Teen Athletes and Nutrition
Archived Q&A and Reviews
Son wants to take supplements
I'm trying to come up with convincing arguments (in addition to because I say you can't) for my teenage son who wants to take nutritional supplements that are being marketed by our local vitamin store as being effective in enhancing muscle strength and development. The supplement is creatine monohydrate, and as far as I can tell by some brief web searches (bypassing all the marketing websites), the primary effect of creatine is to enhance water retention in the muscles, which makes them look bigger. Has anyone gone through this with their son/daughter? Does anyone have a recommendation for a source of more objective evaluation of this product than can be found in bodybuilding magazines? Thanks! Tamra
Well, I don't know anything about supplements and haven't gone through this yet with kids (my son is only 6 mos. and happy with his muscles!), but from the anatomical viewpoint, you can explain the following to your son:
we never get new muscle cells- the same ones are either strong and healthy or atrophied, depending on their use (ie, each individual cell, which is the length of the entire muscle, grows or shrinks as it is needed based on use or disuse)
the amount of muscle one has (ie how bulky it looks) is primarily dependent on two factors: 1) the level of testosterone in the blood (hence the increase as boys mature and the difficulty women have in bulking up) and 2) the size of the muscle belly, which is determined by genetics- some people simply have long, slender muscles instead of bulges in the center
there is no easy way to increase muscle, like taking pills- the best way is to use the muscles regularly, but no more often that every 48 hrs (time to increase mass is necessary after one increases the workload- doing weights every day will not be as effective as every other day). I would suggest getting him involved in strength training using Nautilus equipment, free weights or whatever, probably at one of the local gyms (such as the YMCA- free orientation to the equipment is available) or at his school if available. I suspect that his tendency will be to try to overdo it to get immediate results, but it's a bit like dieting- rushing it is unhealthy and doesn't give lasting results.
Dr. Marian Diamond's Lab
Michelle Vivas, UCB Athlete Nutritionist (Tang Center), did a presentation on bad supplements at our Sports Medicine meeting. If creatine isn't good for Cal athletes it isn't good for a teenager. Consult with your doctor.
-Aleta Martinez, Administrative Support for Sports Medicine.