Guest Post: A Short History of Nutrition in Bodybuilding


If you’ve been in the fitness game for any amount of time, you know that optimizing your nutrition is half the job. Even more importantly if you’re a bodybuilder, your diet plan can make or break your physique no matter how much time you put in the gym, or how well you sleep. Eating whole foods coupled with quality supplements such as protein and amino acidsin general can present a winning combination that will help you build muscle and lose fat. But is it really that simple?

Certainly not. If you want to be one of the greatsof your time, you need to understand the intricacies that shaped the world of nutrition in bodybuilding, and what it all means for the future of the sport. Let’s take a look at the history of nutrition in bodybuilding, and how some of the postulates became the doctrines you abide by in your own routine.

It all began with the Physical Culture movement

The true history of sports nutritioncould be traced back to ancient times, but if we are to take a closer look at the sport of bodybuilding specifically, then we would have to venture back no more than a century or so. Starting with the Physical Culture movement that preceded the bodybuilding movement itself at the turn of the 19thcentury, the story begins with a man called Bernarr Macfadden who popularized the concept of exercise and healthy eating.

Through his 150 books, a multitude of Physical Culture magazine issues, and numerous competitions he organized over the years, Bernarr Macfadden strived to bring physical fitness to the masses, and more importantly, the indispensable role nutrition played in the matter. Along with the famed Eugene Sandow, Macfadden was a strong advocate of clean eating and abstinence in terms of smoking and hard liquor. Although both seem to be partial to a cold pint of beer, as you would expect.


Meat-eaters vs vegetarians

For the majority of novice bodybuilders, the concept of vegetarianism might not seem to fit in the muscle-building mentality. However, not a couple of decades into the 20thcentury, numerous proponents of the vegetarian diet started to emerge within the Physical Culture’s ranks. One of them was Macfadden himself, along with his compadre of the time George Hackenschmidtwho was also partial to diets that did not center on meat consumption.

With the rise of the now fabled Muscle Beach in LA’s Santa Monica in the 1930s, more and more Physical Culturalists began to take part in the vegetarian movement, basing their diets on dairy products, eggs, and of course, plenty of vegetables. However, this was not the official position of the entire movement, as one of their members, Tony Sansone, was a determined advocate of flesh foods, particularly for bodybuilders. This only goes to show that carnivores and herbivores were equally represented in the early days of bodybuilding, much like today.

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The role of supplements in bodybuilding

There is no denying that supplementation is one of the staples of bodybuilding, for better or worse. When you have the necessary information in your hands, you can choose the right supplements for your specific goals, and stay away from scams and ineffective substances. What you might not be aware of, is that supplements, particularly protein and oil extracts such as black seed oildate back to the early decades of the 20thcentury. Granted, oil extracts date back a couple of millennia, but they weren’t used for the purpose of post-workout recovery like in modern times.

Most interestingly for all bodybuilding aficionados, the role of whey protein in muscle-building and recovery was recognized by the members of the Physical Culture movement way back in the 1930s. The first whey “supplement” was created by Eugene Schiff, a young pharmacist who went on to package and sell processed whey. Mind, you this was some five decades before the first official whey concentrate hit the commercial market.


Steroids – the foundation of competitive bodybuilding

From the earliest days of physical fitnessitself, men have strived to surpass each other in every possible way, including aesthetics and performance – so it would be a great omission not to talk about the importance of steroids in the bodybuilding age. After all, you should understand by now that anabolic steroids play a vital role in every competitive bodybuilder’s routine, save for those who choose to compete in natural bodybuilding.

The “grandfather” of all steroids, Testosterone, was discovered in 1935, but it would not be until the late 1950s that John Ziegler would experiment with the practical uses of anabolic compounds and drugs in bodybuilding – albeit with disappointing results. Even though synthetic Testosterone was administered to athletes as early as 1947, it wouldn’t be until the creation of Dianabol in 1958 that the steroid era would kick off.

Looking ahead

Clean eating, vegetarianism, supplements, steroids, all of these nutritional assets can play a role in a bodybuilder’s diet. If history has taught us anything it is that there is no cookie-cutter solution that will help you attain your dream physique, but rather that you need to figure out what works best for you. With that in mind, understand that with proper training, eating, sleeping, and post-workout recovery in general, you can achieve the results you’re looking for. Steroids, and whether or not you should dabble in the field of enhanced bodybuilding, remain a topic to be addressed at another time.

Author Bio

I’m a fitness and health blogger at, and a great fan of the gym and a healthy diet. I follow all the trends in fitness, gym and healthy life, and l love to share my knowledge in this field through useful and informative articles.

One thought on “Guest Post: A Short History of Nutrition in Bodybuilding

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  1. Thanks for the post

    By the way, I’m still new to this blogging world so getting some exposure to my tiny blog would be awesome.

    I was wondering if I could contribute a guest post for your blog.

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    5 Simple Rules to Follow When Learning How to Get Ripped Naturally
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    Why does Muscle Get sore? Ever Wondered what Causes Muscle Soreness?

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