Is Protein Powder Safe For Kids & Teens? Find Out.


Inside: If your teen is asking for protein powder–otherwise you’re questioning whether or not it might assist your choosy eater–listed here are the info you need to know.

A scoop of chocolate protein powder sits next to a tub of protein powder
Find out if protein powder is okay on your child or teenager

Quick Takes

  • Protein powder is usually secure for teenagers and teenagers–with a couple of essential cautions.
  • Protein powder is a handy supply of protein, however there are many different methods to get protein. 
  • Your child might be getting sufficient protein, however there are some teams who is probably not.
  • More protein doesn’t equal greater muscle groups.

When my teenager introduced residence a large tub of protein powder and parked it on the kitchen counter, I felt a bit uneasy.

As a mother, I knew it was regular, particularly for a teen boy with a newfound curiosity in lifting weights.

But I’m additionally a registered dietitian with a “food first” mindset. So I wasn’t loopy a couple of powder with an extended listing of components.

If you’re feeling iffy about protein powder–or on the flipside, questioning if it may be precisely what your child wants–I dug in to the info and went to sports activities vitamin specialists for solutions to your greatest questions.

What is protein powder?

Protein powder is created from protein from dairy (whey or casein), egg, or vegetation equivalent to soy, pea, and even hemp. The protein might be in a couple of totally different kinds, equivalent to “protein isolate”, “protein concentrate”, or “protein hydrolysates”; these are variations of how a lot processing the protein has undergone.

Milk, egg, and soy proteins are all “complete” proteins, which means they’ve all of the important amino acids we have to get from meals. Plant proteins like brown rice and hemp are typically mixed collectively in a powder to type a extra full protein.

Whey protein is likely one of the most typical ones you’ll see. It’s shortly absorbed and utilized by the physique.

Protein powder might be combined with water or milk (dairy or non-dairy) to make a protein drink or added into recipes to spice up the protein.

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Protein powder and protein shake
Protein powder might be combined with water or milk (dairy or non-dairy)

For years, protein powder was principally utilized by bodybuilders. But at the moment, protein dietary supplements (like powders) are a part of a billion-dollar business–and rising.  According to current analysis, about 55 % of adolescent boys and 33 % of women reported utilizing protein powders and shakes. In one other research, about half of teenage athletes who reported utilizing protein dietary supplements stated coaches have been those who advisable it.

How is protein powder useful?

Protein powder is a fast method to make a high-protein drink or to spice up protein in issues like smoothies and pancakes. a scoop of protein powder can comprise anyplace from 10-30 grams of protein.

For reference, right here’s how a lot protein (at minimal) youngsters ought to get per day:

  • Ages 9-13: 34 grams
  • Ages 14-18: 46 grams (women), 52 grams (boys)

And right here’s how a lot they’re sometimes getting each day, based on authorities surveys:

  • Ages 6-11: 61 grams (women), 69 grams (boys)
  • Ages 12-19: 62 grams (women), 86 grams (boys)

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It’s clearly not arduous to satisfy these minimal protein necessities. Protein is present in a lot of meals (past meat).

But some youngsters is probably not getting sufficient protein and would possibly profit from a powder. Your little one’s pediatrician (or, ideally, a pediatric dietitian) can hep you establish this. These teams embrace:

  • Extremely choosy eaters who eat only a few meals
  • Kids and teenagers who’re underweight
  • Kids and teenagers who comply with a vegetarian or vegan weight-reduction plan and aren’t assembly their protein wants by way of plant-based sources (ie: they aren’t together with meals like beans, lentils, soy, and so forth.)
  • Teens (particularly women) who aren’t assembly protein wants as a consequence of a low-calorie weight-reduction plan
  • Athletes who’ve excessive calorie and nutrient wants and wish one thing straightforward to complement their meals consumption
A tub of Premier Protein protein powder
Whey protein powder is a standard and fashionable type

Do younger athletes want extra protein?

All youngsters and teenagers want protein for the massive quantity of progress and alter they’re experiencing, as a result of protein is used for lots of issues within the physique, like making hormones and enzymes, constructing muscle tissue and pores and skin, and supporting the immune system.  

