Busting the Protein Shake Myths..for kids!

When I was growing up, protein shakes weren’t really a ‘thing’. Not so these days! Our kids are exposed to them a lot more. It might be a parent or sibling are regular shake consumers, or possibly members of their peer group. Kids can feel under huge pressure to fit in, to belong, and one way to do that is to ‘look the part’. Drink a protein shake and your muscles will grow, right? Well….no. That’s not quite how it works. We as adults know that but you can see how easily children might get won over by the mighty powers of a protein shake!

So, should children ever have protein shakes?

To answer this, let’s first discuss what protein shakes actually do. Protein shakes are a supplement. A supplement is something you take to, well, supplement your diet, the same as you would take a multivitamin. They contain an amount of protein yes but, depending on the brand, can also contain other additives you don’t need. That’s how they achieve the taste of banoffee pie, or strawberry shortcake. They also have calories. So protein shakes add protein to your diet, and, if you don’t go for an optimal brand, they also add rubbish to your diet. That’s it.

Why are kids wanting them?

Thanks to social media, there is a common held belief that, by drinking protein shakes, you will get bigger and stronger. Perfect for becoming an alpha male. It’s no wonder this is the perception when kids are exposed to marketing materials showing muscular individuals advertising such products. They may also be influenced by the people (athletes/friends/family) they most admire who use protein shakes. Whatever the reason, the belief is there.

Can a protein shake ever work for kids?

I can’t sit here and give a categorical “no” to that question. There will be children (teens) who will take shakes and also get stronger and bigger. However this is not a linear equation. Drinking shakes does not lead to muscular growth by itself. Training is very important, both in terms of the type and frequency of it. Other influencing factors include their nutrition, their environment (sleep, stress, movement outside training) and their genetics. Otherwise a protein shake is just a vessel of calories, most of which is coming from protein.

This is where education is required and it isn’t rocket science! What most children need is:

  • a good, balanced, nutritious diet.
  • a protein source at each meal (ideally)
  • to exercise… properly (see my “building blocks” blog for more details).

So as parents, carers, coaches etc, let’s help our kids make the right choices. Remember that protein shakes are a supplement, something to be added to a deficient diet. Let’s focus on the quality of their actual diet first. Also, protein shakes will not directly lead to ‘getting bigger’, even if Tommy the Body Builder from next door says so. Without proper advice, protein shakes will simply add unnecessary calories.

For any more information or advice on kids’ health, nutrition and training, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Coach Anne-Lise