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Protein Powders and Teen Athletes: A Good Idea?

0 mins

Teen athletes have particular dietary needs. Does a vegan protein supplement do a good job of meeting those needs? Vegan protein’s nutritional profile and suitability for teen athletes will surprise many.

Table of Contents

Protein Powders and Teen Athletes

Protein powder is a staple for many physically active people, providing easy and convenient access to protein, the vitally important macronutrient that is the basis of good health and fitness. 

Protein can be of immense help to athletes, helping them to both recover from a rigorous workout regimen, and to build the muscle for which the regimen was designed. 

Many protein powders are of vegan nature and are also dairy-free, soy-free, gluten-free, and nut-free. Some of them are even organic. But is protein powder for teens a good idea? Let's have a look.

Protein powder for teens

Protein powder for growing teens has many health benefits, such as building muscle mass, improving recovery time after a bout of intense exercise, and even aiding in weight management. 

Protein powder is a supplement, typically mixed with liquids for easy consumption. Primarily used for bodybuilding and weight-maintenance, it is also, for some people, simply a way to augment their lifestyles with a vital compound they fear they may not be getting in their normal diet.

Protein provides vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, antioxidants, and other elements required for optimum growth and development. It is required for muscle development and repair. 

A protein supplement in powder form can be incorporated into various foods such as smoothies, stir-fry, oatmeal, and so on. 

Protein helps rebuild and renew deteriorated muscle tissue, aids in muscle contraction, stimulates hormones that aid in muscle healing and development, and also supports the immune system. Depending on your age, gender, weight, level of activity, and frequency of strength training, the quantity of protein you require varies. 

Research shows, however, that eating more protein than your body needs does not always result in greater muscle growth or strength. Teen athletes do need more protein than a sedentary person, but there is a threshold.

Protein for the teen athlete requires diligence

When used properly and appropriately, protein supplements are generally regarded to be safe for adolescent and teen athletes. It is important to remember, though, that protein powders are unregulated by the FDA, which means they may have added chemicals such as heavy metals, BPA, and other hazardous contaminants. 

In addition, many protein powders contain as much as 23 grams of added sugar per serving. The American Heart Association, for one, recommends reducing daily added sugar to 25 to 36 grams. 

While protein supplements are considered safe for teens, there are caveats. Choose protein supplements that have gone through third-party testing and read the label and ingredients list to make sure that your teen athlete is getting a safe product.

Protein products for the teen athlete: red flags

If a supplement manufacturer seems to want to make it deliberately difficult to locate the Supplement Facts panel on their website, uses special mixtures to conceal doses for its major ingredients, or cites a study that has nothing to do with their supplement, these are red flags that the protein supplement may not be reputable. 

You can check the safety and advisability of a given supplement by reaching out to a Registered Sports Dietitian. And it is always recommended that your physician weigh in on such decisions, particularly where a teen is concerned. 

A protein supplement is not a must. Protein supplementation may be beneficial for athletes, but it is not essential or required for all of them. Athletes may get all of their protein needs met from actual food, which of course also contains varying amounts of protein. 

There are, though, certain situations when protein supplementation might be a good idea. If the teen has dietary limitations, allergies, or is strongly averse to certain necessary foods, a protein supplement may be beneficial. The same can be said if the teen in question has a weak or unpredictable appetite. 

Teens are busy people. We are arguably busier as socially and academically active teen students than at any other time in our lives. It can sometimes be difficult to prepare and carry whole food options throughout the day due to school, sports, and other commitments. 

Using a protein supplement powder to augment a busy teen's diet can be helpful.

How much protein powder is recommended for teen athletes?

Young athletes need somewhat more protein than their non-athlete peers. Current recommendations recommend about 1.0-1.4 grams per kg per day. 

This suggests that a 150-pound person should eat an additional 20 grams of protein each day, or 80 grams. Growth and development, muscle building and repair — these processes are all aided by additional protein in the teen diet.

Protein powder intake is a common practice among teenage athletes. In general, protein powder use should be reasonable and balanced with dietary protein sources such as protein-rich foods and essential amino acids from supplements. 

The amount of protein powder intake should be adjusted according to body mass, activity level, age, weight goal, body type, and goals of training. 

Before taking any dietary supplements, such as protein powders, it is—again—recommended you speak with a nutritionist or doctor. Nausea, diarrhea, stomach discomfort, and muscle weakening can all result from too much protein powder consumption. 

Where the teen athlete is a vegan or vegetarian, some protein powders include components that are not vegan or vegetarian friendly. Being conscious of what you are taking in, reading the label, and consulting a physician are sure fire way to be sure you are doing the right thing.

