The usage of sports nutrition for young athletes (we are talking about children 14-18 years old mostly) is crucial for their growth and development during sports training years. Yet, it is strongly recommended to consume only best supplements for high school athletes that aid in building systems, than those that help to sustain intensive work. At this age, additional meal supplements for college athletes should focus on building the body, rather than achieving quick results.
Similar to team soccer training, the emphasis should be on individual player development, which will eventually lead to an increase in team level and affect long-term results. Nutrition for teenage athletes that focuses on "building" will lead to better sports outcomes. Performance enhancing supplements that stimulate body systems lead to greater performance and a higher return on what is already there, but sports supplements that help to build new muscles, cells, bones increase opportunities of the athlete as a the body grows naturally.
The first group includes pre-training complexes, various pharmacy preparations that stimulate the immune and endocrine system, energy supplements with stimulants like caffeine and ephedrine, creatine, fat burners that increase temperature, testosterone boosters, and tonic components of plant origin. It's important to note that anabolic steroids aren't included in this group as they're harmful and unnecessary for children as they already produce enough hormones naturally (they also lead to the anti-doping rule violations as they are considered to be a doping per the legal regulation). These supplements and drugs should only be taken under a doctor's recommendation in urgent situations.
Some supplements in this group may be useless for children, and their time of use may come later during the end of their growth period. Stimulant supplements aren't justified in regular training and matches, especially for those under the age of 15-16 as matches and competitions are still for training purposes, not winning at all costs. The regular use of stimulating supplements and drugs can cause failures in the body's work, and it's important to prioritize skill development rather than just results from sports training.
As you already dig it, it is the second group of supplements for athletes we are interested in and recommend to include in the youth athletes diet plans. Let’s review it in detail.
Using macronutrients and micronutrients is recommended and effective for the growth, development and recovery of a young athlete’s body during sports activities. Here is an example of the best vitamins for youth athletes and supplements that deliver good results and is usually recommended to use regularly and periodically. It is important to note that this can be modified to meet the athlete’s specific needs. Key four supplements: protein, Omega-3, calcium with vitamin D, and collagen with vitamin C. In addition, sports nutritionists periodically recommend add other vitamins for young athletes such as vitamin B complex and electrolytes.
Protein is essential for sports activities. Children require 2.5 g/kg of protein, which can be challenging to achieve through diet alone. Concentrated and fast-absorbing protein supplements are helpful in meeting the protein needs of a growing body without overloading the digestive system. These are by far the best supplements and vitamins for collegiant athletes during the formative years (14-18/19 y.o.).
To calculate the required protein intake: (1) multiply the child's weight by 2.5 grams. (2) estimate the amount of protein that will come from regular food over several days to find the average. It is unnecessary to plan and calculate to the nearest gram. Simply determine the overall level of protein intake. Note that if there are days when regular food is not consumed, the amount of protein from supplements will be higher than usual. Finally, (3) subtract the protein from regular food from the daily protein requirement to find the necessary amount of protein from supplements.
Let’s imagine we have an average 15 y.o. semi-pro level player, Steve, who has a weight of 58 kg. To calculate his protein intake, we multiply his weight by 2.5, resulting in 145 grams of protein. With his regular food, he is already getting 110-120 grams, leaving a remaining 25g of protein needed. Ideally, protein intake should be in the morning due to the peak of hormones involved in bodybuilding immediately after waking up. However, this is not a strict rule. If a second intake is needed, it can be taken during the day or closer to bedtime. Protein can be mixed with either milk or water, with the former option being tastier and more beneficial, while the latter is absorbed faster. Additionally, protein can be added to smoothies.
Based on the fact that for a 75-kilogram man the recommended portion of intake is 30 grams of product, you can adjust the portion of one intake for a particular child. Usually, a serving of 15-20 grams would be an appropriate guideline for most. Protein is a better source of essential and indispensable amino acids for children than food due to its transparent origin and higher usefulness. Protein comes in different flavors, and most are based on whey, although other options like various meats, eggs, soy, peas, and rice are available.
