The Dangers of Steroids and Supplements for Teen Athletes

There are many options available to teen athletes who want to increase their performance, run faster, be stronger, look slimmer, and in general be more energized. In fact, it’s not only that teens want to experience this in their sports but also they’re feeling the pressures to do so from the media, the Internet, friends, competitors, coaches, and parents.

Teen Steroid Abuse

The pressure can easily lead to addictions, as was the case with a local teen in Los Angeles. At first, he simply wanted to feel better about himself and he thought exercise would do it. As he began to see his weight drop and his performance improved, he now has a regular schedule of lifting weights and taking supplements. Although he has stayed away from steroids, he admits to having a compulsive relationship to working out and performing well.

According to the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine approximately 24 to 29 percent of athletes in middle and high school use supplements to increase their sports performances. These supplements, however, do not yet have evidence for their effectiveness. Many supplements advertise their benefits, but it’s important to know that their effectiveness and safety do not have to be confirmed before they become available for sale.

Supplements

 

Beta-Alanine

is supposed to improve high-intensity exercise performance. However, evidence is not sufficient to prove this.

Branched-Chain Amino Acids

are intended to delay fatigue and boost the immune system. According to research, this supplement can provide fuel for endurance but it has not been shown to delay fatigue. Research is still underway to determine whether it boosts the immune system.

Caffeine

claims to help burn fat, protect carbohydrate stores, and make you feel energized. It is true that caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant and can increase alertness, however, it does not appear to have the ability to burn fat during exercise. In fact, the National Collegiate Athletic Association has banned caffeine if too high an amount is found in an athlete’s urine sample.

Carnitine

is supposed to help an athlete burn fat. However, it does not increase fat burning when used as a supplement.

Chromium Picolinate

is a mineral found in foods that is supposed to aid in weight loss and body composition changes. There is currently insufficient support for these claims and it might cause damage.

Creatine

reports to be able to increase lean body mass, strength, and performance. Research indicates positive results and that the claims of this supplement are true for those who respond to it well. However, there are some athletes who do not experience a result from taking it. It appears to be a safe supplement for athletes.

Medium-Chain Triglycerides (MCT)

claims to increase endurance and promote fat burning. However, research indicates that it does not enhance endurance and it is not recommended.

Pyruvate

also claims to increase endurance and promote fat burning. However, research indicates that it does not enhance endurance and there is insufficient evidence for weight loss.

Despite the false claims of these supplements, they are at least the legal options that young teen athletes have. The illegal option is the use of steroids, which is a felony when taking it without a prescription.

Steroids

can either be taken orally or injected directly into muscles. Others can be applied to the skin as a cream or gel. When abusing the drug, teens might take doses that are 10 to 100 times greater than medically prescribed doses. When taking the drug, the effects can be severe, particularly on the developing bodies of adolescents. Adverse effects of steroid use include fertility problems, impotence, high blood pressure and cholesterol, and heart and liver abnormalities.  Male teens might experience their testes shrink and growth in breast tissue, while female adolescents might experience irregular menstrual cycles and the growth of facial and body hair. Both genders could experience acne, mood swings, and aggression. Teen steroid abuse treatment is treated equally to any other substance abuse issues.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, five to twelve percent of male high school students and one percent of female high school students have used the steroids before their senior year.

Conclusion

Sadly, the pressures to perform and to look good keep teens hooked on supplements that might not be healthy and that have not been proven to be effective. The same is true with steroids. The mental health community is raising its voice about teen steroid abuse and attempting to educate teen athletes on nutrition and better options for improving performance and staying healthy.

References:

Supplements and Ergogenic Aids for Athletes. June 2013. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Retrieved on March 25, 2014 from http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=7088

Osterman, J. (October 29, 2013). Steroids and supplement series: The shifting norm in high school athletics. Northfield News. Retrieved on March 25, 2014 from http://www.southernminn.com/northfield_news/news/article_6ebdaa04-32e5-5063-904e-c12a8e8ffe92.html

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