Sports Supplements in the Youth Athlete

Do you have a young athlete at home? In recognition of National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, please check out these important sports nutrition guidelines from our guest blogger, Shonda Brown, RD, CNSC, pediatric clinical dietitian at CHOC Children’s:

Youth athletes are immersed in a competitive culture, which often encourages experimenting with performance enhancing supplements to gain that competitive edge over the opponent.  Professional & elite athletes are commonly depicted as supplement users and combined with the ease of purchase through the internet or health-food stores, sports supplements are becoming increasingly popular among our youth.

Unfortunately, the safety and efficacy of the majority of performance enhancing substances on the market are not supported by sound research, and there is a lack of regulation of the production and advertising of these supplements.  Because of the potential health risks involved in consuming sports supplements, the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly condemns their use in children and adolescents.

When talking with a young athlete who is considering or already consuming sports supplements, it is best to provide candid information regarding the risks and benefits and educate on safe alternatives. The following outline a few important points to consider when discussing sports supplements with an athlete.

• The word “natural” does not = safe.
• Dietary supplements may be contaminated or contain undeclared ingredients.  They may also contain less or more of an ingredient than listed on the label.
• Dietary supplements are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA); however, the process is much different than the regulation from food or drugs.
• Manufacturers do not have to provide evidence that a product is safe or effective.  It is the FDA’s job to prove it’s unsafe in order to remove it from the market.
• Organizations that independently evaluate supplements for the quality and purity are:
a. National Science Foundation International (NSF)
b. United States Pharmacopeia (USP)

Companies who market sports supplements tout a  bigger, stronger, faster message with supplement use, yet nothing can take the place of sleep, proper nutrition and a good training program to maximize performance.

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