Questions & Answers

Nutritional supplement guide for parents

What You Should Know When Your Child Wants To Take „Stuff”

Written by: Thomas Radnai

Brief summary

  • Supplements aren’t illegal drugs!
  • Supplements do not differ from foods in the sense that they are no more dangerous, nor unhealthier, or more “artificial” than regular foods; and most probably have better nutrient values!
  • Supplements aid the body when it is under massive “stress” due to physical activity and with the great achievements one makes with them, it helps to resist the use of illegal and dangerous doping substances!
  • When making the choice on which brands and products to choose, discretion is advised! Educate yourself!

What Is Necessary And Who Is The Responsible Party?

Dear Parents! Exercise, including lifting weights is very healthy and can be a character building activity. Of course, all is well, if it ends well. Sport is a serious physical stress for the body and training on its own is not enough. The body needs proper nutrition and rest. And only if all three factors mentioned above are satisfied can the positive effect of training begin to build muscle tissue, to boost energy levels, and to enhance performance. The importance of correct nutrition is especially true for teenagers, who are in a phase of quick growth even without training. Thus parents, it is your responsibility to provide your children with the needed intake of nutrients, and if your kids do intensive training, then it is of vital importance that they receive quality protein as a part of their nutrition. This does make the difference! The question is, what is a good nutritional regime and how can it be put together to help aid the process of growth. And this is where supplements come into the picture.

Judgment Of Supplements, Legal Status

Just to clear up a long-time misunderstanding: the banned substances, drugs, which are originally medications (steroids, growth hormones, other performance enhancers, etc.) and sports supplements are two completely different categories! They belong to an entirely different group of products and are not the same. One of the main sources of this misunderstanding is the word “anabolic”. It simply means: the process by which food is built up into living tissue. Looking at “anabolic steroids”, it is the steroid part that is illegal and dangerous and not the “anabolic” adjective, behavior. If we say about a legal product that it is anabolic, then we mean to say that it has a positive up building effect – for example muscle tissue gets built- and this by no means it is harmful, but on the contrary: useful for the body! We could say “anabolic rice”. This, by definition, is true, since rice as a source of nutrition is anabolic (building block and stimulus), but we just don’t use this technical term in an everyday context. Given that sport supplements belong to a legal category of products, it is apparent that these products are safe to use.

How Do Supplements Differ From Traditional Foodstuffs?

Taking into consideration several aspects, we can say that in many ways supplements are very similar to traditional foodstuffs, but they differ in several qualities to the good of supplements. I do not mean to provoke paranoia, but it is a fact that the food industry is far from providing goods, which are 100% healthy and safe. Just look at the recent media coverage of this topic! Shocking news regarding what can be found in foods is becoming a regular topic. (This article was originally written in early 2008. It’s 2011 and people are still dying from regular food!) Furthermore, highly processed foods and wheat for example (e.g. white bread), are completely unhealthy too. Sadly nowadays even products that come directly from nature in many cases are not providing the nutrients they should be and used to. Even meat is problematic. Animals are being stuffed with antibiotics, hormones and are not fed with the right feed. I’m highlighting these issues so that the reader can think about all the problems we have grown accustomed to and many times do not give a second thought about; on the other hand, supplements in many cases are considered „unnatural”, thus unhealthy! But they are no worse most of the other sources of nutrition we eat, on the contrary. Does your child consume soft drinks, cereals, bread, sweets, salamis (processed meat), etc.? If so, they consume artificial ingredients and do not receive the right amount of nutrients one would expect from these foods. Legal supplements, from reliable supplements companies, are in no way inferior to traditional foodstuffs, and they guarantee the nutrients needed for the recovery and growth of the body.

The Categories Of Supplements

By reviewing the different categories of supplements, the reader will be able to understand the significance and the effect of supplements. The following grouping is just one of many ways of categorizing supplements:
  • Supplements, which are like foodstuff, because their composition is fundamentally similar (mainly macronutrients like protein, carbohydrate, fat, maybe fiber, etc.)
  • Supplements, which besides containing the components of regular foods, also include or include a higher dose of some active ingredients, which are not found in regular foods.
  • Supplements, which do not contain any of the three groups of macronutrients (protein, carbohydrate, fat), but do include some active ingredients in high concentration, which are only scarcely available from regular food intake.

