Athletic Supplementation: Protein Powder and Creatine
During adolescent sports physicals, I am commonly asked for my thoughts
on a variety of supplements that athletes are hearing a lot about. Two
such substances, protein powder and creatine, seem to come up more often
than others, so I’d like to share some information about each of them.
If you’ve ever walked into a health food store, you’ve probably
seen shelves filled with various types and brands of protein powder in
all different flavors and colors….and all types of price tags,
too. The body uses protein for building muscle, supporting your blood
and heart functions, and much, much more. Athletes typically desire more
protein in their diets in order to build stronger muscles and increase
their endurance. According to a WebMD article, teenage athletes typically
need 0.8-0.9 grams of protein per pound per day. If you do the math and
examine the labels on the foods you eat, you’ll probably find that
you’re getting enough protein from your daily diet. Amounts that
exceed these upper limits are likely not going to be used by your body
to build muscle. Protein can also put a strain on your liver and kidneys
when taken in excess, which is another reason not to overdo it.
If you and your doctor decide that protein powder is right for you, choosing
which protein powder to use is your next hurdle. I typically recommend
either whey or casein types of protein, as these are the types that are
best handled by your body. But remember: more expensive isn’t always better!
This supplement is thought to increase muscle mass and, therefore, improve
sports performance. What I find to be the biggest barrier to safe creatine
use is the fact that its use and sale is not regulated by the Food and
Drug Administration (FDA). This means that safe dosage ranges and side
effect profiles have not been established. It also means that brands can
make claims about their creatine content that may not be substantiated
and add things to their products that may not be safe.
Creatine overuse has been associated with a multitude of problems including
stomach upset, psychological disturbances, and kidney problems. With the
lack of proven benefit and the associated potential health risks, I generally
advise against the use of creatine for athletes.