What Are Sports Supplements? Sports supplements are pills, powders, or drinks used to build muscle, lose weight, or improve endurance. Do Sports Supplements Work? Most sports supplement claim to help athletes in some way. But research shows that only a few supplements have proven benefits for athletes. Are Sports Supplements Safe for Teens? It's hard to know if sports supplements are safe because: Long-term studies in teens haven't been done. Sports supplements may contain harmful drugs or additives not listed on the label. If you're considering taking a sports supplement, talk to your doctor first. Are Sports Supplements Checked for Safety? Sports supplements are considered dietary supplements. Dietary supplements are products taken by mouth to support the diet. Dietary supplements do not need U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval before they are sold. Companies that make supplements are supposed to follow the FDA's current good manufacturing practices to ensure quality and safety of their product. But this doesn't always happen and some supplements may contain drugs or additives not listed on the label. If there is a problem with a supplement, the FDA will investigate it. What Are the Different Kinds of Sports Supplements? Many sports supplements are available. Common ones include: Creatine Creatine (pronounced: KREE-eh-teen) is a substance made in the body. It is involved in making energy for muscle contractions. Man-made creatine is sold as a powder or pill and in energy bars and drink mixes. Studies show that it can help athletes who do sports that have short bursts of intense exercise with short recovery times (such as sprinting and powerlifting). Even though creatine may have benefits, it can cause side effects such as: weight gain joint stiffness muscle cramping nausea headaches Few studies have looked at the long-term safety of creatine use by teens. Some research shows that it can harm the kidneys. Doctors usually recommend it be used only by athletes over 18 years old. Amino Acid Supplements Amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, help build muscle. Amino acids used as supplements include glutathione, cysteine, arginine, leucine, glutamine, and citrulline. They're usually sold as a pill or powder. Ads for amino acid supplements say they improve endurance, lower protein breakdown, and reduce soreness from exercise. But most studies do not show benefits to taking amino acid supplements. Some amino acid supplements may cause serious side effects. There aren't enough long-term studies to know if amino acid supplements are safe for teens. Protein Supplements Most protein supplements are made of the proteins casein and whey. The supplements usually come as powders that can be mixed with water, milk, milk substitute, or other liquid. Protein supplements are often advertised as a way to build muscle. But most people get all the protein they need in their diet. A protein supplement may help someone who doesn't get enough protein in their diet. This can happen: during periods of rapid growth when first starting to work out when increasing the intensity of workouts when recovering from injury if they are vegetarian or vegan In general, protein supplements do not seem to cause serious side effects. In high doses, they can cause: thirst bloating cramps diarrhea poor appetite tiredness As with other supplements, long-term studies in teens haven't been done. Most doctors agree that it is best for teens to get their protein from their diet. Caffeine There is some evidence that caffeine can boost sports performance. Caffeine is in many products, including energy drinks, soda, energy chews, and pills. Side effects vary from person to person but can include: headaches irritability nervousness dehydration stomach upset trouble sleeping racing heart irregular heartbeat The long-term effects of caffeine on teens aren't known, so it's best to avoid it. What Can I Do to Get the Best Training Without Sports Supplements? To get the most out of athletic training without using sports supplements: Eat a healthy diet. A dietitian or nutritionist can help plan a diet that is best for your age, weight, and activities. Train smart. A coach or fitness instructor can help you with a training plan that includes both strength training and fitness training. Get plenty of sleep. Avoid alcohol and smoking. What Else Should I Know? It is important to remember that many of the claims that sports supplement companies make are not proven. The company's goal is to sell more supplements, and their claims can be misleading. If you're considering starting a sports supplement, be sure to talk to your doctor first. For more information on sports supplements, visit: US Anti-Doping Agency Clean Label Project Back to Articles Related Articles Sports Center This site has tips on things like preparing for a new season, handling sports pressure, staying motivated, and dealing with injuries. Read More A Guy's Guide to Body Image Many people think of guys as being carefree when it comes to appearance. But guys spend plenty of time in front of the mirror. And some worry just as much as girls do about their looks. Read More Compulsive Exercise Compulsive exercise can lead to serious health problems. Lots of people don't know when they've crossed the line from healthy activity to unhealthy addiction. Read about ways to tell. Read More Strength Training Is working out with weights safe for teens? 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