Is it okay for my teenager to use supplements as part of a weight-training regimen, according to the experts?
As part of a “bulking and shredding” weight-training routine, my 15-year-old son is taking creatine and protein supplements. How risky is this for teenagers?
“This is a dietary trend we’re seeing more of, and studies have showed use of protein shakes or powders in up to 35 percent of adolescent boys in the US and 25 percent in Australia – with likely comparable proportions in the UK,” says paediatric dietitian Lucy Upton (thechildrensdietitian.co.uk).
“There is no strong evidence in the scientific literature that these items are safe supplements for children and adolescents. At this time, the risk or consequences of their use remain mostly unknown. Although there may be potential to examine their usage in specific groups of teenagers, there are no clear rules about how they could be used properly in this group, with ideas such as “safe upper limits” or nutritionally tailored products for children and adolescents’ individual needs.
“They wouldn’t be suggested for use from the standpoints of both a paediatric and a sport dietitian. Children and adolescents have different nutritional needs than adults, thus dietary strategies like these, which are normally followed by adults, cannot simply be adapted to children. Children go through significant development spurts and have higher nutritional requirements at different ages. A well-balanced and diverse diet is required to meet these requirements.
“Given children and adolescents’ vulnerability to media and perceived body image pressures, it’s crucial to consider why young people engage in certain eating patterns. Is it purely for the purpose of influencing athletic performance, or is it also about body image or disordered eating habits?
“Excess calorie consumption for ‘bulking’ followed by calorie restriction, as well as excessive consumption of some nutrients like protein, is likely to have an impact on young people’s overall dietary balance, putting them at risk of nutritional deficiencies.
“The safety and usefulness of these supplements, especially when used in conjunction with dietary changes, has not been adequately investigated in adolescents or teenagers, and they are not recommended. Supplement use and related dietary choices may put a child’s or teen’s physical, emotional, and mental health at risk.
“The usage of dietary supplements. (This is a brief piece.)