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What's Really Fueling Teenage Athletic Performance?

Who doesn’t want to win?

Since the beginning of mankind, the drive to survive and thrive in an often hostile environment

has been second nature. And while one may no longer need to outrun a tiger or fight a bear with

their bare hands, the drive to gain an edge over opponents is still very much alive, especially at

the high school and collegiate levels. Performance enhancing drugs and supplements are on the

rise, and the pressure to win, overcome training plateaus, keep up with body images portrayed on

social media, or earn a college scholarship is tougher than ever.

As a result, teens are becoming desperate “to increase muscle strength, keep the body alert and

boost athletic performance.” (Types, 2016) Unfortunately, what teens don’t know is that many

performance enhancing drugs and supplements are not approved by the FDA and may cause

long-term side-effects.

In a recent double-blind social media poll, one hundred teenagers between the ages of thirteen

and nineteen were surveyed about drug and supplement use. Out of the 92 teens that described

themselves as avid “athletes,” 65% percent of ALL teens reported using at least one or more

forms of supplements in order to enhance athletic performance. In fact, close to 50% of teen

athletes reported taking supplements daily or even multiple times throughout the day, but only

half of the teens were aware of any possible long-term side-effects. (Ellis, 2022)

In addition, 75% percent of teens said that they would NOT use performance enhancing drugs or

supplements if they knew they caused irreversible damage to their body. However, the most

shocking finding is that over 80% surveyed reported that a teacher, coach, or trainer had NEVER

spoken to them about any dangers associated with using performance enhancing drugs or

supplements. (Ellis, 2022)

It’s time to take action!

As fitness professionals and coaches, it is your responsibility to learn about the possible side-

effects of the most commonly used performance enhancing drugs and supplements. Only then

can you open-the-dialogue about the hidden dangers of supplementation and the negative effects

they can have on both the mind and the body.

So, what are teenagers really doing to fuel their athletic performance?

According to “Operation Supplement Safety,” an up-to-date website developed by the

Department of Defense, teen athletes are overusing creatine, caffeine, and protein/amino acid

supplements at an alarming level. (Operation, 2022) Not surprisingly, recent marketing that

appeals to teens in the form of shakes, bars, drinks, and pills seem harmless, but misusing any

supplement has consequences. Below are some of the most popular types of supplements used by

teens and effects of misuse. It’s time to open the dialogue on the dangers of supplements, and it

begins with you!

Facts and Resources

Creatine Supplements:

1. “The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Sports Medicine advise against using performance-enhancing supplements, including creatine, among teenagers.” (Pros, 2022)

2. Misusing creatine by taking more than the recommended amount can lead to heart, kidney and liver damage.

3. Creatine disrupts water levels in the body leading to dehydration and poor kidney function, interrupts sleep patterns, increases mood swings and causes bloating and stomach discomfort. (Pros, 2022) Pros and Cons of Creatine - Side Effects of Creatine (

Caffeine Supplements:

1. Teens shouldn't have more than about 100mg of caffeine a day, which is equivalent to 1

cup of coffee or about 2 cans of soda.

2. Caffeine is very similar in structure to another chemical in our body called adenosine, responsible for dilating blood vessels in the head. Caffeine blocks this dilation…your

body becomes overly sensitive to adenosine-blood vessels dilate, creating pounding

headaches. (England, 2021)

3. Misuse of caffeine causes a racing heartbeat, heart palpitations, shortness of breath,

anxiety, mood swings, insomnia, increased appetite, and more.

How Much Caffeine Should A Teenager Be Drinking? (

Protein Supplements:

1. Protein Requirement for Teenagers ages 14-18:

a. Boys 52 grams of protein

b. Girls 46 grams of protein

2. Too much protein causes:

a. Excess calories-stored as fat if not burned off

b. Organ damage such as kidney stones, dehydration, diarrhea, constipation, poor digestion, bad breath and more.

3. Long-term effects:

a. Kidney damage, certain cancers, heart disease, calcium loss and more.


Clark, Nancy. “What Teen Athletes Need to Know About Sports Supplements and Performance.”

Stack. 11 November 2021. What Teen Athletes Need To Know About Sports Supplements and Performance - stack

Ellis, Makenna. 20 October 2022. “Teenage Performance Enhancing Supplements: What Are You Using?” Instagram. Makenna Ellis (@makenna__ellis) • Instagram photos and Videos. WRFTAP - Google Forms

England, Adam. “ How Much Caffeine Should a Teenager Be Drinking?” 26 August 2021. How Much Caffeine Should A Teenager Be Drinking? (

NIDA. 2021, April 12. What is the history of anabolic steroid use?. Retrieved from

nce-performance-enhancing-drugs-apeds/what-history-anabolic-steroid-use 17 October 2022.

Operation Supplement Safety. Department of Defense. 27 October 2022. Operation Supplement Safety | OPSS

Pros and Cons of Creatine. Myayan. October 2022. Pros and Cons of Creatine - Side Effects of Creatine (

Rabindra, Jay. Kumar, Samal. Indira, Samal. “Protein Supplements: Pros and Cons. Epub. September 22 2017. Protein Supplements: Pros and Cons - PubMed (

Types of Performance Enhancing Drugs Your Teens Might Be Using. Teen Rehab.

1 August 2016. Performance Enhancing Drugs That Teens Are Using (


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