Important Facts About Nutritional Supplements
The GNC website has categories like “Nitric Oxide,” “Hardcore Products” and “Mass Gainers” to name a few. My fear is that teens will walk into a GNC or Google “sports nutrition supplements” and end up ordering something potentially unsafe and likely unhelpful to their pursuit of “fitness.”
by Dr. Kwabena Blankson | Contributor
Fitness. During wellness visits, I focus my discussion of health and wellness on five numbers. 18.104.22.168.0. 9 hours of sleep a night, 5 servings of fruits/vegetables a day, 2 hours or less of screen time, 1 hour or more of exercise and 0 sugar drinks/sugary foods. These are great numbers for all of us to live by. (Adults laugh at the 9 hours of sleep—your teenagers do too, but this summer they know how great it felt to sleep 9 hours. Remind them of this throughout the school year.) These numbers lie at the heart of fitness, in my opinion.
Here’s some information about sports supplements to keep you and your teenager up to speed and safe:
In 2010, over 40 billion dollars were spent in the US on dietary supplements. The Dietary Supplement Health Education Act of 1994 was created to help regulate this billion-dollar industry. Here are some of the provisions:
• A firm is responsible for determining that the dietary supplements it manufactures or distributes are safe.
• Dietary supplements do not need approval from the FDA before they are marketed.
• Except in the case of a new dietary ingredient, a firm does not have to provide the FDA with the evidence it relies on to substantiate safety or effectiveness claims.
Some of these dietary supplements are ergogenic (i.e., performance-enhancing); they are laced with substances, such as anabolic steroids or “pro-hormones,” to boost the results and increase sales. Consumerlab.com reported this practice is done in up to 25% of ergogenic aids! So even though all steroid and “steroid-like” products are banned, they could still end up in your teen’s supplement! Have you noticed the rash of professional athletes recently banned from their sport who swear that they are taking clean supplements but still pop positive on drug tests? I suspect that sometimes their supplements are actually spiked!
Another phrase you will notice on many supplements is “proprietary blend.” Manufactures will create mixtures that contain small amounts of the desired product mixed into a large amount of a cheaper product. Some of these supplements are full of testosterone and caffeine. And does your teenager really need any more testosterone? Or caffeine?
I believe there are four key questions to ask before taking any supplement:
1. What is the claim behind the use of the supplement?
2. Is there any research that supports or refutes the claim?
3. Does it have any side effects and are they dangerous?
4. Is it legal?
Your teenager may not be willing to do the legwork to answer these questions, but you should if you are allowing them to take supplements.
Let’s run a couple of these supplements through the ringer. Creatine, nitric oxide, protein and carbohydrate mixtures are some of the most commonly purchased supplements.
Claims? It’ll make you bigger and stronger!
Evidence? Research shows that it has no benefits on aerobic exercise but has some benefit in short-term, high intensity exercise.
Side effects? Weight gain (which may be desired). No liver or kidney issues, even after five years of use. Possible improvement in cholesterol measurements.
Verdict: Claims truthful to an extent but use with caution. It is NOT regulated by the FDA.
Claims? Your muscles will get bigger because it increases blood flow through them.
Evidence? There are no studies of performance-enhancing benefits, but reports show that during training, nitric oxide content in blood increases in working muscles.
Side effects? No studies done.
Verdict: Why bother? You’re probably wasting your money.
Come in many different forms:
• Concentrate – least expensive, with higher amounts of fat and carbs. Harder to mix.
• Isolate – more purified, easier to mix.
• Hydrosylate – partially broken down so it is absorbed faster.
• Micellar Casein or Isolated Casein Peptide – expensive, almost pure casein.
Claims? It builds muscle.
Research? Protein is required for muscle growth and repair.
Here is a list of individual protein needs:
Non-active: 0.8 g/kg
Endurance athletes: 1.0 to 1.5 g/kg
Strength training: 1.5 to 2 g/kg
Side effects? None.
Verdict? Protein is important for athletic performance and growth. It’s unlikely that ingesting too much would have negative effects, but there may be a cap on the benefit.
Carbs provide adequate energy stores for exercise and decrease post-exercise muscle breakdown. After exercise, protein and carbohydrate mixtures work by stopping muscle breakdown post exercise and stimulating muscle growth. It also replenishes glycogen—which you need for storing energy for your next workout! Using a healthy protein/carb mix will lead to greater lean muscle mass growth and increase endurance.
Your teens may be interested in trying sports supplements, but when it comes down to it, a balanced diet (with attention to protein intake), good coaching and discipline are likely all they need for growing “bigger, stronger, faster.” Live by 95210 and get fit the “natural” way!
For more information on abuse of performance-enhancing drugs:
Taylor Hooton Foundation
Harvard and Yale trained adolescent physician, Dr. Kwebena (Bobo) Blankson is at the helm of Young Men’s Health & Wellness in Dallas. You can reach him at:
Dr. Blankson, Young Men’s Health & Wellness