Category 1

The supplements belonging to the first category contain either all or at least one of the macronutrients (carbohydrate, protein, fat). The most typical supplements in this category are the „muscle gainers”. These include carbohydrates (60-93%), and in smaller quantity protein (5-50%). Other supplements belonging to this category are protein powders with a 60-98% protein content. Fats are usually not direct ingredients of these products, maybe only as by-products, but in some sophisticated formulas special, healthy fats may be included. A typical regular meal usually contains a maximum of 60% carbohydrates and a minimum of 20% protein. Thus, according to my opinion, the best muscle gainers should have a similar formula (at least 20% protein). An alternative possibility is to mix two different „gainers” to get the right ratio if needed (one almost pure carbohydrate product mixed with some almost pure protein powder).

Basically the products that belong to this category do not have any “magic” effects. They are generally the same as a regular meal, but still, there are large differences. First of all, they are quick to prepare, easy to transport, you do not need to reheat them, they can be consumed anywhere quickly, and they are very easy to digest. Furthermore, the quality of the nutrients found in them are in most cases better than those of regular foods. This is especially true in the case of protein. For example, if the product contains whey protein, then we can consume a protein that is scarcely available from dairy, because milk contains only a very small quantity of whey protein (its protein is mainly from an other type, casein, that has very different characteristics).
To sum it up, we can say that this supplement category includes products, which contain the basic nutrients that foodstuff usually contain as well, but these are usually better quality, they are isolated and/or concentrated, and are much more convenient and can be consumed much quicker.

They need to be consumed if the sportsman needs 4-6 meals a day and they cannot or do not wish to have so many regular meals a day for one reason or another. I have mentioned earlier that these products are not magical on their own, but they can still bring about the magic of progress, if the athlete increases his or her regular meals from 3-4 to 5-6 a day with the help of these supplements and achieves a truly optimal nutritional profile. Due to the above mentioned fact, this product category should be the second most important after multivitamins, and they need to be taken as long as the original reason to include them in your program still exists (e.g. inability to take in enough calories and/or protein from regular food). And only if the consumption of these products is „secured”, is it possible and needed to choose products from other, more advanced categories!

Category 2

The basic composition of the supplements belonging to this category is similar to that of those in the first category, but they include additional ingredients such as creatine, BCAA’s, glutamine and other amino acids, lipoic acid, enzymes, etc. Thus these supplements besides providing basic nutrients, and a muscle-building or an anti-catabolic effect, can also directly enhance performance, which is a big plus in comparison with most regular foods.

Category 3

The supplements in the third category do not include macronutrients and usually their calorie content is zero or negligible. Their main ingredients are scarcely available from regular foodstuffs or are in a less effective form in them. In contrast to the first category, these supplements usually need to be used for a specific time period only, followed by a period when the supplement is not taken. A typical example is creatine. Creatine can be found in animal flesh, but for optimum amounts that produce a significant effect, several pounds of meat would have to be eaten daily.

What Supplements Are Not Substitutions For

Supplements are called supplements, because they only supplement your healthy regular eating and do not substitute it completely! We are not smarter than nature itself, and not even the best supplement can substitute what a well selected nutritional regimen has to offer. Especially, since there are such components in foods that stile have not been identified by scientists and since we do not know of their existence, the effects they might have in our bodies have not been unveiled (or the synergistic, unique effects of several nutrients). Fruits and even more so veggies should be on the diet plan of a sportsman in large quantities. These have very significant effects, such as an alkalizing effect (important!), they are a good source of fiber, plus they might contain important phytonutrients, etc. Quality sources of carbohydrates and especially animal proteins should be a part of the daily diet. The rule of thumb is that the ratio of macronutrients from supplements in a diet should be at a maximum of 33-50%. Namely, three normal meals and two shakes, or 3+3, 4+3, 4+2. The non-food like supplements (category 3.) are not included in this ratio and should be taken alongside the above mentioned.

