Supplements are safe for teens! (or are they?)Question:
I am 18 years old. I've been weight lifting for about a year now. I want to take a few supplements like:
- or animal pump instead of creatine and NO-explode
- a multi vitamin
- whey protein
I can't convince them so I need to know are they safe if they are taken by the recommended dosage! If they are safe will you send me what I can tell them to convince them. I have tried every which way to say it is totally natural and completely safe if used according to the recommended dosage. If they are safe, I need the medical and chemical speech to convince them so help me please.
If there's one lesson I've learned in my own 20 years of bodybuilding and the last 10 years of being online helping as many people as I can it is this: Recommending supplements and trying to convince people they are safe is just the wrong approach. I know this isn't what you probably wanted to read but before you close your browser, hear me out please.
Recommending supplements to somebody without knowing the intimate details of your health situation is irresponsible. Think of it like a peanut allergy. Peanuts are great! They are totally safe. I tell you to eat them. Then we find out you have an allergy to them and oops! My bad! A bit extreme but I hope it proves the point. Getting supplement advice off the Internet can be a bad idea unless you put forth the effort to do your own research.
As a teenager, your frustration is understandable. You think your parents are totally misinformed, and maybe they are, but I'd venture to guess, you may not have all the information you need either to understand the situation.
And that's what the rest of this answer is about! While I won't tell you or your parents that supplements are safe (that would be irresponsible of me), nor will I say they are not, I'll do my best to give you some resources you can use to understand them better and make informed decisions.
In order to make the best supplement decision for you, several factors need to be considered. Two of the most important are:
- You want to first understand how important your nutrition is to your overall goals before taking any supplements.
- You should understand how a supplement becomes a supplement.
Warning: Just because a supplement is on the shelves being sold, does not mean it is automatically safe to take. Even taking it at the manufacturer's recommended dosage does not mean it will work nor does it mean it is safe.How Important is Nutrition?
"You can't out train a bad diet." I forgot who said that but it's 100% true. If you do not have your nutritional house in order, no supplements will save you. In reality, supplements are about 3% of the overall picture anyway. (I got that figure from years of personal observation and some guess-work; don't bother looking it up)
Most teens I know are sporadic when it comes to nutrition. They could improve on it greatly. Maybe that's you and maybe it's not, but the point is ... if you can improve, you should. It will make more of a different that say.. glutamine (which I find useless for bodybuilding).
When I was a teenager, I thought not having supplements were really holding back my progress. Let me be blunt...
That is total bullshit. What really held me back in my youth was:
- No Proper nutrition for muscle building
- No Workout consistency
- No Focus on big lifts
- Too much focus on supplements
Supplements were not my answer. But I fell prey to the marketing hype and promises like everybody does.
As pointed out to me ... does anybody know what good nutrition is anymore? Here's some resources I want you to read.
Must Read Nutrition Resources
Now don't get me wrong! There are some supplements worth trying, but that's not necessary now, and at your age it won't make a difference. Your youth (testosterone) is far more potent than anything you can buy legally. Use it now to your advantage!
You Need to Know How Supplement Become a Supplement
To answer this question, what better place to get the information then the FDA’s own website.
“The FDA regulates dietary supplements under a different set of regulations than those covering “conventional” foods and drug products (prescription and Over-the-Counter). Under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA), the dietary supplement manufacturer is responsible for ensuring that a dietary supplement is safe before it is marketed. FDA is responsible for taking action against any unsafe dietary supplement product after it reaches the market. Generally, manufacturers do not need to register with FDA nor get FDA approval before producing or selling dietary supplements. Manufacturers must make sure that product label information is truthful and not misleading.
FDA’s post-marketing responsibilities include monitoring safety, e.g. voluntary dietary supplement adverse event reporting, and product information, such as labeling, claims, package inserts, and accompanying literature. The Federal Trade Commission regulates dietary supplement advertising.”–Source: The FDA
As you can see, just because something is sold, does not mean it's automatically safe.
How to Evaluate Any Supplement - What my mom didn't tell me about buying supplements and what I’m about to tell you could save you hundreds of dollars in worthless purchases or worse yet.. an ineffective and potentially dangerous supplement!
Just because a supplement is sold on the shelves of the United States, does not mean it's automatically safe to consume. Even taking the recommended dosage does not ensure safety.
- is the dosage safe in such amounts?
- is the dosage recommended what any studies show to be effective?
- where is the material coming from?
- has this company ever received any warnings?
- is this product even effective?
When it comes to Creatine, it's a different answer than 99% of the junk on the shelves today simply because of the amount of information available on that particular supplement. But regarding the rest, it's unknown unless you dig deep to find the answer and even then, you may not get the full story unless the company opens up the exact amounts in the product.
Ever hear of a Proprietary Formula? It means the company must list what's in the product but it does not have to list each amount. So some ingredients may be effective but maybe not in the amount that's in that product, but you'll never know. Maybe they put in too much of the ingredient that is said to make a difference (opening up a case for overdosing) or maybe they didn't put in enough for it to be effective. In some cases, a study will show X amount of Y ingredient showed some promising results but Y ingredient is very expensive, so much so the average consumer won't pay so they use very little of Y. It still lists Y on the label so you buy it thinking that all these studies say Y works (but what you didn't realize is that the studies say X amount of Y works and sadly, the product you purchased contains just a little bit of Y).
At this point, you might think I'm totally against supplementation. Not at all! I'm for the consumer making informed choices and understanding the landscape.
- Taking supplements are neither automatically safe or automatically dangerous.
- Because it's on the shelf being sold doesn't make it safe or dangerous.
Here are some excellent resources to further your research on a particular supplement:
- FDA - Dietary Supplements (includes a list of warning letters)
- Vitamins and Dietary Supplements
- U.S. Pharmocopeial Convention (USP Labs)
- ConsumerLab.com - Independent tests and reviews of supplements
The bottom line is ... a supplement isn't automatically safe because it's sold. There's quite a lot that goes on behind the scenes. The more information you can gather from reputable sources, the better information you will have to start a conversation with your parents. Focus on nutrition and training above all as that will make much more of a difference than any supplement. I understand your frustration, I truly do. But reassured, if you don't take a single thing off that list, your muscle building goals will not be in jeopardy. Your youth is by far the best supplement you'll ever have so do not waste it!