There are three basic forms of whey protein: concentrate (70-80% protein), isolate (>90%), and hydrolysate (>90% faster absorption). They differ in the depth of processing/cleaning, the proportion of protein in the total mass of the product, the digestion time respectively, and of course the price. For young athletes, the usual protein concentrate is sufficient, and buying isolates and hydrolysates won't provide significant additional benefits.
Protein powder is not the only option. Recently, manufacturers of sports nutrition offer various familiar products with high protein content such as pasta, mixes for various desserts, pancakes, etc. In addition, there are protein bars that may be more convenient for some people.
Typically, 1-1.5 grams of OMEGA-3 per day is given as a daily allowance. If the dosage is exceeded, a break in intake is required, this situation is rare. No intervals are necessary if the supplement is taken in accordance with the norms. Not only children who participate in sports have a need for this supplement, but also other children and adults, both those who participate in sports and those who do not. If there is enough fatty marine fish in the diet (2-3 times a week), you can get by without taking additional OMEGA-3, but I think that very few people meet this criterion.
In addition to the common notion of calcium as the material for building the skeleton (which is true!), calcium is involved in muscle contraction (really affects speed), in the immune system, and in enzymatic processes. During active growth, it's a must-have supplement, and playing sports only increases the need for it. The recommended daily allowance of calcium is 0.8-1 g. It makes sense to cover half of it by supplementation, assuming that we get the rest with regular food.
Collagen is the basis of connective tissues, in the case of sports it is the joints and ligaments. The constant changes of direction that are involved in many sports strain the ligaments. It is ligament injuries are some of the most common in soccer. Strengthening is necessary and the work that children do in training creates the conditions for strengthening, and this supplement provides a resource for that process.
Using collagen in combination with vitamin C (or even better, with flavonoids) increases absorption and effectively stimulates the body to synthesize its own collagen. We use collagen in the form of regular gelatin (gelatin is derived from collagen), did a separate material and video about jelly for joints. But, of course, there is also the option of a sports supplement, where collagen goes in conjunction with vitamin C. Interestingly, the construction of what can be called the "core" of the ligaments is limited in time by the period of formation of the body. The "moving" part can be strengthened later, but the central part can be formed only by doing it from childhood.
Importantly, this is essentially the only joint and ligament strengthening supplement available to children. In fact, glucosamine and chondroitin supplements serve the same purpose, but their use before the age of 14 is not allowed without a doctor's recommendation. In addition, these supplements are not effective for everyone, they are more "narrow" and address specific joint problems, not their overall strengthening. Basically, Vitamin C is one of the fundamental vitamins for college athletes whose sports implies frequent active movement.
Supplements taken intermittently include vitamin and/or mini-vitamin complexes that commonly contain a variety of vitamins and trace elements. Although named as "Daily," they are not taken regularly due to a diverse diet consisting of fresh fruits and vegetables, and the intake of other supplements that already provide vitamins D and C. However, during certain seasons (such as winter) or short breaks in the intake of basic supplements, this complex is sometimes used.
For those who have not taken supplements before or cannot use the aforementioned ones, this may be a suitable set of daily vitamins to start with. When selecting a complex, it is important to pay attention to the dosage as some manufacturers offer doses exceeding 300-500% of the daily norm, which is unnecessary. Rates close to 100% are sufficient, and it is even better if the daily portion is divided into two tablets/capsules. This not only allows for easier volume adjustment but also provides a more even intake of vitamins by dividing the intake into two parts, one in the morning and the other in the afternoon/evening.
A complex of vitamins that normalizes the function of the nervous and cardiovascular systems, promotes cell growth and tolerance of stress. They are appropriate for periods of intensive training, as well as during the season when the receipt of vitamins of this group with normal food is reduced (in winter and early spring). For example, during the preparation for the first and, moreover, the second part of the season (just winter), in soccer camp, in short-term competitions, where games are played every day.