Financial Comparison

Many people imagine that supplements are more expensive than regular foods. They have this misconception, because they don’t do an „apples to apples” comparison: not the true quality and quantity of nutrients are compared. A large slice of white bread with some lunch meat may be very cheap, but they contain a minimal amount of quality nutrients and that meal is not healthy whatsoever. If we wish to make a comparison between a high quality, complex supplement and food, then we need to take the adequate amount and quality of food. The outcome in most cases will be that rationally used supplements are not at all costlier than the comparable foods, and at the same time supplements are easier to use in preparing a quality meal. Not to waste money, a good quality supplement with proven effects should be bought from a company that provides good value-for-your-money products (in some cases you just pay a lot for the brand name, and in others, if you buy a very cheap product, it will not be effective). Look for lab test results for you products!


Most supplements contain proven to be effective ingredients that are safe to use. It must be known that a sportsman’s nutrient needs are much higher than that of an inactive person. Protein need increases: the minimal intake should be about 2 grams/kg of bodyweight total daily from food and supplements combined. This amount is not unhealthy (if one has no already present healthy issues, esp. kidney problems). Note that physical activity and the increased need for nutrients for athletes might result in slightly skewed labtest results, because the labtest standards are based on a large, average population that is not that physically active. This is not abnormal – let your doctor know.

It is wise to take multivitamin formulas and the amounts of micronutrients provided by these products are safe, because with these complex formulas, an optimal ratio of vitamins and minerals will be guaranteed. With regards to vitamin, mineral products, it is again true that the daily recommended doses are not the same for people who do intensive workouts and for those that do not do any sports at all.

Regarding youngsters and creatine, there is a scientific position stand that declared:

„If proper precautions and supervision are provided, supplementation in young athletes is acceptable and may provide a nutritional alternative to potentially dangerous anabolic drugs.”


„International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: creatine supplementation and exercise”

Thomas W Buford , Richard B Kreider , Jeffrey R Stout , Mike Greenwood , Bill Campbell , Marie Spano , Tim Ziegenfuss , Hector Lopez , Jamie Landis and Jose Antonio

International Society of Sports Nutrition, 600 Pembrook Drive, Woodland Park, CO 80863, USA
Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2007, 4:6doi:10.1186/1550-2783-4-6

More scientific study results regarding creatine:

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2000 Feb;32(2):291-6.

Acute creatine loading increases fat-free mass, but does not affect blood pressure, plasma creatinine, or CK activity in men and women. Mihic S, MacDonald JR, McKenzie S, Tarnopolsky MA.


Department of Kinesiology, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.


Creatine monohydrate (CrM) administration may enhance high intensity exercise performance and increase body mass, yet few studies have examined for potential adverse effects, and no studies have directly considered potential gender differences.


The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of acute creatine supplementation upon total and lean mass and to determine potential side effects in both men and women.


The effect of acute CrM (20 g x d(-1) x 5 d) administration upon systolic, diastolic, and mean BP, plasma creatinine, plasma CK activity, and body composition was examined in 15 men and 15 women in a randomized, double-blind experiment. Additionally, ischemic isometric handgrip strength was measured before and after CrM or placebo (PL).


CrM did not affect blood pressure, plasma creatinine, estimated creatinine clearance, plasma CK activity, or handgrip strength (P > 0.05). In contrast, CrM significantly increased fat-free mass (FFM) and total body mass (P < 0.05) as compared with PL, with no changes in body fat. The observed mass changes were greater for men versus women.


These findings suggest that acute CrM administration does not affect blood pressure, renal function, or plasma CK activity, but increases FFM. The effect of CrM upon FFM may be greater in men as compared with that in women.

J Athl Train. 2003 Jul-Sep; 38(3): 216–219.

Cramping and Injury Incidence in Collegiate Football Players Are Reduced by Creatine Supplementation

Michael Greenwood,* Richard B. Kreider,* Lori Greenwood,* and Allyn Byars†


To examine the effects of creatine supplementation on the incidence of cramping and injury observed during 1 season of National Collegiate Athletic Association Division IA football training and competition.

