Conducted by researchers from the Victoria University, the findings were recently published in BMC Pediatrics.
They found that the prevalence of protein powder use amongst Australia’s teenage boys was higher than a few years ago.
According to that study published in 2017, 42% of the adolescent athletes aged 13 to 18 had consumed whey protein powders, 29% consumed protein bars, while 29% consumed pre-mixed protein drinks.
For this particular study, the researcher recruited the subjects, aged 14 to 16, from a boy’s school.
Nearly all (99.1%) of them played sports. About one-third played two sports, another 17.7% played three sports, and 13.1% played four or more sports.
Most played Australian rules football, followed by weight training and basketball.
As part of the study, they were required to feedback on their use of muscle building supplements, the types of sports that they engage in, and basic particulars via an online questionnaire.
Nearly half (49.4%) have consumed protein powder, while 62% of those who did not consume protein powder have the intention to do so.
A smaller number, 8.4% of them have consumed creatine while 25.7% intended to do so
Another 4.2% reported the use of anabolic steroids and 10.1% intended to do so.
Key factors driving the intention and the actual consumption of these supplements included 1) participating in weight training 2) the number of sports that they played and 3) perceiving protein powder consumption as a display of muscularity.
In fact, those participating in weight training were 3.8 times more likely to consume protein powder.
However, in contrast to the researchers’ prediction, body-esteem was not a driving factor.
“Almost one in two adolescent boys aged 14–16 years reported using protein powder in this study.
“Use of protein supplements was linked to participation in weight-lifting, the number of sports that the boys were engaged, and drive for muscularity – although the sports related factors were more important in predicting intention and use than the body image or demographic factors,” the researchers concluded.
Cause for concern
The researchers have raised concerns about the findings, as some of these supplements could affect mood, growth, endocrine, and cardiovascular functioning.
Thus, the researchers suggested the need to include education about supplement use in the school curriculum.
In fact, such intervention could be implemented once boys hit 12 years old, before the attitudes towards supplement use were established, the researchers said.
Source: BMC Pediatrics
Muscle building supplement use in Australian adolescent boys: relationships with body image, weight-lifting, and sports engagement
Authors: Yager and et al