Posted by: Ian | 2004/09/28

Protein Supplements for teenagers

My son plays waterpolo and squash about 3 times a week. Furthermore he exercises in the gym about 1-2 times a week.
He wants to take protein supplements with the aim of improving muscle tone and strength. Does he really need supplements given that he eats a good balanced diet with protein (meat, nuts etc) and a selsection of vegetables and fruit? Is there any harm in taking protein supplements? Do they cause any type of dependency?

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageDietDoc

Dear Ian
Sports scientists worldwide agree that protein supplements are only necessary if a) the athlete obtains too little protein of high quality from his diet (e.g. vegetarian athletes) - this would not apply in SA where most people eat a lot of protein b) if the athlete is trying to build muscles for weight lifting (this probably does not apply to your son) c) if the athlete has stopped growing (you don't mention how old your son is) - athletes should not overdo their protein intake while they are still growing and also afterwards as too high a protein intake can result in kidney damage. Most athletes only require 1 to 1,4 g of protein per kg body weight, so a 70 kg athlete would require 70 to 98g of protein a day, which can easily be obtained from a standard diet without using supplements. He should rather make sure that he is ingesting sufficient carbohydrate, which has a 'protein-sparing' effect. Click on Fitness at the top of this page and then on 'Nutrition and Supplements' and read the articles I have written on 'Eating correctly' - read the articles on carbohydrates and proteins. Protein supplements do not lead to dependence unless they contain ephedrine.
Best regards

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Our users say:
Posted by: TLJ | 2004/09/29

I beg to differ Mads.

Majority of body builders have "fat" around their waists. What is worse, is that once these people stop taking the supplement and ease up on their exercises, they turn FAT... I have seen it so many times in the gyms and so many body builders "cry" that they can't lose the weight they have gained... you should speak to people who have experienced the weight gain and unhappines and at this young man's teenage years, i think it's extremely dangerous for him to take supplements... Lets see what the DietDoc says however.

Reply to TLJ
Posted by: Mads | 2004/09/29

Our PROTEIN SUPPLEMENT POWDER is great for body builders and sports people, like Neil Gory (SA lightweight champ bodybuilder), Louis Harmse (20 Comrades marathons) and Cara Lee (5FM Energade Triathlete)!

For more info, visit

Reply to Mads
Posted by: TLJ | 2004/09/28

Hi Ian,

Please read carefully.

I'm not qualified Dietician, but am studying my "Personal Trainers". Protein builds & maintains the tissues of the body. People are very confused about protein. In order for your son to gain muscle strength and tone, I suggest he go to gym and do some resistance training which will give him what he wants. If he is not a gym member, buy him some weights and get a program to suit his "sporting needs". From what I hear, he's doing a lot of "Cardio" endurance exercises and no "strength/flexibility" exercises which is equally important. High protein will not increase muscle mass. To increase muscle mass, energy requirements should be met with the intake of carbohydrate, before increasing the intake of dietry protein. Protein consumed in excess will simply be used as energy stored as fat or excreted from the body. Put him on a carbo-loading eating plan. ie: High carbo breakfast like muesli, whole wheat toast & fresh juice). Lunch could consist of whole wheat sandwiches with low fat filling & fresh fruit. Dinner - resist large portions of meat. Rather concentrate on vegetables (baked potatoe with skin & filling would be ideal) whole grain rice, pasta & cracked wheat can form the basis for a variety of meals. Try having smaller, more frequent meals, plus several snacks.

I hope this has helped you as a guide line.

Reply to TLJ

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