Do Teenage Athletes Benefit From Protein Whey Supplementation?

From the television to the magazines – and now social media with its constant scrolling messages – teenagers already have so much pressure put on them. And when you’re an athlete, there’s even more expectation because aside from your appearance, your performance comes into question. And one touch of the iPhone can bring in so many different advertisements to how to make that performance take flight. Protein powders and supplements: Is this okay for our kids?

A controversial and a highly-debated topic, we’re diving headfirst into some why’s and why not’s when it comes to taking “helpful” supplementation at such a young age. But we have to remember the mindset and maturity level our children are at before giving them big doses or protein. Their muscles and performance won’t grow on their own – it’s not magic. And that’s why we’re exploring this question today: Do teenage athletes benefit from protein whey supplementation?

The Protein & Teen Athlete Relationship

Before you decide for or against giving your teen whey protein. Let’s talk a bit about what it actually is and what these young athletes need to maintain a healthy diet and performance relationship.

How Much Protein Do Teen Athletes Really Need?

According to EatRight.Org, teen athletes need slightly more protein than non-athletes of the same age. The range seems to be about 0.5-0.8 grams of proteins per pound of body weight (0.4-0.5 grams per pound for non-athletes). And the best sources come from milk, yogurt, eggs, cheese, ground beef, chicken breast, beans, nut butters, quinoa, and a few other common sense items that are easily picked up at the grocery store for the family.

But, we’ve got to teach our children that muscles don’t just pop out of thin air either. Even if they see hoards of ads and photos on Instagram telling them they if they start in on supplementation or a certain protein-packed diet, waking up the next day with extra-large biceps and six-pack abs won’t be a reality. Muscle building takes work along with the right amount of protein intake at its side.

Fortunately, studies show that our children are getting the recommended amount of protein and then some. So, do they really need the extra push by adding whey protein supplementation to their diets?

What Exactly is Whey Protein Supplementation?

The clearest answer comes from Medical News Today with a definition that states: Milk is made of two proteins, casein, and whey. Whey protein can be separated from the casein in milk or formed as a by-product of cheese making. Whey protein is considered a complete protein as it contains all 9 essential amino acids. It is low in lactose content.

Even when talking in the context of an adult diet, there are both benefits and risk associated with adding this supplement to one’s daily intake. Although, whey protein is not considered “dangerous” by any means, there are side effects and potential threats to consider before allowing your teen make the addition.

Benefits & Warnings: How Protein Supplementation Affects Young Athletes

Protein supplements and shakes are not regulated by the FDA and, in turn, most studies done on them involve adult participants – according to Fox News. So, it’s a gamble as to whether or not you want to run the risk of exposing your child to threats that aren’t completely debunked.


There have been a lot of studies done when it comes to whey protein and its undeniable benefits. For example, its aid in weight loss as an experiment published Nutrition & Metabolism and promising results were published in the Anticancer Research journal based on its effects in cancer treatment. But what does that have to do with our teen athlete’s performance?

A study was done for the journal Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism includes the study of 35 healthy individuals ages 18 – 35 years old. The results concluded that young adults who supplement with protein during a structured resistance training program experience minimal beneficial effects on lean tissue mass and strength.


Again, according to, adding protein supplementation to a teen athlete’s diet can be dangerous. This addition to their diet can lead to an excess of protein intake which isn’t good for the body. In fact, it can promote dehydration and be quite dangerous to the workings of the kidneys. Medical News Today had a list of disadvantages including the risk of greater amounts of acne, stomach pains, headaches, fatigue, and reduced appetite. So, again, is it worth it?

At the National Institutes of Health, it’s stated:

“A few dietary supplements might enhance performance only when they add to, but do not substitute for, this dietary foundation. Athletes engaging in endurance activities lasting more than an hour or performed in extreme environments (e.g., hot temperatures or high altitudes) might need to replace lost fluids and electrolytes and consume additional carbohydrates for energy. Even with proper nutritional preparation, the results of taking any dietary supplement(s) for exercise and athletic performance vary by level of training; the nature, intensity, and duration of the activity; and the environmental conditions.”

Overall, it seems as though there isn’t enough research to promote the use of whey protein supplementation in teen athletes, especially with the risk of the unknown.