The Alcoholic Beverage That Was Once Considered An Energy Drink For Athletes

While you may catch an athlete sipping on electrolytes or Gatorade at the Olympics today, energy drinks in the 20th century looked a tad different. According to Inside Hook, not only were champagne, brandy, and strychnine (rat poison) considered to be effective performance enhancers, the drinks were often given out as energy drinks during competitions.

The practice of gulping champagne or rat poison can be traced back to imperial China and ancient Greece, per Massey University, but its use in competitions began in the 19th century (via Atlas Obscura). Athletes who took part in foot races at the time were recommended regular sips of bubbly to help them get to the finish line. Alcohol’s sugar content made it seem like an effective energy booster, low doses of strychnine were considered a remedy for exhausted athletes. The refreshing champagne was particularly well-liked.

The famous Greek athlete Spiridon Louis, who won the first Olympic marathon in 1896, was reported to have chugged cognac only 10,000 meters before the marathon’s finish line (via World Athletes). In 1908, French athlete Albert Corey credited his Chicago Marathon win to regular swigs of champagne throughout the race (via Torontoist). While the modern Olympic games may not be an entirely dry affair, you won’t find any athlete crediting their win to a glass of bubbly, either.

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