PROTEIN & YOUNG ATHLETES - WHAT'S THE SCOOP?
A very common question we get from parents is whether their young athletes need to use protein shakes and whether it is safe to do so.
Nutrition is important for everyone, but for young people it’s extra important as they are still growing. So, it’s vital that their needs for health & growth are prioritised in order to then focus on energy for performance.
When working with young athletes and parents, a key part of the role is to educate them on the relationship between food & performance and how it impacts growth, health, recovery & injury risk.
It's very common for active young people to not eat enough, often unintentionally, as energy expenditure is so high and sometimes hard to keep up with. It’s also not just about what they eat, research shows us that when they eat is equally important, particularly in terms of protein distribution. For optimal muscle protein synthesis, protein intake should be well distributed throughout the day. In practice, this rarely happens, so this is where protein shakes can offer a handy solution to help fill in a gap.
What are protein shakes though?
Protein shakes are simply protein in powder form mixed with water, milk or smoothies, or ready mixed as with Bodyhero shakes. They’re no magic pill but they do offer a quick & handy way to ensure needs are being met and to promote recovery after training.
Animal based protein shakes are usually made with whey protein which comes from cow’s milk; it's the liquid you get when you turn milk into cheese (think Little Miss Muffet & her curds & whey). The liquid gets dried and made into powder.
Bodyhero is plant based and is made from pea protein. Both pea and whey are complete proteins – which means they contain all nine essential amino acids. They are also high in leucine, the main amino acid involved in repairing & building muscle. Another bonus is it's absorbed very quickly so can get to work straight away.
This makes protein shakes handy and appealing, BUT it can then be tempting to not think about the protein content of your food. Shakes should never replace meals or make it ok not to focus on meal quality.
Nothing beats a healthy diet, and any nutritionist will always promote a food first approach, and protein in food form also provides other macro and micronutrients you need.
But, a hearty meal is not always practical & it's not appealing to shovel down food on the go rushing to school or from school to training, or on a car journey home, so a shake can come in handy to fill a gap until food can be accessed.
In terms of safety, there is no evidence to show any risk to healthy individuals. The key thing to consider is to ONLY EVER buy products that are tested by @wetestyoutrust. This ensures that they are free from substances that could be harmful to health or contain banned substances.
Bodyhero is not only batch tested for safety, but it is one of the very few protein shakes that also provides a good source of dietary fibre and healthy fats, two other key things that are often lacking in young people’s diets.
If you have any questions regarding young athletes/young children and protein, please get in touch and we’ll be very happy to help. One of my key roles is supporting young athletes and their parents/coaches, and helping them to understand the link between food, health and performance.
You get out what you put in so let’s encourage them to put in the best.