Welcome back folks! Yep the gladiators are in the limelight again. As promised in Blog 1, we will present to you what we believe to be a more accurate depiction of gladiators during the Roman Empire, particularly during the time that the Colosseum in Rome was in use, 96-523 CE.
Below is an attempt at depicting an everyday gladiator battle in the arena, being as realistic as possible.
The protagonist of the sketch is a lean and scrawny gladiator. The antagonist is a much bigger, fatter opponent. No, not the rhino, silly! I was talking about the stabbed gladiator. The point is, both are gladiators and neither one of them is a hunk.
Probably about now, all the gladiator fans out there currently reading this blog are protesting on all fronts, "Dis eez a disgrace! Gladiators ain't fat, brah! Nor were they anorexic, brah! Do you even Spartacus, brah?" Ahem...may I suggest you take this gluten-free chill pill before you burst a vessel please?
The media has completely distorted your perception of gladiators!
Look, gladiators were indeed badass; they probably could kill us with all their multi-weaponry skills. But this doesn't necessarily mean they looked good. Functionality and appearances in this case are separated due to their diet, training, and lack of enhancing methods. I suggest you sit tight, grab your Whey Isolate and protein chips, and enjoy some good ol' analysis.
Diet, gladiator style:
As mentioned in Blog 1, the gladiator's diet contained mostly beans and barley (Invisible Romans. "Fame and Death: Gladiators", loc. 272). Vegans can definitely build muscle because veggies do, in fact, contain the essential ingredient, protein. Okay, let's get a bit technical, shall we (bear with me). There are many types of beans; however, in general, they contain 63g of carbs and 21g of protein for every 100g of beans. Barley contains 73g of carbs and 12g of protein for every 100g of whole barley consumed. Basically, they had a ton of protein, and even more carbs.
In those days, from a logical stand point, you were either loved by your master because you were loved by the crowd, or you were just another faceless gladiator. If you were the former, it'd be rational to assume that you would get big meals (still beans and barley though), for your master would want to invest more in you and make sure you stay alive for as long as possible. You wouldn't want your champion to be killed off in the second fight, right? This ain't Games of Thrones for gainz sake, so nothing will revive you! Yet that would get you fat thanks to the overdose of carbs you consumed. Trust me - if you base your bulking diet on just beans and barley, you WILL overdose on dem carbs.
On the more practical side, the thick fat layer can make it safer for a gladiator in the arena. According to HERE, if you get cut by a blade while fighting (which you definitely will), you will bleed and the crowd will love it. But it would just be the fat layer that gets damaged instead of muscles.
On the other hand, for the gladiator who literally nobody gave a protein about - his master would not be spilling over his wealth to satisfy his appetite. So yeah, he'll be skinny.
Gladiators were trained with various weapons. Their main objective would be to perfect those weaponry skills. As a gladiator, would you be worrying about adding some size to your chest by hitting some bench press (which they did not have, by the way) or adding some meat to Mt. Bicepeous? Or would you rather make sure you can swing that gladius properly and work on your footwork? Looking good in the arena would serve no practical purpose; the guy you fight would still try to beat the carb out of you even if you're HIM.
A lack of enhancing methods:
In reality, gladiators weren't all hunky womanizers - muscular and lean. In fact, the majority of them would never be able to obtain the look of your regular heavily made-up and photoshopped actors. This is mainly due to their diet and, of course, their lack of enhancing methods - i.e. steroids (steroids are much more prevalent than you think - even guys at university gyms are 'juicing' on a daily basis), filming angles, and hours of screen editing. Anything that appears on TV is someway enhanced. Sorry to break it to you, but there are literally teams of people who are paid to morph actors into something that is deemed culturally aesthetic on screen.
That random, dead rhino though:
Wasn't random at all! Gladiators were set to fight animals (rhinos, giraffes, ostriches, lions,... etc) in the mornings, as written in The Day Commodus Killed A Rhino. The rhino in the sketch was simply not yet removed from the arena.
So there you go! That's the cold, hard truth, served with some half-a decade of strength training experience. I hope you've enjoyed this blog post. Be sure to ask me anything below. And the next time you see some ripped, bicep-bulging male homo sapiens on or off-screen, be sure to ask yourself if they really achieved that look naturally, or with enhancing methods.
References for the Artwork: