Your Old School Supplements: Introduction -
Written by Tim Rigby

In this brand-new digital series, Inside Fitness takes a look at “Old School Supplements”: where they came from, and how they shaped today’s supplements industry. This introduction is the first installment, after which we’ll focus on several of the most famous (and infamous) supplement brands from the industry’s early days. You’ll be amazed at how far fitness and sports supplements have come!

They revolutionized an industry that’s now worth over $170 billion each year. They impacted the lifestyles of hundreds of millions of people, and made us take fitness more seriously. These were the ground-breaking pioneers of the sports supplements industry. These early developers saw the reality that most of the population who jumped on the fitness bandwagons of running in the ‘70s and aerobics in the ‘80s were not keen on the idea of slamming back six egg whites like Sylvester Stallone in the 1976 film Rocky, just to consume extra protein. Nor did the idea of knocking back extra wheat germ, desiccated liver, or iodine have much appeal.

Nonetheless, even 20 years before anyone ever heard of the word “creatine”, a handful of maverick developers came up with unprecedented supplements to meet the most popular fitness demands of the time. Originally, these products were fraught with several drawbacks, not the least of which include:

  • Awful taste. The early protein powders – often available in crude plastic bags – were known to taste like “gasoline” and have a “chalky” texture.
  • Lousy mixing. Nothing puts a damper on the excitement of blending a protein shake to build muscle more than having the powder float in clumps and not blend.
  • Lack of flavour. Do you want vanilla or unflavoured? Eventually chocolate came into the fray, followed by strawberry, but that was it.
  • Impure ingredients. Take it or leave it – these were your only two options. You had no way of knowing if you were getting legitimate nutrients. There was no third-party testing, but there were bogus products with a lot of fillers and additives.
  • Dangerous ingredients. The US FDA played a passive role with regard to the monitoring of supplements’ ingredients, until too many people experienced near-fatal (and unfortunately, sometimes fatal) effects on their heart, lungs and brain.
  • Lack of choice. Protein was certainly king back then, as it remains to this day. However, you often had to consume it loaded with sugar in those infamous “weight gainers”. There was also a dearth of key supplements like glutamine, BCAAs, l-carnitine, omega-3s, etc.
  • Hard to find. Even if you’d heard that supplements were becoming more widely used, you often had to drive all over hell’s half acre to find them – most pharmacies, grocery stores, and even sports stores would offer vitamins, but that was usually it.

Fortunately for us now, the supplements industry has come a long way, baby. We now consume delicious and easy-to-mix supplements. We now have pre-workout and post-workout (even intra-workout) blends already customized and available to us, so we don’t have to do all the homework ourselves. Since 1994, we have creatine, a staple of strength athletes. We’ve also got a full spectrum of flavours, easily available for purchase, along with every niche supplement you can think of, and these are not only more effective than old school supplements, but they’re safer too.

Do yourself a favour and recognize that the more you train, the more you need top-quality supplements. Don’t sell yourself short of reaching all your fitness goals and make sure you’re consuming supplements daily.

Stay tuned for next weeks installment of Ultimate Orange!

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