Teenagers need an adequate amount of protein in their growing years. Protein helps in building and repairing muscles. It is all the more required if he/she is an athlete as they are not only responsible for building and repairing muscles, but also the connective tissue.
Therefore, they require two to three times the amount normal teenagers might need. Although it also depends on age, body weight, the intensity of their workout, and other factors, a fulfilling amount is considered healthy and helps them maintain their form.
“Protein is a multi-functioning nutrient- it improves our immune system, builds and repairs muscle tissue, replaces red blood cells, and also used as an energy source after the body had depleted its carb stores.”
- Peter Tarkovsky, Sports Medicine Physician
Why Would Teens Need Protein Supplements?
While natural foods are considered the best option for teens, protein supplements can cover their protein requirements in case one cannot extract the best nutrients from whole foods.
Having a diet that consists of compromised protein can be greatly harmful to a young athlete. To overcome this lack of protein, one may pick up a trusted brand but for most teens, whole foods work just fine.
However, there has been a gigantic debate surrounding the whole protein shake affairs and if they are beneficial for teenage athletes. How helpful these supplements are going to be for a child, depends on his age and maturity.
One cannot just introduce a big dose of protein powder and expect no side effects. We shall try to explore how teens can benefit from protein shakes and which ones are the best.
Teen Athletes and Protein Needs
How Much Protein Should a Teen Athlete Consume?
Daily protein intake recommendations vary from one person to another but as a rule of thumb, a teenage athlete should consume 0.6 to 0.9 grams per pound of body weight daily.
It also depends on the intensity of the workout and must be catered to sufficiently. One must remember that the body goes through critical growth during puberty and an all-encompassing diet is of utmost importance.
Is Too Much Protein a Problem?
Active teens naturally require more protein than non-active teens. They can either opt for food that has a high protein content or include protein supplements in their diet.
While the former is a more desirable option, the latter, if consumed at all, must be done so in moderation. Eating a diet that is too rich in protein can cause serious problems and affect the quality of your workout.
Too much protein intake leads to fat, as the excess protein gets stored as fat and it only increases your fat content of the body. Thus, it does not help anymore in muscle gain but becomes a hindrance to it.
Thus, Sufficient is definitely not synonymous with excessive and the latter can cause unhealthy consequences such as:
- Calcium loss
- Stress on the kidneys
- Excess protein gets stored as fat.
And all of the above-mentioned complications will only make it more difficult for you to achieve athletic goals.
What Are the Best Sources of Dietary Protein?
The best source is the natural source for teens. And since their body is growing, it is receptive to more nutrient absorption with the right diet.
The richest natural sources of protein are chicken, turkey, fish, lean beef, eggs, beans, tofu, nuts, lentils, and dairy products, etc.
Table: Protein contents of food
|Food||Proteins in grams|
|3 ounces of cooked chicken breast||21|
|3 ounces of tuna||21|
|3 ounces of lean beef||23|
|1 cup baked beans||14|
|1 ounce of nuts||5-6|
|1 large egg||6|
|3 ounces of shrimp||20|
|1 cup of black beans||14|
|3 ounces of scallops||14|
|3 ounces of pork||22|
|3 ounces of ham||14|
|6 ounces of Greek yogurt||18|
What Is Whey Protein?
Whey is generally used as supplementation to aid in improving muscle protein synthesis along with promoting lean muscle mass growth. It is derived from milk.
Milk consists of two proteins- whey and casein. The former is considered a complete protein, for it has all the 9 essential amino acids and low lactose content.
Quick Facts you must know about whey protein:
- It is a mixture of alpha-lactalbumin, beta-lactoglobulin, immunoglobulins, and bovine serum albumin.
- It can aid in weight loss and checks cholesterol.
- It may have consequences such as nausea, diarrhoea, and headaches if consumed in large quantities.
Types of Whey Protein
- Whey protein concentrate– WPC comprises some amount of fat and carbs. The level of protein depends on how concentrated the formula is. It can range anywhere between 30 to 80 per cent. It has the best flavour.
- Whey protein isolate- this variant is further processed and all lactose and fat content is removed. It has 90 per cent of protein but lacks several beneficial nutrients compared to whey concentrate.
- Whey protein hydrolysate– WPH already undergoes partial hydrolysis (a process by which the body absorbs protein) and thus the easiest to digest. It is considered to be the predigested form and causes a greater spike in insulin levels.
Is Whey Protein Safe?
Protein powders as a whole are not particularly harmful got teenagers but some brands do not maintain the standard and naturally should be avoided. Choosing the right powder can be straining for it is not FDA approved.
Thus, deep research is paramount to get one that works well without causing harm. Moreover, the body of an adolescent is capable of absorbing maximum nutrients from whole food, and most do not even need any supplement at all.
However, certain supplements like the Nutricost Whey Protein Isolate are safe and beneficial for teenage athletes. Quality whey protein is easily digested and absorbed. It works well for busy kids who are training to become athletes but do not have too much time in hand.
