In the first of an occasional and undoubtedly endless series of history’s horrible sports supplements, we’re sailing way back to revisit a dubious classic, an aquatic misfire with a taste no one ever acquired. Even now, long after the stench has lifted, you may wince while reading the name.

PROTEIN FROM THE SEA

In the aftermath of the Great Protein Rush of 1952, when industry titans Bob Hoffman and Joe Weider copied Irvin Johnson’s Hi-Protein with their own soy protein powders—Hi-Proteen and Hi Protein—the nascent sports supplement industry was all about protein, protein, and lots more protein. For more than a decade, soy or dairy powder was marketed as a miracle food that turned bullied weaklings into sand-kicking supermen.

But how do you distinguish products when even their names sound identical? Hoffman thought way out of the box—and into the ocean. After a visit to Hawaii, he was inspired to create a supplement made of “a blend of special protein nutrients obtained from the seas of the world.” Protein from the Sea, available in powder and tablets, was first advertised in Strength & Health in 1961.

Ingredients were absent from supplements then, so there’s no telling what swam into Protein from the Sea. Some say it reeked of seaweed, others insist it stank of fish. Seemingly no one thought it smelled or tasted even okay. Bodybuilder Lance Dreher, who competed in the Mr. Olympia years after the teenage trauma of trying it, remembers, “It tasted worse than rotten tuna. I bought that once and threw it out.”

That was the consensus opinion, in marked contrast to the ad above insisting, as if to stifle doubts, that the chewable tablets were “tasty.” A few years after its launch, Protein from the Sea sunk, though the bad taste seems to have never left landlubbers lured in by the promised “amazing burst of nutritive power!”

By the way, that “Exotic Oriental food” Forinake doesn’t sound too appetizing either. Like we said, the list of horrible sports supplements is endless. This voyage has only just begun.