Protein supplements and adolescent athletes: A pilot study investigating the risk knowledge, motivations and prevalence of use

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Protein-based sports supplements are among the more common types of nutrition supplements consumed by athletes; however, there is currently limited data investigating the knowledge, motivations and occurrence of use among the adolescent population (13–18 years). This pilot study looks to obtain initial data regarding the use of protein supplements in this population.


This study investigates the understanding and occurrence of protein supplement use in 87 adolescent athletes based in an Australian capital city who compete in a variety of sports. Sources of information, regularity of use, purchasing habits, associated risk knowledge and supplement beliefs were examined using a self-reported, written questionnaire.


A total of 60% (n = 52) of athletes reported using protein supplements, with a positive relationship between age and use (P < 0.05); 48 participants (55%) perceived risks associated with protein supplement consumption, with the most common risk reported as ‘I don’t know’ (22%). Coaches were found to initiate protein supplement use more than other figures in the athlete's life (50%) and were the primary source of information regarding supplements (58%). It was found that 19% of adolescent athletes obtained information about protein supplements from the Internet, and 17% of all consumers purchase their supplements online.


The evident lack of knowledge regarding protein supplements demonstrates a necessity for further education of athletes, coaches and families regarding the responsible purchasing and use of protein supplements in the current landscape of sports nutrition. Future research should further explore the role of the Internet in protein supplement purchase and education.

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