Dietary Supplements for Developing Athletes
I had an interesting conversation with a ski racing parent this morning regarding supplement use as his 16 year old son had been told by a trainer to start using creatine. He wanted to know if this was a good idea. There are a few general laws I follow regarding dietary supplement use:
- MOST IMPORTANTLY, there is no substitute for work ethic! A supplement program is the ‘icing on the cake’ when it comes to training. A supplement program should be tailored to meet individual training goals.
- Taking supplements is no substitute for a low quality, poorly timed nutrition. Developing good nutritional habits and learning how to time nutrient intake is one of the most effective training tools for a young athlete.
- Many supplements are touted to increase lean muscle mass. However, lean muscle mass development is largely dictated by circulating testosterone levels, appropriate training stimulus and recovery (rest and nutrition). You have to be patient and develop good practises in training. When the time comes, the athlete will be able to build mass. For many athletes, this does not happen until 18-20 years of age or even later in some cases (on average later for males than females). Supplements may enhance the process when the athlete has developed a strong foundation of training, recovery and nutrition practises.
- With my athletes, I provide them with information on nutrition supplements which have been shown to have an ergogenic benefit (validated in peer-reviewed research). I NEVER INSIST OR EVEN STRONGLY RECOMMEND A SUPPLEMENT. It is 100% their choice. The athlete is solely responsible for what is in their body. Doping controls are prevalent at the higher levels of sport. The athlete is responsible to buy supplements which have been tested through a WADA approved lab and certified free of contaminants. I believe that educating athletes regarding doping and responsible use of supplements is key at the development level.
- Athletes should NEVER buy supplements off a shelf in a nutrition store. There is a low level of regulation in the supplement market. A 2004 study found that of the 634 samples analyzed, 14.8% of supplements contained a banned anabolic agent which was not included on the label (De Hon & Coumans, 2007).
With my athletes, I will give them information regarding sports supplements and then address each of them on an individual level. There are number of legal dietary supplements which have been shown in research to provide an ergogenic benefit (can enhance training and performance). That is a whole other article. Developing athletes have so much to learn about training, recovery and nutrition. Focus on the basics and this will pay off later in their careers and later in life. GOOD HABITS COME FIRST!
All for now,
Disclaimer: The advice given in this communication is in no way intended as an exercise/nutrition prescription. Each individual coach/athlete is responsible to decide which training/nutrition methods are appropriate for their athletes based on their assessment. FITSolutions takes no responsibility for injury or health issues arising from inappropriate use of the methodologies and/or training exercises shared in this email.