While choosing a supplement for teens, you must be extra careful because you do not want to introduce any synthetic additives to the diet.
Make sure you choose a supplement that is made from milk without other additives. Do not go for cheap tubs, instead get one from a high-quality manufacturer only after reading the ingredients thoroughly.
Muscle Building and Weight Loss
Whey protein supplementation complemented with resistance exercise can substantially help young athletes improve muscle protein synthesis and lean tissue mass growth. A study verifying the fact was published in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism.
It also helps in weight loss besides promoting muscle gain. We shall now see how exactly whey protein does that.
1. Building blocks: protein and amino acids serve as building blocks for muscle growth. This, in turn, increases strength and stamina in athletes.
2. Fast absorption: since most of the fat and lactose content gets removed in the process, whey protein can be digested easily as gets absorbed in the body faster than any protein-rich food can.
3. Hormones: it accelerates the release of anabolic hormones like insulin stimulating muscle growth.
4. Leucine: Leucine is an amino acid and it is primarily recognized for stimulating muscle protein synthesis at the genetic and molecular level.
Whey protein/ protein shake for teens can be particularly effective if consumed after a workout.
Who Should Take Protein Shake for Teens?
While we have stressed enough the fact that most non-active teens do not require supplements, there are certain cases where a supplement can be of great help.
A whey protein supplement from a reputed brand is not harmful per se, but most of the time not required. Thus, in case you fall into a category where a natural diet cannot fulfil your protein needs, by all means, resort to a supplement.
- Lack of time- teenagers generally have to juggle a lot of daily activities. Due to the pressure from school, one cannot expect them to have too much time. Some struggle to incorporate workout sessions and practices into their daily routine. Naturally, such kids may not find time to follow a strict diet that will provide them all the required nutrients only through whole food. In such cases, a serving of a safe protein shake will do them good.
- Underweight- underweight children may need supplements for quicker results. However, make sure that you consult your dietician before including it in your diet.
- Allergies- People who have allergies to high protein food may opt for supplements. One can also replace the particular food with another natural source if possible.
- Vegetarian- the best protein sources are non-vegetarian. While some nuts and beans are rich sources of protein, none can substitute chicken, lean beef, or even eggs.
Thus, for a vegetarian athlete, it becomes extremely difficult to derive the required amount from natural sources. This can come in the way of their athletic vigour and performance. A protein supplement is recommended for such a teen.
A protein shake, thus, can help a lot of teens cope up with their protein needs. Consulting your dietician and trainer is of utmost importance before you start consuming it. They will have a better idea if your body needs the supplement or not.
Is Whey Protein Alone Enough for Workouts?
Protein shake for teens is meant to enhance their performance but do not help in building the entire dietary foundation. It is not a substitute for a healthy diet or lifestyle.
It is not always enough for a workout session. If an athlete is training for a long duration in a hot temperature, the body will need more than protein shakes. He/she must consume more fluid and carbs for energy and repair.
How Dangerous are Protein Shakes?
Although there is not substantial research to prove why protein shake for teens can be dangerous, there are certain side effects such as
The major problem with protein shakes is that they might offer your body more than adequate protein if other foods are not regulated. Thus, a supplement must be the last resort only when you fail to obtain nutrients from whole foods.
Additives are often used in supplements that can affect your body adversely. Make sure you inspect the product for any such additive before buying.
What To Keep in Mind If You Take Protein Shakes?
Not for Idlers
Whey protein has a concentrated protein content and thus, is not a good choice for non-active teens. It can mess up with their stomach and liver if the body has no outlet for using up all the protein healthily.
The Brand Matters
In a free market where anybody can come up with a product, doing market research is crucial. And more so, if it concerns your health. Let’s face it, protein shakes do not come cheap and you might be tempted to gravitate towards the less expensive ones. But they are not worth it and they will do you more harm than good.
Most of the lesser-known brands do not display their ingredient list completely. If you come across such a tub, stay away from it. There is a lesser chance that a reputed company will do that, as goodwill and reputation are great assets.
Moreover, they attach a list of all ingredients and therefore no shady business involved.
A Little Goes a Long Way
Since it has concentrated protein, you need not consume it too much. For a growing teen, a restricted amount does the job. More protein intake does not ensure more muscle buildup. It must be absorbed in the body or else it will get stored as fat.
You Can Still Have Whole Food
Including protein supplements in your diet does not mean that you must renounce whole foods altogether. You can still have them. You should try prioritizing them and use the supplement only when they fall short.
Check the Protein Levels
Check the protein content and accordingly decide the serving. You must be very careful about keeping the diet balanced.
Inspect the GMP level
The full form of GMP is “Good Manufacturing Practices”. Powders that come with this label get the certification of being manufactured in a facility that follows the best practices laid out for supplement industries. These powders also list all their ingredients on the tub for you to make an informed decision.