Design and Setting:

In an open-label manner, subjects who volunteered to take creatine ingested 0.3 g•kg−1•d−1 of creatine for 5 days followed by an average of 0.03 g•kg•−1d−1 after workouts, practices, and games. Creatine intake was monitored and recorded by researchers throughout the course of the study.


Thirty-eight of 72 athletes (53.0%) participating in the 1999 Division IA collegiate football season from the same university volunteered to take creatine in this study. Subjects trained, practiced, or played in environmental conditions ranging from 15°C to 37°C (mean = 27.26° ± 10.93°C) and 46.0% to 91.0% relative humidity (mean = 54.17% ± 9.71%).


Injuries treated by the athletic training staff were recorded and categorized as cramping, heat illness or dehydration, muscle tightness, muscle strains, noncontact joint injuries, contact injuries, and illness. The number of missed practices due to injury and illness was also recorded. Data were analyzed using a 2 × 2 χ2 test to examine the first reported incidences of cramping and injury for creatine users and nonusers.


Creatine users had significantly less cramping (χ21 = 5.35 P = .021); heat illness or dehydration (χ21 = 4.09, P = .043); muscle tightness (χ21 = 5.39, P = .020); muscle strains (χ21 = 5.36, P = .021); and total injuries (χ21 = 17.80, P < 001) than nonusers. There were no significant differences between groups regarding noncontact joint injuries (χ21= 3.48, P = .062); contact injuries (χ21 = 0.00, P = .100); illness (χ21 = 6.82, P = .409); missed practices due to injury (χ21 = 1.43, P = .233); or players lost for the season (χ21 = 4.75, P = .491).


The incidence of cramping or injury in Division IA football players was significantly lower or proportional for creatine users compared with nonusers.

What I do not recommend is that teens take products, which contain stimulants. If they do not drink coffee (although some soft drinks also contain caffeine), then it is apparent that they should not be taking other stimulants either. Avoid products that contain hormones, prohormones, or effect the sex hormones directly. Even formulas that only optimize natural hormone production to keep hormones at the normal levels are not needed, but for aging or for adults with a dysfunctional hormonal system. As with many other nutrient sources (widely known is the effect of fruit juices on medications), there can be interactions between medications and supplements, thus when taking medication, only supplements from the first category should be taken, otherwise consult with your doctor.

The Dangers Of The Grey Market

This guide would not be complete and honest, if we would not mention the fact that the supplement industry is not unlike many others: it has a „gray market” segment and therefore it is possible to purchase products containing illegal (or soon to be banned) hormones, prohormones, etc. (it’s also very country specific what is legal, what is a supplement, what is a drug – big money making industries are funny like that!) The availability of gray market products is very unfortunate, because it can create a general negative reflection of the supplement industry, although real supplements have nothing to do with such illegal substances. If a supplement manufacturer, distributor or retailer attests good market behavior by sticking to legal and safe products, then customers should support them by continually purchasing from them only, and they need to keep themselves far away from those that are not reliable!

Specific Recommendations

Taking into consideration all of the above, we first of all recommend the products of SCITEC NUTRITION®. (full disclosure: I, the writer of this article, am an employee of this company). I recommend SCITEC, because we know their past, and know that the company, in contrary to many others, has never “sold its soul to the devil”, that is, it has never produced products containing (pro)hormones or ephedrine for example. The products of SCITEC NUTRITION® have been on the market in many countries for over 15 years, and this was only feasible, because of the company’s honest business mentality, the good price value of its products, and mainly because of the satisfaction of its customers!


Children, younger athletes can also safely use supplements, they just need to choose the right brands and products. These are products with ingredients of protein, carbohydrates, amino acids, vitamins and minerals. In addition to these, I would like to mention the products that help maintain joint health. What is important is that the dosages of products should be adjusted according to the individual’s bodyweight and the extent of physical loading. In most cases, the younger the sportsman, the less he or she needs to take.

Dear parents!

It is your responsibility to assist your children in reaching their goal by helping them find the suitable training methods and volumes, the appropriate nutrition and supplementation plan, so they will not be drawn to use illegal drugs to achieving their goals and dreams!