Skipping meals and taking protein powder are part of the daily workout routine for senior varsity wrestler Azamat Israilov. Israilov is one of many athletes around school that rely on protein supplements to help them grow muscle faster than they would by simply eating more protein and working out. Various supplements include, dietary pills, protein powder, protein bars and protein shakes. “I don’t think they help much but it replaces the protein I would have gotten from a meal,” Israilov said. “As an alternative, I eat actual food packed with protein.”
Student-athletes more prone to using this form of gaining protein are wrestlers, football players and basketball players due to the physicality that each sport requires.
Each of these sports require a tremendous amount of rigorous physical and mental activity. Intense hours of conditioning and high-pressure drills during practice make it necessary for athletes to have necessary muscle strength.
Senior varsity football receiver Justin Foster describes his usage of protein supplements to gain a competitive edge. “I use protein supplements to help my body gain muscle quicker than usual,” Foster said. “Using it can help you with your performance by making you stronger.”
With wrestling and football revolving around physical contact, it doesn’t come to much of a shock that those who play basketball, requiring less contact, do not rely as much on supplements to get fit. Senior varsity basketball captain Dini Mohamud doesn’t require as much of a “boost” during the season, but rather in the offseason to stay in shape. “I use protein supplements to stay in shape and help gain muscle mass. Gaining muscle mass helps me when I’m trying to back someone down in the post,” Mohamud said.
Consuming protein supplements also leads to adverse health problems. According to Paz Etcheverry of the Kaplan University School of Health Sciences, taking excessive amounts of protein causes a ketone bodies to accumulate in the body.
This leads to a condition called ketoacidosis when pH levels in the body become acidic. People experience dehydration which leads to fatigue and bad breath as the kidneys try to rid the body of excess ketones.
When consuming protein or performance supplements, it is important to not form a habit of taking banned substances in order to prepare oneself for competition. According to FCPS Athletics Department, the use or consumption of products containing the plant Ephedra is prohibited during school hours and activities.
In addition, coaches are not encouraged to endorse the use of any nutritional supplement to their teams due to their lack of regulation by the Food and Drug Administration. The list includes items containing caffeine, creatine and androstenedione, as well as the consumption of protein and amino acid powders.
Taking banned performance drugs carries severe consequences.
The Virginia High School League states that a school which fails to take appropriate action against participants or personnel who possess or use alcoholic beverages, controlled substances or illegal drugs at the site of a VHSL sponsored activity is subject to the discipline of the League.
To prevent substance abuse stemming from the otherwise acceptable use of protein supplements, athletic staff should insure adequate physical examination and conditioning of all athletes, stressing proper diet, adequate rest and physical conditioning.
Athletes also have other ways of staying gaining muscle and staying fit besides relying on protein supplements.
“Protein bars help as well as drinking a lot of fluids,” Mohamud said. Some healthier alternatives are simply eating right, some foods that are packed with protein are eggs, bananas and lean meat.”
Whether student-athletes use protein supplements in the form of shakes or powders, more times than not it is to gain a competitive edge, speed up muscle gains and increase overall performance.
“You’ll be surprised by what you can do when your body is fit,” Foster said. “You can do everything better than your opponent because the supplements make you stronger and faster.”