The History of Health & Fitness Supplements

The History of Health & Fitness Supplements

Jul 25 2017 0 Comments

Dietary supplements have been used since early human history. Ancient forms of Eastern medicine that are still practiced today used herbs and plants to promote health and wellness, while similar practices by Native American groups are well documented as well.

The use of supplements has only grown in popularity over time, and the supplement industry’s history can provide insight for consumers. As the ever presence of mass produced junk food developed in the 80s and 90s, many people turned to dietary supplements to make up for nutrition their food lacked. Soon after, strict regulations were relaxed that allowed supplement producers to offer more innovative and unique products to people who want to buy supplements, unlimited by harsh control over ingredients.

Just as interest in intentional, healthful eating plans like veganism, paleo, and gluten free diets has skyrocketed in the past decade, so has interest in supplements, particularly to support fitness and athletic training.

While some have expressed concern over ingredients and accuracy of health claims made by supplement producers, the quality and variety of supplements on the market have vastly improved.

From ancient Olympians and gladiators in the Mediterranean eating big portions of wine and meat to prepare for athletic competitions to early strongmen consuming vast quantities of so called “meat extracts” and eggs, varying forms of supplements have frequently been the focus of those wanting to increase strength and stamina. Even Popeye, the eponymous character of the classic cartoon, ate piles of spinach and claimed they gave him indestructible strength.

While early supplement use focused on concentrated diets of particular foods, scientists in the early 20th century began to find and extract the nutrients that made foods healthy in hopes to address world malnutrition. Initially, only basic vitamins were offered as supplements, and often added to staple foods (like vitamin D milk or iodized salt). Supplements were also used, in the form of food or vitamins, to treat and prevent disease, like how citrus fruits and vitamin C were crucial to prevent scurvy.

However, during the 1930s-60s, scientists began to study how the body uses, metabolizes, and stores nutrients during physical exertion and exercise. One of the first widely used athletic nutritional supplements was Gatorade, consumed by many today who think of it as a soft drink and not a supplement.

The History of Gatorade Bottle

As time passed and society progressed, recreational athletics and fitness for personal improvement became more popular as less people worked outside in physically laborious jobs across the United States, Europe, and Canada. Particularly as bodybuilding became more mainstream, a focus on protein intake and muscle building came to the forefront of sports nutrition.

Today, many athletes and gym goers use supplements that have come about thanks to technological advances of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. As humans have come to understand nutrition, anatomy, metabolism, and exercise more clearly, supplements for a wide variety of health and athletic uses have become easier to target.

Supplements to improve athletic performance, support muscle building, increase endurance, contribute to weight loss, and provide long lasting energy and productive recovery are all widely available today.

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