As teenage athletes develop physically and begin playing sports at higher levels, the subject of nutritional supplementation will inevitably arise. Are supplements for young athletes going to help meet their nutritional needs? The demands are high for today’s teenage athletes. The typical teenage day is more than a full-time job. It is packed with school, practices and games in addition to cardiovascular and resistance training to support their athletic endeavors. As you can imagine, these teenage student-athletes have high nutritional needs. And, it is critical to satisfy these nutritional needs both cognitively and physically to increase performance, build and maintain lean muscle, and prevent injury. Additionally, teenage athletes are typically still growing, so proper nutrition and supplementation are required to provide the building blocks for a strong and healthy body. Finally, if your teenager has aspirations to continue playing sports beyond high school, satisfying nutritional needs becomes even more critical.
As a parent of two teenagers, ensuring that my boys eat nutritional foods is a challenge to say the least. The average teenage diet is unbalanced and deficient of nutrient-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables that supply the basic, key nutrients including vitamins A and C, folic acid, magnesium and potassium.
While consuming healthy foods must be the top priority for teenagers, many teenage athletes have greater nutritional demands. Supplementation will go a long way toward not only bridging nutritional gaps, but also providing the highest quality nutrition that will support any athletic endeavor.
That said, protein formulas and protein meal replacement products have always been extremely popular among teenagers. Retailers stock new, innovative and more sustainable protein products with increasing opportunities for alternatives to animal proteins. Whatever the protein of choice, retailers now offer a plethora of protein options to choose from including, among others:
Whey Protein: When it comes to protein supplementation, whey is the definitive leader. It has pushed aside milk-based protein supplements, egg proteins and soy proteins to totally dominate the field. Why? Because whey has an extremely high biological value ranging from 90-100 for whey concentrate and from 100-150 for whey isolate. It's also high in branch chain amino acids and is very quickly absorbed.
Casein: If your teenager is looking for a protein that will slowly break down over the course of several hours that can be used as a meal replacement, casein is a protein to consider. If your teenager consumes casein before bed, they will stay anabolic throughout the night and will be able to utilize the protein in their body. Casein takes from five to seven hours to fully break down, which keeps their body absorbing and utilizing the nutrients even while they sleep. Another positive to this source of protein is its high glutamine content. Glutamine helps boost the immune system and speeds up recovery.
Milk Protein Isolates: Contains both casein and whey proteins and are loaded with amino acids. This type of protein is mostly used in protein blend formulas.
Pea Protein: Sadly, when it comes to perception, many people struggle with the idea of peas as a protein source. Truth be told, pea protein has a very mild, pleasantly sweet taste. It's one of the better tasting proteins. Pea protein is the concentrated natural protein fraction of yellow peas.
Soy Protein: A good source of protein for those looking for a vegetarian source. Soy is rich in glutamine, arginine (vasodilation), and branched chain amino acids (recovery). Soy contains isoflavones, which supports healthy cholesterol levels. It has also been found to boost thyroid hormone output. By doing so, it speeds up the metabolism, which aids in fat loss.
Spirulina: This is one of the great super foods. It is approximately 65 to 71 percent complete protein in its natural state. This is higher than virtually any other unprocessed food. Unlike most other forms of protein, the protein in spirulina is 85-95 percent digestible. Finally, since spirulina has no cellulose in its cell walls, it is extremely easy for the body to break down. In fact, its amino acids are delivered to the body for almost instant absorption.
Amino Acids and Antioxidants
Furthermore, for teenage athletes who might also need to lose weight or body fat while maintaining lean muscle mass and recover quickly, amino acids and antioxidants are extremely efficacious and are widely available on retail shelves. Some of my favorites are:
Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs): There are 20 different amino acids that make up the thousands of different proteins in the human body. Nine of the 20 are considered essential amino acids, meaning they cannot be made by your body and must be obtained through your diet. Of the nine essential amino acids, three are the BCAAs leucine, isoleucine and valine. “Branched chain” refers to the chemical structure of BCAAs, which are found in protein-rich foods such as eggs, meat and dairy products. They are also an extremely popular dietary supplement sold in powders and capsules or as part of protein formulas. BCAAs have been clinically shown to build muscle, decrease exercise induced (muscle) fatigue, and alleviate muscle soreness. For teenagers, BCAAs are most efficacious as part of protein formulas.
