The ancient Roman's had an interesting recipe for recovery. Post-workout protein with a touch of ash, anyone?
Ancient Roman gladiators were known for being tough, superhuman warriors. And according to a new study, some of that magnificence can be chalked up to not only grueling workouts and lots of protein, but also to a special post-workout recovery drink of vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes. How very...modern? But the secret sauce is something no modern bodybuilder would think of: ashes.
Researchers from the Medical University of Vienna analyzed the bones of the fierce fighters to learn more about what they ate and were surprised to find that they were drinking a slurry of water and ashes. "Plant ashes were evidently consumed to fortify the body after physical exertion, and to promote better bone healing; things were similar then to what we do today," explained Fabian Kanz, a forensic anthropologist and lead author of the paper.
Using embers as electrolytes was certainly backed up by the wise men of the day, as evidenced by this instruction from Pliny the Elder: "Your hearth should be your medicine chest. Drink lye made from its ashes, and you will be cured. One can see how gladiators after a combat are helped by drinking this."
So should we be mixing cinders in with our protein powder? At first glance, it seems like one of those traditions best left to the ancients—but the scientists say plant ash actually has some nutritional value to it. Charred plants contain high levels of calcium which we need to maintain strong bones. We're not sure the "gladiator Gatorade" will replace a tasty yogurt smoothie (also high in calcium) any time soon, but it certainly gives new meaning to "you taste like an ashtray"!