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Fitness boost? A look at young athletes using supplements and why some say it's not a good idea

Posted at 6:23 PM, May 31, 2024

DE PERE (NBC26) — Younger people are at the gym and many of them are using supplements such as pre-workout, creatine and protein powders.

  • Strength and conditioning, Jason Infusino, says young athletes starting a workout routine should prioritize nutrition over supplements.
  • Study shows 45% of all people who go to the gym use some type of supplement.
  • A Two-sport De Pere sophomore shares his go-to booster and why he isn't using many supplements at this time.

(The following is a transcription of the full broadcast story)

For De Pere sophomore Arlo Kundinger, a trip to the gym is almost a daily occurrence.

"You gotta make sure to be on top of your body," Kundinger said

A quick stop at the gas station is also routine for Arlo. He says it's all for a much-needed boost in energy.

"I'm not a huge pre-workout guy, my mom doesn't love it. So I get it right with 200mg of caffeine in a Celsius and that makes me perfectly happy," Kundinger said.

Arlo isn't alone in this routine. According to the National Institute of Health, about 45% of people who go to the gym use some kind of fitness supplement.

Something to enhance fitness performance and growth.

Pre-workout products, creatine and protein supplements are most common.

Titletown Sports Medicine & Orthopedics strength and conditioning coach, Jason Infusino, says beware.

"Far too many athletes and parents are looking at it like it's the answer to maybe why they're not getting gains or why they're not improving and it's definitely not the answer," Infusino said.

Coach Infusino then breaks down each supplement.

For Pre-workout:

"Pre-workout is generally going to be some type of stimulant, mostly just loaded up with caffeine, that's going to get your heart pumping and your energy levels way up," Infusino said.

For Creatine:

"Creatine is a naturally occurring substance in your body. You produce it so your muscles produce force. Over time it gives your muscles the ability to produce force a little more effectively or for a longer period of time, in theory, making your training a little bit more effective," Infusino said.

For protein powder:

"Protein powder is very standard. Supplementation is there to help you with gains a little quicker, so adding more of what you're not able to get in through food. It's just there to help build muscle," Infusino said.

Supplements to help produce results and even getting in the hands of some of the youngest people at the gym.

Coach Infusino says social media plays a large role in influencing supplementation in young athletes.

He lists questions for youth and teens before exploring workout substances:

  • Is your general nutrition dialed in?
  • Do you know what you're eating?
  • Do you know what a protein is?
  • Do you know what a carbohydrate is?
  • Do you know fat?
  • Do you know how much you should be having of each?

Overall, coach Infusino says he doesn't suggest supplements, or energy drinks, to young athletes. Instead he encourages them to focus on proper dieting and checking in with a nutritionist.
For Arlo, he says he's been focusing on fitness since the sixth grade.

He says prefers to focus on protein-filled meals and only has energy drinks whenever he feels the need for an extra boost.

"I'm more pro-foods," Kundinger said.

After his workout, Arlo made his way to baseball practice. He plays baseball and football for De Pere high school, which gives him even more reason to be in top shape.

"I want to be faster, I want to be stronger, I want to (have) less injuries," Kundinger said. "I still want to get more results than I have right now, but that's why I'm there, to get more results.

Coach Infusino says getting enough sleep will help, but is one of the biggest challenges he sees in many young athletes.

He says getting enough sleep and prioritizing recovery days for your body is also vital for performance and muscle growth.