar as well-George was a meat eater, with no reason to lie about what he knew), right up to Guys like Bill Pearl competing on a veggie diet or Doug Hepburn fighting back to health from alcohol & drug abuse on a vegetarian diet to set records in strength in his 70's that not many men in their peak could match! Are all these people liars? Did they all secretly consume their steaks? Why would they even bother to lie, there is no gain in them lying. Bill Pearl won't get any extra glory by saying he was a veggie than he has already, what did Doug Hepburn gain by saying he became veggie? These guys out there & many others who may not be quite in that strength league, but plug away in gyms week in/week out go to PROVE you don't actually need any animal product to become big & strong. Certain there is no substance in meat that is vital to human survival & health as the Weston Price Foundation have touted in the past.

Now before you go away thinking I didn't actually enjoy the book or find it useful, you'd be wrong! Despite the (in my view) inaccuracies & the dismissive attitude to anything that didn't fit the Weston Price view of the world, let me say it did open up several new avenues of research for me & was quite an enjoyable read (if you like old-time physical culture stuff like I do). Also I have focussed on the negatives I found in the books, the points I believe that reflect the Weston Price Foundation involvement (not to say Mr Roach 'doctored' his research, just that his interpretations are coloured by his own beliefs - as are all of ours). The majority of the book, when outside the obvious anti-veg stance, is a great read. It also made me consider that maybe it's time to actually try & find those original works by Dr Western Price & Dr Robert McCarrison for the beginning of the 20th Century & see what the guys themselves had to say about the Hunza people & there virtually veggie lifestyle (& amazing health) & Dr Weston Price & his studies of people who ate a predominantly meat based diet (I'm not sure what Dr Price exactly even measured-I know he was a dentist, & I have heard mentioned that it was actually the teeth he studied predominately, but I'll find both their works at some point soon & see what they actually did find during their studies).

I’d say overall it is a good book to read, but bear in mind it does have an agenda of its own, like any publication funded by an organisation with certain goals in mind. But I’d still buy it if you like reading about the greats of old-time physical culture.

No comments: