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Modern-day athletes often nurse their muscles with supplement shakes or chocolate milk after a workout. Similarly, gladiators, the sports stars of the Roman Empire, may have guzzled a drink made from the ashes of charred plants — a rich source of calcium, which is essential for building bones, researchers report this month in the journal PLOS One.

"Plant ashes were evidently consumed to fortify the body after physical exertion, and to promote better bone healing," Fabian Kanz, a forensic anthropologist at the Medical University of Vienna who led the research, said in a statement. "Things were similar then to what we do today."