Food vs. Supplements for Teen Athletes


Did you know that up to 74% of high school athletes use some type of supplement? That’s what a survey of 25,000 male and female athletes found. This study, conducted in Louisiana, found teens using the following supplements:

  • 71% protein shakes

  • 38% multivitamins

  • 18% nitric oxide boosters

  • 16% amino acids

  • 16% weight gain products

  • 10% weight loss products

  • 8% creatine

  • 5% anabolic steroids

  • 4% human growth hormone

Why are teens turning to supplements? Teens turn to supplements when they want to improve their strength, muscle mass, athletic performance, energy level or physique/appearance. Poor food choices may play a role, as teens try to make up for haphazard meal schedules and reliance on fast foods.

Skipping breakfast is probably the number one worst food habit for teen athletes. Teens are also tempted to skip meals or not eat much during the day because they are busy and don’t get enough breaks to eat. This leads to over-eating in the evening. Tavis Piattoly, MS, RD, LDN is a New Orleans based sports nutritionist who works with college and pro athletes. He says that big meals and snacks at night combined with inadequate sleep contribute to fat gain and a poor body composition. Nancy Clark, MS, RD, CSSD, the internationally recognized sports dietitian from Boston, recommends that athletes “fuel by day,” eating their calories when they are needed for activity.

Here are some tips for helping teens in your family:

© 2015 Kathleen Searles, MS, RDN, CSSD, LDN

1 thought on “Food vs. Supplements for Teen Athletes”

  1. For teens that aren’t making food choices that fulfill their dietary needs, what can I put together for a shake that can be a good breakfast and just an all around vitamin/mineral packed grab and go shake. Thanks

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