Stay Away From Artificial Sweeteners and Sugars
Artificial sweeteners and sugar are an absolute no for an athlete. They can cause a variety of health problems, including cancers. The body finds it difficult to digest artificial sugar causing weight gain and an increase in blood sugar levels.
To enhance the taste, manufacturers have come up with several flavours like chocolate, strawberry, etc. while you may get a flavour of your choice, make sure it is not at the expense of quality.
If you want to go for a chocolate flavour, choose a reputed product like Isopure Low Carb Dutch Chocolate instead of a local one.
Best High Protein Smoothie Recipes that can Work as DIY Protein Shakes
A high-protein shake can be used if you don’t want to have a protein shake. They are easy to make and can be had on the go.
If you are careful enough to include food that has a high protein content in your shake, you can benefit a great deal.
However, it must be kept in mind that whey protein has more concentrated protein and thus, your shakes will not deliver you an equal amount but can suffice for your needs easily. They are best included in your meal with other high-protein foods.
- Peanut Butter and Jelly Smoothie
Items that you will need:
- 1 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
- 1/2 cup almond milk
- 25 green grapes
- 1/2 cup peanut flour
- 4 ice cubes
How to prepare it:
Place the yogurt, milk, and grapes in your blender and blend them till you don’t find any visible grape skins. Add the ice and peanut flour, blend until smooth.
You can either have it immediately or store it in your refrigerator for later use. You can also use natural peanut butter.
- Cherry Smoothie with Chia Seeds
Items that you will need:
- 1 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
- 1/2 cup almond milk
- 1 cup frozen cherries
- 1/2 medium ripe avocado
- 2 tablespoon chia seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
How to Prepare It
Combine all the ingredients in your blender jar and make a puree. You can either serve it immediately or refrigerate it. The cherry and avocado flavour brings a fresh twist to your regular mundane smoothies. One serving gives you 20 gm of protein.
- Cottage Cheese, Banana, and Peach Smoothie
Items that you will need:
- 1 ripe banana
- 1 cup low-fat cottage cheese
- 1 cup nonfat milk
- 2 tablespoon honey
How to prepare it:
Blend all the ingredients in your blender until completely smooth. One serving gives you 20 gm of protein.
While these can be a good source of protein, powders like Orgain Organic Protein Powder offer much more in a single serving. Thus, if homemade shakes fulfil your nutritional needs nothing like it but they are not a replacement and not enough on their own.
Young Athlete and Muscle Growth
From 13 to 18 years old, muscle growth is accelerated and resistance training during puberty is the key to increasing muscle mass, strength, and size. It can increase a teenager’s muscle gain by about 15 per cent per year.
A general workout program should consist of warm-ups followed by organized and intense training of all the muscle groups in the body.
One can work with heavy weights to increase strength and do multiple sets to increase muscle size. However, one should not indulge in intense training without adult and professional supervision. It could have severe effects.
Scattering small amounts of protein throughout your diet chart is the most effective way.
Focus on having the best protein before and after your workout because that is the time your muscles need a boost for healing. Include half of your protein intake in the pre and post-recovery schedule of the day.
You can choose high chicken, lean beef, eggs, turkey, etc. If you are opting for protein powders, carry it to your training in a shaker bottle like the below image and consume it within 30 mins of training or before your workout. They work best that way.
Healthy Calorie Intake
Healthy calorie intake is equally important for growth and training. It fuels your muscles with all the energy that it needs to perform daily workouts. A teenage athlete must have 300-500 calories in a day depending on the sex and body weight.
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A Sample Menu For Protein Intake In a Day
Breakfast: a protein shake that delivers 18 to 20 grams of protein.
Snack: high protein pancakes
Lunch: 3 oz lean beef, a bowl of brown rice, carrot sticks.
Snack- 1/2 cup chickpeas with salsa, a glass of milk
Dinner: 3 oz. turkey/chicken, green salad.
- Protein is of utmost importance for growing kids and more so if one is an athlete. It helps in muscle-building as well as repair. It is very important for growth and development.
- The best sources of protein are whole foods like chicken, tuna, lean beef, turkey, beans, eggs, pulses, etc.
- Whey protein is extracted from milk and has all 9 amino acids. Thus, it has an extremely concentrated protein content. It is often used for enhancing the performance of athletes, bodybuilders, and sportspersons.
- Most healthy teen can obtain their adequate protein from whole foods and need not have protein powders at all. They can also accelerate muscle gain with the help of resistance training.
- Kids who are allergic to high-protein food or are vegetarian may fall short of protein if they rely solely on whole foods. In such cases, one can resort to protein powders.
- One must carefully choose a tub of powder and keep the consumption within limits.
- Too much protein is harmful to health and can cause weight gain.
- Having the right amount of protein along with all other nutrients is the key to strength, muscle growth, and stamina. One must focus more on whole foods and training and choose supplements when one absolutely needs them.
Last update on 2023-01-31 at 15:28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API