Parents and coaches should take an active role in combating the problem of supplement use among adolescents. Fair play and sound nutritional practices should be stressed in youth sports over winning-at-all-costs. Coaches need to educate their players about the harmful side effects of supplements as well as their illegal nature and the unfair advantage that may be derived from using performance-enhancing supplements. Intervention programs using peers to communicate the message have shown promise. For these programs to work, coaches must provide proper nutritional and strength training, enforce a no supplement policy, and de-emphasize scare tactics (5). For an example of an intervention that has shown progress, check out the article “Fortifying students against steroid use” from the Physician and Sportsmedicine Online (5).
It’s important for RDs to understand that supplement use is widespread among athletes of all ages and at every level. Aspiring athletes as young as those in middle school are using Adolescents often feel pressure to obtain athletic scholarships and look to ergogenic aids as a way to realize their goals. That’s problematic because RDs don’t have evidence supporting the use of nutritional ergogenic aids in young athletes. “Most of the research we have on ergogenic aids is done on the adult population over the age of 18,” Mangieri says.