Plant-based athletes

"Plant-based athlete" sounds like an oxymoron. There are indeed a lot of stereotypes and misunderstandings about what a "vegan athlete" is. Veganism and exercise are dynamic, hot topics, the knowledge base regularly expanded by research. 

Also, as interest in environmentally-friendly living grows, it's more important than ever to break the myths, and support the surprising truths that surround vegan athletes. 

Veganism—what exactly is it? Veganism is a philosophy and way of life that aspires to exclude all kinds of animal exploitation and cruelty. Vegans consume only vegan foods that do not include animal derivatives, such as honey, shellac, or even bee pollen. 

By contrast, the vegetarian forswears animal flesh—meat, poultry, or fish—but is not necessarily averse to using other animal-derived products, like leather or dairy or eggs, for instance. 

Due to our cultural, meat-centric conditioning, a vegan or vegetarian athlete would seem to be counterintuitive. 

Those intuitions are wrong. 

Plant-based diet for athletes

The misconception that plant-based diets lack several key nutrients, and may even cause harm through nutritional insufficiency, is the most widespread and common misconception about veganism and athletes. 

A frequent question asked of vegan and vegetarian athletes is this one: where do you get your protein from? Never mind that the question ends with a preposition (a subject for a different blog on a different website). Yes, you've almost surely been asked this question if you're a vegan or vegetarian. 

Animal-based products are often thought to be the only reliable source of protein, but this isn't the case. Animals actually get their protein from the plants they eat. Also, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, spirulina (a cyanobacteria and our first air-breathing life form), and many kinds of grains all contribute a significant amount of this essential macronutrient called protein. 

Broccoli, asparagus, leafy greens and sprouts are just a few more of the foods that can help you reach your protein needs. Are all vegan diets healthy? Nope. 

It's simple to make wrong, incompletely informed choices because there are so many processed vegan foods on the market. You won't get any health advantages if your whole diet is made up of fatty, sweet, and starchy carbohydrates, as "vegan" as these solutions may verifiably be. 

Just because a foodstuff is definitely "vegan" doesn't make it a win for your physiology and nutritional needs. Meat-free foods can be as processed as any other digestible, and as questionable to eat. 

Protein Powder for the teen vegan runner

A distinct set of risks and challenges come with intense endurance training where the vegan athlete is concerned. Such training may be very beneficial to metabolic, cardiovascular, and even mental health if it is done properly. To maintain their energy levels high, they must also closely monitor their diet. 

The vegan diet is linked to an improved absorption of carbohydrates. This has been demonstrated in certain sports, particularly endurance sports, to enhance performance.

Veganism and vegan protein supplements also feature a lot of fiber—a way to bulk up the diet and make sure athletes are satisfied after meals, a feeling of fullness called "satiety" (rhymes with society). Vegan diets also typically align with lower body fat, which is particularly noticeable in, and advantageous to, runners. 

Pea protein, hemp protein, and brown rice protein powder are all excellent vegan protein powder choices. These protein powders are cholesterol-free, soy-free, gluten-free, and GMO-free, among other things. They are very digestible and have a variety of additional health advantages. 

When choosing a vegan protein powder for a teen athlete, it is essential to understand any potential risks associated with taking high-protein supplements for teens. And it is very important to check all labels, and to confer with your physician.


Is it OK for a 16 year old to take protein powder? 

Before a teen athlete considers taking protein powder, it is important to assess their dietary needs and goals. Protein powder can be beneficial for athletes who are looking to build muscle and strength, but protein powders are—strictly speaking— not necessary for an active and healthy lifestyle. For teenage athletes, getting enough protein from real food sources is usually enough. 

However, if protein powder supplementation is wanted or needed, then teens should consult with a doctor or nutritionist before introducing protein powder supplements into their diet. It's also important for teens to understand what is in a plant-based protein powder, and why that may be the best choice for their protein supplement needs. 

What is the right age to take protein powder? 

The right age to start taking protein powder depends on the individual needs of the person. Generally speaking, protein powder should be taken in moderation and only as part of a balanced diet. This means that if your teen athlete is struggling to meet their dietary protein requirements through food alone, then supplementing with protein powder may be beneficial. 

It is always important for teens to consult with their healthcare provider before taking any supplement, including protein powder. 

What are the advantages of protein in powder form?

Protein powder is a convenient and efficient way to get the protein you need to fuel an active lifestyle. It can supplement meals and provide extra energy for workouts. For teens, protein powder can help build muscle mass and aid in recovery after exercise. 

Pea protein isolate is best known for its muscle building properties, and hemp protein powder is an excellent source of essential fatty acids, minerals, vitamins and dietary fiber. No matter your needs or goals, protein powder constitutes an easy way to supplement your body's protein needs.


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