Glycine Propionyl-L-Carnitine (GlycoCarn): Nitric oxide boosters are nothing new, but my personal experience with this supplement has been nothing short of profound. In fact, recent double-blind studies reveal that GlycoCarn is the only supplement proven to increase nitric oxide levels in the human bloodstream.
GlycoCarn consists of a molecular bonded form of propionyl-L-carnitine and one of the carnitine precursor amino acids, glycine. Two recent studies have demonstrated an increase in blood levels of nitric oxide with oral GlycoCarn intake, at a daily dosage of 4.5 grams (Bloomer et al., 2007; in press). These findings agree with other recent work using propionyl-L-carnitine exclusively (Lofreddo et al., 2007), which demonstrated an increase in blood nitric oxide in response to 6 grams per day of propionyl-L-carnitine given via intravenous infusion.
Compared with other forms of carnitine, GlycoCarn works as a nitric oxide booster, exhibiting a special affinity for muscle tissues, such as the heart. In addition, it helps boost nitric oxide health, acting as a powerful scavenger against superoxide radicals, and protects against lipid peroxidation.
Carnitine in general is known to be involved in fatty acid metabolism. GlycoCarn has not only been shown to result in increased nitric oxide, but deliver potent antioxidant properties as well. This ultimately leads to increased blood flow and enhanced ATP energy production.
Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA): Often called the universal antioxidant because it is both fat and water soluble. This means that it can effectively combat the oxidative effects of aging in all tissues of the body.
N-acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC): A precursor of glutathione, a significant antioxidant and a key detoxifying agent in the liver.
Flavonoid Root: A breakthrough extract that significantly improves cardiovascular health. This extract is supported by new science that provides unmatched antioxidant properties and powerful cardiovascular health benefits.
Recently, the results from a double-blind, placebo-controlled study were published in the scientific journal Food and Nutrition Research in April 2016. The study examined the effect of a unique flavonoid root extract on the thickness of the artery wall using CIMT (carotid intima-media thickness) in individuals with hypercholesterolemia. CIMT is considered a strong indicator of overall cardiovascular and arterial health. Following one year of flavonoid root extract consumption, mean CIMT, total cholesterol, LDL levels and blood pressure decreased. This suggests that this ingredient may attenuate the development of oxidation and of related cerebral vascular issues.
Implementing these recommendations into a teenage athlete’s routine can help to support growth, development, optimum cognition, performance and overall health. When choosing supplements, look for products that are third-party tested (NSF, among others), made from high-quality ingredients, and are safe. In the age of social media, it is up to genuine influencers, including parents, coaches and teachers, to provide the direction that our teenagers need. Although this can often be a difficult task, our teenagers are our future. It is well worth the effort. VR
Fogelman Y, Gaitini D, Carmeli E. Antiatherosclerotic effects of licorice extract supplementation on hypercholesterolemic patients: decreased CIMT, reduced plasma lipid levels, and decreased blood pressure. Food Nutr Res. 2016;60:30830-5.
Bloomer RJ, Smith WA, Fisher-Wellman KH. Glycine propionyl-L-carnitine increases plasma nitrate/nitrite in resistance trained men. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 2007;4(1):22.
Bloomer RJ, Tschume LC, Smith WA: Glycine propionyl-L-carnitine modulates lipid peroxidation and nitric oxide in human subjects. Int J Vitam Nutr Res, In Press.
Loffredo L, Marcoccia A, Pignatelli P, Andreozzi P, Borgia MC, Cangemi R, Chiarotti F, Violi F: Oxidative-stress-mediated arterial dysfunction in patients with peripheral arterial disease. Eur Heart J 2007, 28(5): 608-612.
Mark Becker is a senior account manager for Vivion Inc, a raw materials distributor, based in Vernon, CA. He has worked as a natural products sales and marketing executive for 25 years. Becker has written more than 350 articles and has hosted or been a guest on more than 500 radio shows. He obtained a bachelor's in journalism from Long Beach State University and did his master’s work in communications at Cal State Fullerton. For more than 30 years he has participated in numerous endurance events, including more than 150 triathlons of Olympic distance or longer, 103 marathons and numerous other events including ultramarathons and rough water swims from Alcatraz to the mainland. He has relied on a comprehensive dietary supplement regimen to support his athletic, professional and personal endeavors. Follow Mark Becker on Facebook at www.facebook.com/marklbecker/posts/387591877933686#!/energyatlast. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/becker_mark. For more information, access www.vivioninc.com, www.alliedbionutrition.com or www.EnergyatLast.com.