Sports Nutrition Supplements for Teenage Athletes: What’s Safe and Effective?
Are you a parent of a teenage athlete who wants your child to become faster and stronger but not at the expense of their health? Sports nutrition supplements are usually the first go-to to reach these goals.
There are key factors you should be looking at when it comes to sports nutrition supplements and I’m going to share them with you. Along with what’s proven safe and effective. So read on!
What is a supplement?
A lot of people think of supplements as only pills and that is true. However, supplements reach beyond just vitamins and minerals. The FDA defines dietary supplements as, “Products taken by mouth that contain a “dietary ingredient.” Dietary ingredients include vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and herbs or botanicals, as well as other substances that can be used to supplement the diet.” These include:
- Herbs and botanicals
- Protein powders and amino acids
- Recovery drinks
Does your teenage athlete take any of these supplements? I’d be willing to bet at least one, if not more. Unfortunately, consumers generally believe the FDA tightly regulates supplements. Unfortunately, they don’t. It’s not until enough adverse effects have been reported that they look into them.
Safety- What is Not Safe?
First, let’s talk about safety. Your teenage athlete is still growing and will be for many years so making sure that their supplement is not contaminated is of the utmost importance!
Here are some quick stats:
- The supplement industry has grown from $4 billion to $38 billion annually from 1994 to 2016
- Ingredients (not listed on label) have been identified in supplements that cause liver damage, cardiac arrest and death
- In 2007, 25% of 52 supplements studied contained steroids
- In 2009 >70 weight loss supplements contained prescription drugs
Avoid supplements that have THIS on the label:
- Promise unrealistic results
- Contain red flag words like hardcore and extreme
- Contain a “proprietary blend” (this means it could contain anything that might work and in any amount, good or bad)
- Warning labels
- The top 10 ingredients to avoid
- Yohimbine (a.k.a. erex, testomar, yocon, yohimar, yohimbe)
- Phenethylamines (a.k.a. PEA, B-phenylethylamine, N-methylphenylethylamine)
- Geranium (a.k.a. DMAA)
- Any ingredient containing “andro”
- Bitter orange (a.k.a. biarade, seville, sour orange, citrus aurantium)
- Yerba mate extract
- Bael tree fruit (a.k.a. N-[2-hydroxy-2(4-methoxyphenyl)ethyl]-3-phenyl-2-propenamide)
Safety- What is Safe?
So by now you may be thinking, “oh my gosh, is any supplement safe for my teenage athlete?!” The answer is yes, but you need to do some homework because there are A LOT of supplements out there!.
In 2009 there were over 55,000 dietary supplements with new ones coming out each year.
Here’s what you need to look for:
- Where is the company located and supplements produced. Inside the US is better (more than half are outside the US).
- Does the company follow regulatory compliance and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs)? Check this list to find which companies are.
- If the supplement has the NSF certification label.
- If the supplement NSF for Sport Certified– it will have a different label. The differencebetween the last one and this one is that they will pass a screening for athletic banned substances. This is only if the athlete is playing at the collegiate level or above.
- Check out ConsumerLab.org, an independent testing company, to see if your teen’s supplement contains what it says it does.
Does it Work?
Unfortunately, there are only a handful of supplements that actually work. Below is a good list that is ok for use in teenage athletes. Keep in mind the individual needs your teenage athlete will vary. Consulting with a doctor and/or sports dietitian are key!
- Beet Elite
- Branched Chain Amino Acids
- Multivitamin and mineral supplements
- Fish Oil/Omega 3
- Protein supplements- protein supplements are safe and can be an effective source of protein for increasing muscle size and strength with a balanced diet. Whey protein is the most effective. However, food should always be considered first over supplements. Limit protein intake to 30 grams per time taken. A lot of people take protein shakes when they don’t need them. I suggest reading my blog article, Do I Need a Protein Shake Following a Workout?
- Vitamin D
**I know someone will ask so I will stick this in here. I do not recommend creatine supplements to teenagers because it can place too much stress on the heart. Check your teenage athletes supplements to make sure it does not contain creatine.
What Brands are Good?
There are tons of brands on the market and lots of them make good products. However, what I recommend to my clients and personally use are Thorne products. They follow GMPs, are NSF certified, have NSF certified supplements, have lots of research to back them up and are regularly tested. Thorne makes a wide variety of supplements from multivitamins to protein powders. Check out their selection and order online!
Want more information on supplements, what’s good for what and who should take them? Download my e-book, The Comprehensive Guide to Sports Supplements!