Kosher Bodybuilding—For Strength, Health, and Longevity

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I’ve been on a long journey to find the optimum diet, particularly for someone who values strength, health AND longevity.

I may have finally found it, and it has been right in front of me all along.

My company name—Old School—is not just a name to me, as I have said. It is an all-encompassing idea, that references the timeless, natural truths we have lost in pursuit of “science” without reason, or if you will, science without God.

I have long pondered the original “Old School” diet, which He presented to Adam and Eve in the Garden…

Look, to you I give all the seed-bearing plants everywhere on the surface of the earth, and all the trees with seed-bearing fruit; this will be your food.

—Genesis 1:29 New Jerusalem Bible

This is a vegan diet, though that isn’t discussed much. I’ve dabbled over the years with this diet, never fully committing to it. I’ve learned enough about nutrition to understand the potential benefits, as well as pitfalls to eating this way, and believe I’ve covered the nutritional holes sufficiently. I could eat this way, and likely have success with it, if I chose to do so.

But at least for now, I have not chosen to commit to this path.

There are reasons I have not gone this way, starting with my general lack of interest in eating primarily fruits and vegetables. You know how kids often hate eating their veggies? Imagine if that was pretty much all you’d be eating? Enough said.

I’m also a bodybuilder, and on training days my body asks for a lot of protein. I don’t think Adam and Eve had to work the Garden too hard. Remember, God gave them this diet before the Fall, at which time he commanded they work “by the sweat of thy brow.”

Have you ever worked “by the sweat of thy brow”? And what kind of food did you crave afterwards?

Quick story: Many years ago, in the early 90s, I moved to Southern Oregon to follow up a job offer from a friend. I arrived in late October. Suffice it to say it is cold there that time of year.

While I was training for my new job, I had to feed myself and pay the bills, so I put an ad in the local paper letting homeowners know I’d rake leaves, chop wood, and do other chores they needed for a price. One of the jobs I got hired for was with a tree cutter. He cut dense Madrone trees, which are prized in the area as they make excellent firewood. After a full morning of loading cut Madrone onto the bed of the man’s pickup truck, I was starved.

At the time I was in one of my vegan / vegetarian stages, and had brought a sack lunch consisting of sunflower seeds, raisins, and some other grub I don’t remember. This just wasn’t going to cut it. I mean, I was hungry! And I had lots more loading to do after lunch.

So I drove to the local Jack in the Box, ordered—and proceeded to wolf down—four burgers. Boy were they good, and I came back after lunch and knocked out the rest of the work!

I should have realized right then that I was unlikely to give up eating meat! But I’m stubborn and a slow learner.

Fast forward to the present. I’ve flirted with veganism over and over since then, pulled by the allure of its potential health benefits and simplicity—always with the knowledge that this was God’s original diet plan for mankind.

Before I go further, let me again point out that I think veganism can be done. And of course, it is being done by millions of people, many of them athletes. But just because something can be done, doesn’t mean it’s something I’m interested in doing!

I know that veganism is being pushed by celebrities, the media, many on the Left of the political spectrum, and many elites as well. There are many reasons for this, which I won’t delve into in this post, but suffice it to say I remain suspicious of their motives.

So there’s that.

But bottom line, I believe in feeding my body what I believe it is asking of me. And particularly on training days, it’s asking me for meat and other animal protein.

I’ve written on this blog about my adventures and mis-adventures in the world of food… including my last bout passing a kidney stone, which was, shall I say, not fun. Upon retrieving the tiny, jagged offender, I saw that its color indicated a uric acid origin, which is often due to—per studies—excessive animal protein consumption.

So it’s not as simple as saying, “Eat meat,” or “Don’t eat meat.” There are questions of amount, quality, timing, etc.

For instance, I have noticed that if I eat heavy animal protein in the evening, and go to sleep before full digestion has occurred, that I often wake up with pain in the lower bowel area. All of this caused me to look further into the proper use of animal protein and fat.

