Student Athletes and Supplements

Athletes strive to better and some teen athletes are turning to sports supplements for the help they need, but there are many risks involved in using supplements.  Here are the facts that you need to know. 

By: Rebecca Chavers 

Athletes strive to better and some teen athletes are turning to sports supplements for the help they need, but there are many risks involved in using supplements.  Here are the facts that you need to know. 

Are sports supplements beneficial for your teen? Are they even safe? 

All athletes want to be the best at what they do and are always looking for something to give them an edge on their competition. Unfortunately, many athletes turn to sports supplements for the help they need, and there may be more risks involved than they realize. Sports supplements are not regulated by the FDA, and without the studies that support such regulation, there is no real proof that they offer any benefits. Plus, the dangers of using these products are unknown. 

Even though most products are sold in “health food” stores, they may not be safe. Some supplements may contain ingredients that are not listed on the container, since, without FDA oversight, the manufacturers are not required to reveal that information. 

When products are not regulated by the FDA, you have to rely on the manufacturer to be completely truthful about their ingredients. Even if they don’t contain any steroids other problem substances, many contain trans fats and lots of added sugar, both of which are unhealthy to consume longterm. With no set rules to follow and almost zero enforcement of improper practices, unethical conduct and dishonest claims are not uncommon. 

Studies have shown that nearly 25 percent of sports supplements contain some trace of steroids, which are illegal and cannot be included on the label’s ingredients list. 

Using products containing steroid-like substances can lead to serious health issues including liver damage, stroke, pulmonary embolism and kidney failure. 

According to Dr. Mark Stafford of Bradford Health, “The only safe supplement that may help is whey protein.” Whey protein supplements are meant to provide the body with a boost of protein that can help regenerate muscles. However, he added that there is no data to support the benefits of whey protein supplements. Protein supplements may also be dangerous for athletes that have a history of kidney disease. 

Dr. Stafford specifically warned against Creatine, DHEA and similar anabolic steroids. Creatine is hard on the kidneys and, when tested, has only shown a 3 to 5 percent increase in performance. DHEA and other products containing hormones are very harmful. Anabolic steroids are particularly dangerous. They are not only illegal, but may also increase aggressiveness and rage, along with a long list of other undesirable side effects. Increased acne and irritability are indicators that athletes may be using anabolic steroids. 

Athletes interested in using a protein supplement or any other supplement should consult a physician. But instead of turning to supplements, Dr. Stafford recommends eating a well-balanced diet, staying hydrated, taking multivitamins and allowing the proper amount of time for recovery from any injury. 

Get Pure Protein 

If your student athlete is looking to amp up their protein intake, they don’t need to waste the money or risk the potential harm of sports supplements. They can get all the protein their body and muscles need from foods like tuna, eggs, beans, cottage cheese and lean chicken. 

Danger Zone 

Most parents and teens know steroids are bad for the body, but it never hurts to refresh your memory. Use of anabolic steroids has been proven to cause: 

  • acne on the face and back
  • baldness
  • a slowdown of growth in athletes who aren’t done growing yet
  • high blood pressure
  • unhealthy cholesterol changes, heart disease, blood clots and stroke
  • liver damage, jaundice or liver cancer, headaches, aching joints and muscle cramps
  • nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
  • sleep problems
  • increased risk of ligament and tendon injuries, which can end an athletic career for good

(Source: American Academy of Pediatrics) 

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