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J Nutr. 1997 May;127(5 Suppl):869S-873S. doi: 10.1093/jn/127.5.869S.

Search for the competitive edge: a history of dietary fads and supplements.

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Department of Nutrition, University of California, Davis 95616, USA.


The premise and promise of ergogenic aid use is rooted in antiquity and is based upon superstition and ritualistic behavior of athletes who perceive that past performances were predicated upon unique dietary constituents or dietary manipulation. Accounts from ancient times recommended that athletes and soldiers preparing for battle consume specific animal parts to confer agility, speed or strength associated with that animal. Scientific understanding of the chemical and physiological nature of muscular work in the early 20th century was followed by ergogenic aid use by athletes and rationalized as "scientific" justification. Ergogenic aids such as alkaline salts, caffeine, carbohydrate and protein have been used by athletes with variable success. As nutritionists and exercise physiologists discovered and perfected the scientific understanding of metabolic reactions, athletes in turn experimented with the amount, form and timing of administration in the search for optimal performance. Anabolic steroids and blood doping enhance athletic performance, but health risks, ethics and sportsmanship contravene their use. Popularity and use of ergogenic aids often have preceded scientific substantiation of claims. Current products such as protein isolates and antioxidant nutrients commonly are used by athletes, and many ergogenic aids available today differ little from those used long ago.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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