I have an old book that I think everyone should read. It’s called God’s Key to Health and Happiness, by Elmer A. Josephson, a Baptist minister, who said he had serious illnesses which were cured by following Bible teachings (essentially following a “kosher” diet).

The teachings are from the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy in the Old Testament. Millions of observant Jews have been following these laws with great success for centuries.

It’s funny that in our “enlightened” age, with a new diet popping up seemingly daily, that so little attention has been given to God’s dietary laws.

For me, re-discovering these laws has been a revelation. Eating “kosher” allows me to eat animal protein, but in a healthy way. Let me explain two big keys in the law that are benefitting me right now, and may be able to benefit you. The two are actually stated in one sentence:

It shall be a perpetual statute for your generations throughout all your dwellings, that ye eat neither fat nor blood.

Leviticus 3:17

I know this may bother the “Keto” people, but that’s what the Old Testament says. It is actually difficult to eat the animal’s fat while eating the meat (unless it’s ground up). Think of a steak. You’d typically cut away the fat and eat the protein portion. I know when I try to eat animal fat I end up just chewing and chewing—it doesn’t go down.

We know all the health issues that people have with animal fat, particularly around the heart. But really, fat affects the whole body. Cutting down on animal fat has helped my digestion, and lessened my lower abdominal / bowel pain. (I’m not saying we should cut out ALL fat—we certainly need a fair amount of fat in our diet—just limited animal fat)

The second part of the sentence says not to eat blood. Why? One practical reason is that disease starts in the blood. Something to think about the next time you stare at your bloody rare hamburger.

One of the kosher dietary laws gives instruction on how to draw blood out of an animal before eating it. And as buying kosher meats can be expensive, the author of God’s Key to Health and Happiness gave his own guidelines on how to prepare your own “kosher” meat:

  1. Soak ordinary meat for half an hour
  2. Drain
  3. Salt heavily
  4. Let set for one hour
  5. Wash and prepare as normal

I have tried preparing meat and eating it in this fashion, and I can say that it feels lighter (it is), I have less reactions to the meat, and digestion is better.

I’ve also employed a third dietary change, that, while not strictly “kosher,” definitely is mentioned often in the Old Testament—I’ve started to drink some red wine (1 four-ounce serving) with my meat meals, to help digestion. I’ve also had good results with this, provided I don’t drink too close to bedtime, as I’ve never been able to sleep well with alcohol in my system. I know this is true for many others, and there are reasons for this pertaining to alcohol’s negative effect on deep sleep.

Alcohol does act as a mild depressant, which is another factor. I do not recommend having a meal with wine, and attempting to work out afterwards, even with some time lapse in between. I tried it (with a good two hour-plus time lapse), and felt like I was working out under water. But that’s me, and I don’t have a high tolerance for alcohol.

Needless to say, having wine with your meal is not for everyone, be they minors, or people with certain health or psychological / addictive issues with alcohol. That being said, I’ve often wondered how many modern health issues may be able to be improved through the judicious use of red wine with meals.

For the bodybuilder, power or Olympic lifter, or any athlete who prizes power (which is just about any athlete I can think of), considering the value of eating kosher should be a “win”—a serious competitive advantage. And I have not even discussed the kosher law of only eating fish with scales (filters), and not eating scavenger animals, be they in the water or land. I’ve already been following this advice for years.

For the average person who wants to eat meat, but do it in a healthy manner, I recommend that you look into kosher eating. As is so often the case, ancient wisdom—in this case the wisdom of the Creator of the universe Himself—proves to be the answer to every problem we are faced with.

Maybe we should start paying better attention.

Patrick Rooney is the Founder of OldSchoolUs.com. Its focus is natural health and independent living. Patrick is the author of GREEK PHYSIQUE: The Simple, Satisfying Way to Sculpt Your Body—Even if You’re Old, Weak, or Broken Down; and is also the creator of Greek Yoga™ and the Greek Yoga for Beginners video. He offers health and fitness coaching in-person in Middle Tennessee and worldwide via phone, Zoom, and Skype. To reach Patrick, email him at [email protected].

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