These are ionic solutions (salts) that exist in nature as minerals. Electrolytes have the important function of hydrating the body to maintain muscle and nerve function. Since the human body is mostly made up of water, it is important to get enough of these minerals.
The situation when they are needed is clear: severe fluid loss in a short period of time. Usually it is an intense workout in the summertime. Electrolytes are available in the form of tablets and in the form of isotonic drinks (there, of course, not only salts), when the salts are dissolved in water.
An important point: salt balance has a great effect on endurance, but it is bad when it is disturbed in both directions - that is, both deficiency and excess situations. You should not abuse the supplement by exceeding the daily norms. In the case of tasty isotonic drinks, you can get carried away.
This is a basic set of performance enhancing supplements that can be modified according to the needs, desires, or limitations of a particular young athlete.
Based on our experience of working with different PRO and semi-pro athletes, including on the anti-doping cases, shows that it is a MUST to buy supplements for athletes only from trusted brands and manufacturers with tons of positive reviews and outstanding reputation. We see more and more cases of contaminated supplements on the market.
So as to ensure the quality of the manufacturer, go to the Informed Sport website and check them out. Manufacturers have the option to have their products tested independently for illegal or prohibited substances. This is especially important due to the potential for supplements to become contaminated during the manufacturing process. Studies  have shown that as many as 1 in 10 supplements contain banned ingredients that are often not listed on the label. This information is crucial not only for athletes who undergo drug testing but also for anyone who takes supplements. When considering the purchase of any supplement, such as protein powders or multivitamins, it is imperative to verify that they have been independently tested.
The recent study confirmed  (see Figure 1 below) that the prevalence of sports supplement intake was found to be 82.2%, with protein supplements being the most commonly used (54.5%). Athletes reported coaches as the primary source of information regarding supplements (41.4%). The main motivation for supplement use was to enhance athletic performance (35.4%). Although most athletes were aware of associated health risks (72.1%), the level of knowledge about proper and intended use of specific supplements varied among young athletes.
Additionally, less than 40% of athletes had adequate knowledge about protein, creatine, amino acids, beta alanine, and glutamine, while they had a better understanding of vitamins and minerals, sports drinks, and caffeine. Developed countries provided greater access to professional resources such as dieticians. Young athletes were found to be unfamiliar with WADA regulations (55.5%). The misuse of sports supplements represented an ethical dilemma for some.
The age at which the usage of performance enhancing supplements is necessary is determined by when the need for them arises, which is typically when one starts adjusting to serious and regular sports training routines. The amount and frequency of the supplements may differ and can remain consistent until about 14-15 years of age. From this point onward, the supplements may need to be adjusted in accordance with increased physical activity and the removal of restrictions. For example, after the age of 15, one may want to consider taking a gainer, chondroitin, and glucosamine to help with joints and ligaments. Creatine and individual amino acids may be appropriate for those aged 16-17, but only if used properly.
Regardless of age, it is important to understand the purpose of the supplements and its role in the overall nutrition for teenage athletes: take only if the traditional food ration does not suffice. Determining the appropriate dosage of sports supplements is crucial, but can be adjusted accordingly. Typically, the daily dosage is spread across 2-3 tablets or capsules, or servings. One can adjust their intake by adding a portion of the daily dosage to their regular diet, rather than taking the full amount. Depending on various factors like exercise and time of year, the intake can be adjusted accordingly.
Now, we hope, you can have an understanding of what supplements do athletes take. And of course, please, talk to your physio/coach and doctor before taking any supplements.
Mottram, D. R. (Ed.), Mottram, D. (Ed.), Chester, N. (Ed.). (2018). Drugs in Sport. London: Routledge
Jovanov, P., Đorđić, V., Obradović, B. et al. Prevalence, knowledge and attitudes towards using sports supplements among young athletes. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 16, 27 (2019).