Teen athletes want much more protein for rebuilding muscle groups that have been broken throughout train (a traditional a part of the method), supplying vitality for exercises, and constructing new muscle.

But–and that is essential!–further protein doesn’t add further muscle. Protein alone doesn’t improve muscle mass. Muscle progress is brought on by commonly working the muscle groups from weight coaching and different strength-based train.

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Is protein powder secure for teenagers and children?

Yes–generally, protein powder is usually secure for teenagers and teenagers. But there are some essential cautions to remember: 

  1. Protein powders are sometimes highly-processed and may comprise components like synthetic sweeteners and thickeners (learn my recommendation on highly-processed meals). 
  2. 2018 report discovered heavy metals like arsenic and lead in lots of main protein powders, together with plant-based and natural powders. Other exams finished in 2010 by Consumer Reports had comparable findings.
  3. Some protein powders comprise little or no carbohydrate, which is a vital nutrient for teenagers and teenagers. If teenagers mix it with water to make a drink, they’re not getting sufficient carbohydrate to refuel after exercises.
  4. Children with peanut allergic reactions could also be allergic to pea protein, an ingredient in some plant-based protein powders.
  5. Protein powder is taken into account a dietary complement, identical to multivitamins and natural dietary supplements. That means they aren’t regulated in the identical means that meals and medicines are. According to the FDA, they don’t should be confirmed secure earlier than they’re marketed. They additionally don’t should show they comprise what they declare.  
A label of Publix protein powder showing the ingredient list and supplement facts
Protein powders could comprise a number of types of protein, equivalent to isolates and concentrates.

Is protein powder wholesome for teenagers?

It’s a high-quality supply of fast protein, a nutrient that’s essential for teenagers. But it shouldn’t be relied on as a principal supply of protein.

“Protein powders should not be used to replace the benefits of eating high quality, whole-food sources of protein on a very regular basis,” says Jenna Braddock, MSH, RDN CSSD, CPT, a sports activities dietitian in St. Augustine Florida who owns for girls’s wellness and, a web site for teen athletes and their mother and father. “It should be a supplement to a proper eating rhythm that includes as wide a variety of foods as possible.”

As dietitians, we inform people who it’s greatest to get vitamins from meals when attainable versus a complement. That’s as a result of it’s the interplay of ALL the parts of a meals that work collectively for well being advantages, not one remoted nutrient like protein.

For instance, edamame incorporates protein but in addition fiber, iron, and B nutritional vitamins. Yogurt incorporates protein, but in addition calcium and potassium. Those vitamins all work collectively to assist well being.

Is it attainable to get an excessive amount of protein?

Yes, particularly if somebody is commonly utilizing protein powder, protein bars, and consuming a lot of protein of their weight-reduction plan.

There are potential dangers to extra protein consumption. Regularly getting an excessive amount of protein might be dehydrating, as a result of as protein breaks down, the physique excretes one of many waste merchandise in urine. Extra protein the physique doesn’t want may also be saved as fats, which might result in weight acquire over time.

What’s the perfect time to make use of protein powder?

In basic, it’s greatest to unfold out protein consumption all through the day versus taking in huge quantities in a single meal. 

For athletes doing weight lifting and different energy coaching, having some protein pre-workout is useful to provide muscle groups with amino acids and should assist cut back muscle harm that occurs throughout train, based on Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook.

Protein can be wanted AFTER train to restore and rebuild muscle groups which have been taxed throughout a exercise–ideally a protein-carb combo within the first 30-45 minutes after a exercise.

How a lot protein do teenagers want after train? According to Clark’s ebook, right here’s a calculation for the quantity of protein that optimizes muscle constructing: 0.12-0.15 grams of protein per pound of physique weight inside the first two hours after weight coaching.

For that 130-pound teenager, it’s about 16-20 grams of protein. Most protein powder is nicely above that. Or teenagers can get that with two eggs and a bit of toast or a cup of Greek yogurt with berries. There’s some proof the physique can’t use greater than about 25 grams of protein at one time to construct muscle.

A Supplement Facts label on a tub of protein powder
One scoop of this protein powder incorporates 30 grams of protein

What’s the perfect protein powder for teenagers?

