For centuries, athletes have been using specific substances to enhance performance. No, I’m not talking about steroids or other hormones, which can increase your body’s ability to use protein to make muscle. I’m referring to foods and beverages we consume in every day life. Natural steroids, if you will.
Sports nutrition is far from a new concept and athletes have been trying varied diets over the years to improve endurance.
In Ancient Greece, athletes at Olympia consumed large quantities of figs to increase their speed and overall strength. Because they contain a high concentration of sugar, especially the dried variety, figs were thought to build stamina. Now, athletes turn to gel packs and sports beverages to get that same boost of energy.
Garlic was also fed to athletes by their coaches because it was believed to increase strength and ward off disease. Recent research says that allicin, a compound found in garlic, does have antioxidant benefits. But will a garlicky breakfast help drag your booty to the gym? Probably not.
At first, Greek athletes subsisted on diets of dried figs, moist cheese, and wheat. These foods were not expensive and cheese provided the protein they needed. However, in the mid-5th century, the dietary emphasis shifted to meat. Because meat was expensive, Olympians were bred mainly from upper social strata families. Milo of Croton, who won 5 Olympic awards from 536-520 B.C., was said to have eaten 20 pounds of meat (that’s about the equivalent of 160 hotdogs!) during his training periods. Many actually followed an Atkins-type diet, skipping bread before competition.
Large quantities of beef, pork, goat’s flesh, and fish from the Mediterranean Sea provided the protein these ancient athletes used to build muscle. Hey Allyson, how many pounds of meat do you eat while training? And could you imagine having a belly full of goat’s flesh before a big run?