Supplements for High School Football Players
Supplementation and performance enhancing drugs are always a hot topic in football, even at the high school level. And at some point every high school football player stands in the vitamin row at the local CVS or walks into a Vitamin Shoppe and debates whether or not to pick up the fad supplement that the star running back or linebacker is taking.
Let me start off by saying I am not a doctor and do not pretend to play one on the internet, so please consult with a medical professional before starting any supplementation regimen.
With that being said let me provide you with some basic guidelines on what to think about when deciding on taking supplements or not.
1. Have a purpose. Just like you eat when your hungry or take medicine when your sick, you should have a purpose as to why you need a supplement and then match a supplement to that purpose.
2. Research, research, research. Supplements create changes to your body, so treat supplements very seriously. While this is a good starting point on your journey, make sure to do extensive research and know the potential positive and negative effects of a supplement before you decide to take it.
3. Start off with the basics. And in my opinion stay with the basic supplements, there really isn't many instances when a high school football player should need to stray from the basic supplements.
4. Everyone knows everything and no one knows anything. In regards to supplementation the vast majority of studies that have been are unscientific studies performed by the supplement companies themselves in order to push their products. The scientific evidence regarding the long-term effects of almost all supplements is virtually non-existence and the specific short term effects of even basic parts of supplementation such as protein intake are mixed at best. So as we continue on in this article, my overall descriptions of the effects of supplements will be general at best, as to not give over specific, potentially inaccurate or unscientific information.
On the other hand ask any high school athlete, bodybuilder, weekend worrier or sports nutrition store worker and they will give you answers and recommendations with complete certainty that supplement X is the reason their 3rd cousin gained 20 lbs of muscle in a month.
5. Be sure to study the interactions of your supplements with any medicine you might take or with other supplements you take as well. Supplements can have dangerous interactions with medical drugs, be sure to do your research on drug interactions before you start any supplementation regime. Also be especially careful to read every ingredient in every supplement you take, now a days most supplement companies will add other popular additive items to their supplement, even if the name of the supplement doesn't indicate it. I.e. don't be surprised to find that your protein also has creatine in it, or that your branch chain amino acids also have the same magnesium that is in your multi vitamin. High does of vitamins, especially those that are not water soluble (not that high dose of water soluble vitamins are safe) can have dangerous effects as they build up in your system.
6. Every individual is different. Just because one high school football athlete is taking supplements with great results and no negative side effects does not mean that you should expect those same results. Every person has a different makeup and reacts a bit differently to their environment, it is the same with supplements. If you notice anything unusual or irregular from taking a supplement stop it immediately and consult with your doctor before restarting the supplement. In the same way, if you are not seeing results from a supplement, maybe that supplement is not what your body needs.
7. Supplements are not regulated like medicine, so proceed with caution. Unlike medicine, supplements are considered safe until proven unsafe, so while the FDA oversees supplements broadly speaking, they do not have the same stringent requirements as medicine whether over the counter or otherwise. Also supplements are typically just picked up at the store rather than prescribed, so reporting of side effects are less controlled. In addition the dosage, athletic claims, and even chemical makeup of supplements have been found in various cases to be unfounded, so make sure to choose your supplements and supplement brands wisely.
So What Supplements Should A High School Athlete Think of Taking?
Like indicated earlier, I recommend sticking with the basics, which typically have at least with stood the test of high usage with relative safety.
Basic Supplements -
1. Multivitamin - at one time or another most individuals will take a multivitamin in their lives. In general multivitamins are taken to ensure that individuals are getting an adequate amount of various vitamins to ensure basic health. A good multivitamin will have at least 100% of Vitamin A, Vitamin B Complex (B1 (Thiamin), B2 (Riboflavin), B3 (Niacin), B5 (Pantothenic Acid), B6, B12 (Folic Acid)), Vitamin C, Biotin, Zinc. Additionally the multivitamin should have some level of magnesium and calcium (though at much lower levels, due to the size of constraints on a single capsule).
More than 100% of these ingredients is not needed as the high school athlete should be getting nutrition through daily meals as well, in addition certain items can be dangerous at high levels.
In general a multivitamin is a good idea for a high school football player, as athletes typically will have higher demand for basic nutrients due to their training routine.
I recommend - GNC SuperFoods - Ultra Mega Green Men's.
2. Protein - protein is one of three macronutrients, with carbohydrates and fat being the other two. A macronutrient is just a fancy way of saying a substance that the body needs a lot of to function. Many people assume that protein builds muscle in the body. Really exercise is what builds muscle in the body, protein is what helps the body repair muscle after exercise has broken it down. In addition it is thought that a high protein diet decreases body fat, though the exact mechanisms are often disputed.
Protein can be found from many food sources such as chicken, beef, eggs, milk, which all provide high levels of protein. However, if any athlete is looking for additional muscle gain, high protein (20g - 40g) drinks that are low in overall calories would be my recommendation.
I recommend - Muscle Milk Pro Series
3. Creatine - creatine is a huge industry in the United States. It is a performance enhancer that is allowed in virtually all athletic competitions and is relatively safe based on the multitude of studies that have been performed, at least in the near term, fewer long term studies have been completed on its safety. Creatine works by helping to make ATP which is used in muscle contraction, which will in term help you lift more weight. Muscle increase from creatine is due to the ability to lift heavier loads.
If you are making sufficient strength and muscle gains without creatine, you should weigh the pros and cons of any further gains that creatine will provide, however in terms of relative safety and amount of research creatine is certainly one of more researched and less risky of the supplements.
I recommend - MusclePharm Creatine
Hope this helps provides a foundation for potential supplementation by the high school football athlete. Any supplement decisions should be made in consultation with parents or guardians and medical professionals!