There’s not one single protein powder that’s greatest for teenagers and teenagers. But listed here are some pointers on selecting one.

How to select a protein powder:

  • Skip pointless components. Some could comprise components your child doesn’t want, equivalent to caffeine that might maintain them up at night time, notes sports activities nutritionist Marie Spano, MS MS, RD, CSCS, CSSD, ISAK-2, who additionally suggests avoiding any with added dietary supplements and really excessive doses of nutritional vitamins and minerals. Your child probably doesn’t want them–and in some instances, these complement quantities may be an excessive amount of.
  • Consider a protein-only powder.  Some powders comprise only one ingredient: protein (equivalent to whey, soy, or a mixture of plant proteins like pea). “Adding extra vitamins, minerals or ergogenic aids to protein powders runs the risk of getting more than what is needed or even worse, containing a harmful substance,” says Braddock. “In some cases, you don’t know for sure how much of these extra ingredients are actually in the product or if they are a quality addition.”
  • Look for third-party testing, equivalent to “NSF Certified Sport” or “Informed Choice” on the label. That means, you’ll understand it incorporates what it claims–and that it’s been examined for banned substances, says Spano.
  • Check for sweeteners: If it’s simply added it to water, you’ll need a flavored powder. But needless to say most are sweetened with zero-calorie sweeteners like stevia and should have an aftertaste. If you go for a plain powder, you’ll keep away from added sweeteners (each common and synthetic) and further energy, however you’ll want to incorporate different components within the drink for taste.
  • Consider allergic reactions, intolerances, and dietary restrictions. Milk-based powder (whey and casein) could or could not hassle individuals with lactose intolerance. Some individuals with peanut allergic reactions can even react to pea protein. Vegans will need to keep away from whey, casein, and egg-based powders.
  • Here are some particular suggestions from registered dietitians:
An array of protein-rich snacks sits on a wood table
All of those snacks are wealthy in protein

What can you employ as a substitute?

Protein powder is handy, nevertheless it’s not vital for getting sufficient protein. There are loads of entire meals sources of protein you need to use to make a high-protein drink or shake.

Here are some components to think about using in a shake and the quantity of protein they comprise:

  • Chobani vanilla Greek yogurt: 14 grams per 3/4 cup
  • Fairlife ultra-filtered milk: 13 grams per cup
  • Dairy milk and soy milk: 8 grams per cup
  • Peanut butter: 8 grams per 2 tablespoons
  • Non-fat dry milk powder: 6 grams per 2 tablespoons
  • PB2 peanut powder: 6 grams per 2 tablespoons

For occasion, a shake utilizing a cup of Fairlife milk, 1/2 cup Greek yogurt, 2 tablespoons peanut butter, and a banana incorporates nearly 30 grams of protein, a standard quantity in a serving of protein powder.

What meals comprise protein?

Even grains like pasta and greens like peas comprise protein (right here’s an enormous listing of Protein Snacks for Kids) however some significantly wealthy sources of protein are:

  • Meat, poultry, and fish
  • Dairy merchandise like milk, yogurt, and cheese
  • Soy meals like tofu and edamame
  • Beans and lentils
A plate of Chocolate Protein Waffles sits on a wood table with a glass of milk in the background.
Two of those Chocolate Protein Waffles have 16 grams of protein

Protein-rich recipes

Here are some protein-rich recipes your youngsters and teenagers would possibly like:

What ought to I inform my teen?

  • More protein gained’t make your muscle groups greater
  • You are most likely getting sufficient protein
  • Protein shakes are high-quality, however there are cheaper methods to get protein too
  • You want greater than protein to remain wholesome and powerful, and you continue to must eat a balanced weight-reduction plan to get the vitamins you want
  • Lots of people on social media are giving dangerous recommendation about protein and sports activities vitamin! Follow respected, skilled professionals like sports activities dietitians equivalent to Marie Spano, who’s nice at debunking misinformation, and Jenna Braddock at Off-Season Athlete, who gives recommendation on subjects like creatine, pre-practice snacks, and gaining weight.

More recommendation on feeding teenagers


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