Adolescents who play sports are often interested in protein powder and shakes to help “improve their performance.”
Is this appropriate, let alone helpful? Essentially, no. Sports dietitians generally agree that if a balanced diet is consumed, protein supplements are not necessary for adults.
Furthermore, there is a lack of definitive research on these types of supplements, particularly in children. What might be appropriate for adults in specific athletic situations does not translate to kids in the wide age range of 12-18. Teen growth and development is unique.
Young athletes do need to watch energy and fluid intake. As activity levels increase, so must energy intake and careful attention should be paid to meeting daily requirements of certain micronutrients like calcium, iron and B vitamins. While additional protein is important, making quality protein choices is key.
It is important to note that over-consumption of protein from supplements can lead to calcium loss—a nutrient that tends to be under-consumed in teens.
Food is fuel to athletes, so healthy snacks before or after practice or games are significant. Maintaining or gaining weight along with AAP guidelines is important in ensuring health. Weight loss, for example, may signal that energy needs are not being met. Messages to kids about the benefits of eating whole foods and promoting ownership over intakes and food choices in a positive way is crucial.