Muscle enhancers may not be healthy for growing teen athletes

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PITTSBURGH —

There are not many sports that Wexford teen Connor Grieb doesn’t love.

“I've been involved in basketball. I've been involved with football. I've been involved in snowboarding,” Grieb said.

Grieb builds his strength the old fashioned way -- with good nutrition and lots of exercise -- but he knows some athletes try to get an extra edge by using muscle enhancers.

“To help them increase or give them an advantage out there on the basketball court or playing football so you can break the extra tackle or drive past that person,” he said.

“Younger athletes are specifically more susceptible to some of the hype and claims of some of these supplements can have,” said registered dietitian Kim Schwabenbauer.

Schwabenbauer said she worries about the many options for young athletes, especially the supplement creatine.

It is found naturally in meat and fish, but as a powder or mix, it can give athletes extra bursts of energy.

“It's hard to get on the team. It’s hard to stay on the team so these athletes are looking for any advantage they possibly can,” Schwabenbauer said.

Schwabenbauer said what concerns her most is that there have been very few studies done on how safe it is on growing bodies.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends people 18 and younger not use creatine.

According to the National Institutes of Health, when taken in high doses it could harm the kidney, liver or heart. Another possible side effect is dehydration.

“One percent loss of body weight from dehydration can have a huge impact on a young athlete,” said Schwabenbauer.”You're taking a bet and a risk by purchasing the product."

She said many schools discourage or even ban muscle enhancer supplements. She suggests student athletes stick to proper nutrition and getting enough sleep and fluids.

Grieb said that’s what keeps him on top of his game.

“It will give you a better performance, possibly, but at the same time it will negatively affect your team and why would you want to let that happen,” Grieb said.

Many studies done on adults have shown short-term use of creatine can be safe and effective.

Contact a doctor for supervision for possible side effects.