The American Medical Society for Sports Medicine reports that the use of performance-enhancing supplements by middle and high school athletes is estimated to be between 24 and 29 percent. Looking closer, multiple studies examining the prevalence of creatine use in high school athletes found that five to 20 percent of all high school athletes use the supplement.
Similar studies in the use of caffeine stimulants revealed one in four adolescent athletes reported using caffeine for performance enhancement.
The athletes of Carmel High School are not immune to these trends.
One CHS senior describes his experience taking Super DMZ 2.0., a prohormone which was banned in 2014 under President Obama’s Designer Anabolic Steroid Control Act. During the cycle of the prohormone, the senior athlete took three pills a day, every day for 30 days, and worked out double weights, lifting in the mornings and running in the afternoons.
“You can’t take the pills and just sit around,” the senior athlete notes. “You have to lift every day.”
After two weeks, he really began to notice results.
“At the end of the cycle I gained 15 pounds of muscle and the amount of weight I could lift increased significantly. I took everything I was supposed to take so it wouldn’t harm my body, but I was aware of the side-effects that could happen.”
While the use of a prohormone like DMZ might produce serious muscular gains, many believe that the risks outweigh the benefits.
CHS health teacher Matt Borek, who formerly worked as an athletic trainer for the San Francisco Giants, explains that by adding extra hormones to the body, prohormones cause the body to try and eliminate the excess of hormones, thus inhibiting the excretory functions of the kidney and liver.
According to “Myprotein US,” supplements including pre-workout supplement, generic whey protein powder, creatine supplement or prohormone supplement provide athletes with a variety of different benefits.
Pre-workout supplement increases an athlete’s stamina and focus. Whey protein powder provides proteins and amino acids that serve as the foundation for increased muscle growth. Creatine—and prohormones to a much larger extent—promote muscular volumization and helps an athlete’s body work longer and recover quicker.
Senior Coby Forrester, a lacrosse player who works out at least three to four times a week, uses pre-workout on most lifting days, then takes a mixed shake of creatine and whey protein powder following his workout. Forrester found that regular whey protein and pre-workout supplements were not great for instant gratification, but creatine produced noticeable weight gains during the first weeks of use.
“Though I was going into using supplements a little skeptical, as I used them I was getting stronger, doing more weight and looking better,” Forrester notes.
While some athletes live by their supplements, CHS athletic director, head varsity football coach and former collegiate athlete Golden Anderson believes that most over-the-counter supplements are overrated and unnecessary.
“The testosterone a high schooler creates is sufficient,” the former University of Redlands quarterback remarks. “[Supplements] are only a short term fix. It will help you gain some weight, but it’s not the best quality weight and as soon as you usually stop taking those supplements, you lose that weight right away.”
To Anderson, an athlete can accomplish the same muscular gains more efficiently through a better diet, by just balancing fruits, vegetables, carbohydrates and proteins.
However, not all athletes use supplements with the same degree of frequency.
“I take whey protein as a substitute for meals if I don’t have lunch prepared, more so than taking it after every workout,” says junior John Kostas, a lacrosse and football player who works out five to seven times per week. Kostas uses the same strategy for taking pre-workout, mainly using it after a hard day of football or lacrosse practice to give him a boost of energy to workout afterwards.
Despite the fact that supplements like creatine and pre-workout might accelerate an athlete’s physical progress, Borek suggests that one must first consider the effects these products can have on the body.
“Those pre-workout, high-caffeine supplements provide four or eight times the amount of caffeine you should have a day all at once,” explains Borek, the CHS Health teacher. “Similarly, the gains that people see from creatine come from the fact that creatine causes water to be held in the cells, thus bloating the muscles.”
A major concern of Borek’s regarding supplements is their largely unregulated nature.
“Supplements are not regulated by the FDA, so it’s hard to know what companies are putting in the products,” Borek remarks.
The Health teacher’s concerns are supported by a recent study conducted by Informed Choice Labs, which randomly selected 58 protein powders off the shelves of well-known supplement stores and found that 25 percent of those powders contained anabolic steroids.
While a protein shake here or there won’t hurt anybody, Borek feels that supplement use in athletes is more mental than scientific.
At the end of the day, many athletes find that it is far easier to drink a shake than make a meal or alter a diet, and if results continue to come, don’t expect the $37 billion supplement industry to go anywhere.