A gladiator cemetery at Ephesus (Turkey) has yielded evidence that at least the gladiators buried there ate a diet of beans and grains, with little or no meat, and drank a restorative potion made from plant ash. Researchers from the Medical University of Vienna and the Department of Anthropology, Institute of Forensic Medicine, University of Bern, analyzed the gladiators' bones using spectroscopy to determine their strontium-to-calcium ratio. The result suggests that gladiators really did have a post-workout health drink, as ancient sources state.
The only ancient literary source the news reports of the study name is Pliny the Elder, who quotes Varro as suggesting ash for stomach pains and bruises and continues that gladiators drink something made of ashes, but till we've lain hands on the Latin text, we'll say no more, except that if you read on, Pliny develops the hearth theme to describe the extraordinary conception of Servius Tullius (Natural History 36.203-204). Never a dull moment with Pliny the Elder.
Here are some links to the gladiator bone study reports:
The author of this blog, Kristina Killgrove, a bioarchaeologist, discusses the reports and points out something that struck us too. One set of female bones was found among the gladiators. Why did the investigators automatically assume she was not a gladiator too?