You’re a teenager who wants to build some muscle but your parents just don’t get that you need a protein powder? Read on!
You started working out and soon after learned that many people use protein powders. You want to do the same. But your parents object, because they have visions of you turning into a steroid mutant.
Be honest, can you blame your parents for saying “no” to protein powders, when supplement advertisements scream ultra-this and monster-that at you? With pictures of men having so much muscle mass they sometimes don’t resemble human beings anymore?
Not to mention the bad rap the term “bodybuilding” has. In the last 30 to 40 years the public image of bodybuilding was dictated by professionals liberally using steroids and growing to grotesque proportions – the very ones then advertising above products.
What Is Protein Powder?
Yet below all the marketing and preposterous claims these people sell them with, a protein powder isn’t much more than powdered milk.
Milk consists of carbohydrates, fat and protein. The last is the most important for muscle growth, because protein is what your body makes your muscles larger with when you work out.
A protein powder concentrates the protein and delivers more of it per serving than most forms of powdered milk do.
Do I Need Protein Powders?
Does that mean protein powders are absolutely necessary? A couple of things to consider:
- A protein powder is a crutch to make up for a lack of protein in the regular diet. You can get enough protein from regular food and five cheap and healthy sources I outlined here. Protein from powders is not better than protein from food.
- Do not believe the gym lore that tells you without 300, 400 or even 500 g of protein per day your workout efforts are for nothing. There is zero scientific proof that more than 1 g of protein per lb of body weight per day (or 2 g per kg) has a measurable effect on muscle development.
- During the early stages of puberty, between the ages of 11 – 14, the body’s ability to build muscle is limited due to testosterone production not having fully kicked in. A balanced nutrition will easily cover daily protein requirements, even when a teenager works out.
- At the age of 15+, a protein powder is only useful if regular nutrition can’t cover the 0.5 – 1 g of protein / pound most scientific sources see as necessary.
Teens wrote me mail despairing about their parents who “just don’t get it.” But when you take the above into account, your position is much better than you thought, isn’t it? Let’s summarize:
- You will benefit from your workouts even without one, as long as protein is in the food you eat. If you aren’t a vegetarian / vegan, it should already come with plenty.
- If you’re 15+ and your nutrition lacks protein, try to make better food choices. Here’s how to do that the school cafeteria.
- If that doesn’t work and you need a protein powder, pick a product that is a pure protein powder. Look at the label: ideally it contains only casein or whey protein or a mixture of the two. Maybe some vitamins, but that should be it. For vegans there are protein powders made from soy.
Stay away from supplements that have creatine added to them. Creatine is a legal performance-enhancing substance, but not recommended for teenagers, as it can inhibit their natural production of creatine.
Here is the video to accompany this article:
Picture courtesy of Marlon Dias.