Should My Son Use Muscle Drinks?

A mom recently asked me if it was ok that her teenage son was drinking commercial protein drinks everyday to help bulk up this summer.  He was drinking one, 20 ounce container every day.  They recently added them to the vending areas at the health club next to the Gatorade machine so they both figured it was a good idea.  The brand they were buying contained 45 grams of protein/bottle, 15 grams of carbohydrate along with lots of B vitamins and electrolytes.

Her son, a 5’9, 130 pound, 16-year-old is an exceptional soccer player who plays year round.  He is also a typical teenager who stays up late, sleeps through breakfast and periodically lunch as well.  His mom describes him as an absent-minded eater who must be reminded to eat regular meals.  His lunch is very light going into practice, he chugs a protein drink following soccer, and the majority of his calories are consumed between 7PM and 2AM.  Does this sound like anyone you know?

I am not an advocate of protein muscle drinks.  Here’s why.

  • These drinks provide anywhere from 80-132% of your protein needs per container based on The Recommended Dietary Allowance established by the National Academy of Sciences to meet the nutritional needs of 97-98% of an average population.
Age Males Females
9-13 Years 34 34
14-18 Years 52 46
19 Years and Older 56 46

Even if we adjust for the increased needs of an athlete by 125-190%        depending on the age of the individual, percentage of muscle mass and sport, it’s still a heavy load.  Research has repeatedly demonstrated that high protein diets dull appetite and increase the risk for dehydration as kidneys are forced to work harder to rid the body of the nitrogen byproducts created by excess protein.

  • These products are expensive! Consider that a 20 ounce glass of low-fat milk provides 20 grams of protein in an equivalent 20 ounce serving, 9 essential nutrients and costs only $0.63.  My friend’s son was paying $3.25 at the health club!
  • Any nutrient, when consumed in excess of your nutritional requirements either gets burned as energy or stored as fat.  The body does not redirect excess protein to build bigger muscles.
  • Muscle drinks, shakes and powders are a poor choice for replenishing muscles after a workout.  The optimal carbohydrate: protein ratio is 3:1 to refuel and rebuild muscles and should be consumed within 20 minutes of ending a workout.  Protein powder drinks are the exact reverse at 1 gram of carbohydrate for every 3 grams of protein.

 The bottom line:

Teenagers need their sleep, but they should not be sleeping through multiple meals and then making up for it with expensive protein powders and energy drinks that ultimately leave them dehydrated and dull their appetite.

For more info:

Categories: Sports Nutrition

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2 replies


  1. Does More Protein = Bigger Muscles? « E2dietitian's Blog
  2. The Protein Muscle Connection « E2dietitian's Blog

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