Protein supplements for teens: Are they safe?

Posted at 12:34 PM, May 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-17 16:45:50-04

Teen athletes do need more protein to fuel their workouts. Protein helps repair damage from exercise and builds muscles. But a body only needs a certain amount. Getting too much does not equal more muscle. 

Instead, overdoing protein powders or drinks can actually be harmful. It can lead to calcium loss, dehydration and kidney problems, especially if supplements contain creatine. 

Protein powders come in different forms like whey, soy, hemp and brown-rice. The FDA does not regulate these products. And Consumer Reports found some protein supplements contained illegal substances like steroids and heavy metals like arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury. This could lead to toxic levels and serious health consequences if consumed frequently. Teen athletes should skip the protein drinks and instead focus on proper hydration and nutrition.

Partha’s RX:

1. The healthiest way for teens to get extra protein is by eating the right foods. Great choices include lean meats, fish, eggs, beans, dairy, nuts and seeds.

2. For a recovery drink following a workout or sports game, a Greek yogurt or milk smoothie works great.  Or try my favorite, a tall glass of chocolate milk.

3. Hydration also supports athletic performance.  Drink water before, during and after a workout. You can switch to sports drinks after 1 hour of activity.

4. Don’t forget about carbohydrates. They also provide fuel and protect muscles from breaking down.  Eat healthy carbs like apples, bananas or whole wheat bread 1 hour before exercising starts.

The recommended daily allowance for a 13 year old is 34 grams a day. Girls between 14 and 18 need 46 grams and boys that same age need 52 grams of protein daily.  With a little bit of preparation, kids can easily reach their daily amounts by eating whole foods. It’s much safer and they’ll get the added benefits of vitamins, minerals and healthy fats their body needs.