[ Q ] I am 16, I work out four days a week, and I also play hockey for my school team. I've started researching different supplements, but they all say that they're "not intended for persons under 18 years of age."
I just want to know: should I really follow this advice to not take supplements until I am 18, or would taking supplements be OK at my age? Specifically, I want to increase my strength and my fatigue recovery.
[ A ] Many people your age or younger write to me, asking whether it would be OK - safe - to ignore the "over 18" statement on supplement bottles. And, whenever I'm asked this question I can only answer: it depends.
The "over 18" warning and similar warnings that appear on product packages are required by the government, and they're designed to do two things: prevent harm, and prevent lawsuits in the event that they're ignored and harm results.
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In other words, these warnings are meant to prevent you from taking the product and avoid potential harm that could happen should you chose to take the product anyways as an under-aged person. By putting the warning on the package, the product manufacturer is insulated from any legal action arising from your injury or death.
That being said, many underage people do take supplements, and to date very few adverse incidents of injury or death have been reported, with most reported cases involving stimulants.
In my situation, I first used supplements when I was 17 - when I bought a bottle of creatine monohydrate. Looking back armed with years of industry experience, I now know that the product that I bought should not have had a slight "fishy" smell to it - it was most likely contaminated. And, this underscores a vital point: it's important to know what you're buying, what it SHOULD look, smell, taste and feel like.
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The fact is, most young people don't know; most young people are like I was - armed with inspiration and enthusiasm but not enough knowledge to make a good and safe choice. That's the first part of my answer - it depends on knowledge.
The second part of my answer is a question: are you verifiably healthy? While people are more alike than they are similar, freak accidents do occur when taking supplements due to an unforeseen reaction, most usually attributed to genetics.
It's just a fact that while many people safely take supplements before the age of 18 without adverse consequences, the rare freak case will surface that no one could have anticipated.
Of course, unforeseeable problems can happen to older people, but are more likely to happen to young people because they have not yet advanced in age to get a good picture of their particular health situations and, at a young age, diseases that onset in later life have not yet fully emerged - diseases that may be made worse by the use of specific supplement ingredients when young.
And, don't forget one vital fact: at 16 you're still growing - and this development does not stop until you are at least 21. This is important to keep in mind because damage that you sustain during development into adulthood can forever damage organs and change and hinder their function for the rest of your life - in ways that damage sustained to the same organs when you're older will not. Timing is critical, and you don't want to mess up your development by taking unneeded risks.
So, the answer to your question is the same: it depends. Just be careful. And, if you are going to use supplements, be sure to avoid any hormone based products that will interfere with your hormone profile and potentially inflame your liver.
Protein may be helpful, and creatine may also work. Just be sure to always buy from a trusted company so that you are assured of maximum purity, and never, EVER put something into your body on the advice of someone else when you have not fully researched it yourself and discussed it with many people - one of whom should be your doctor, with the others being your parents.
[ Q ] I am thinking about starting my career in sports nutrition, but I don't see any jobs for sports nutritionists in the newspapers or anywhere else. Will it be easy to find a job after I complete all of my required courses? Or, should I get a "regular job" instead?
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[ A ] This is a great question, and one that I am asked frequently.
As a nutritionist, a former personal trainer and someone who has worked extensively in the industry for the past 7 years, I can tell you that while the industry is exciting, it is also at times terribly brutal - it's cutthroat - and making a career in the industry is incredibly difficult. And, this is true regardless of your job in the industry.
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In this industry, everyone is self-employed, and you have to "make your own breaks" - create opportunities for yourself instead of waiting for someone else to give them to you.
Naturally, this involves networking, getting known, making contacts and building your business. Whether you're an athlete, a personal trainer, a nutritionist, you're a "one man show" and you have to build your business and yourself, because they're both the same.
While almost anyone can become a "personal trainer" by getting a certification, and while most of these personal trainers may be, for a time, employed in a gym setting, nutritionists by far have a more difficult task making a living in the industry, simply because while people associate exercise and working out with health, fewer surprisingly connect food to health and most people are under the illusion that they truly understand what it means to "eat right" - while the truth is the opposite: almost none of them REALLY DO. And, in a gym setting that is ideally suited for a personal trainer because of machines and dumbbells, where does the nutritionist fit in? The sad answer is that he or she usually does not.
Most people in the industry - even most trainers - hold a second job, and usually something totally unrelated to the industry. Many work in factories, others in offices. The fact is that most people cannot afford to work in the industry full-time, because the competition for so few dollars and clients is so fierce.
So, how can you make a living? It's simple: build yourself and your business slowly, and make sure that you hang around long enough to actually get ahead - don't be a victim of the notorious "burn out" that is responsible for the high turnover in the industry.
Do these things and, hopefully, you'll be in a good place in several years to the point that you can devote yourself entirely to making a living within the industry. Good luck!
[ Q ] I am currently taking a whey protein powder along with Kre-Alkalyn. I workout in the morning and my sessions last for just over one hour. How should I schedule my intake of Kre-Alkalyn with my whey protein shake?
[ A ] I've been asked about Kre-Alkalyn before, and even accused of dismissing the supplement as having little to no value, but this simply isn't true. The fact is, Kre-Alkalyn can be a great supplement, but you have to understand how it works and how to dose it with other supplements for maximum benefit.
Unlike regular creatine, Kre-Alkalyn is pH buffered and is highly alkaline, and while this may prevent some stomach destruction (this has yet to be scientifically verified by credible, independent peer-reviewed research), an increase in alkalinity is known to adversely impact the absorption of other nutrients like protein.
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Therefore, to avoid potential absorption issues resulting from increased intestinal alkalinity, it is best to dose with Kre-Alkalyn and then allow approximately one hour to elapse before dosing with your whey protein.
So, I suggest that you take Kre-Alkalyn approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes prior to your workout, and take your whey protein 45 minutes later. And, for the post-workout period, I would suggest that you first ingest your simple carbohydrates and whey protein, followed by your Kre-Alkalyn 1 hour later.
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By dosing them in this fashion, you give your body what it needs most, and ensure that you avoid any potential absorption issues that may arise from increased alkalinity.
[ Q ] I noticed that I am starting to get small stretch marks between my chest and armpit areas. I really don't want them to get bigger, so what do you recommend that I do to prevent them from spreading?
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[ A ] While stretch marks are a good sign because they can indicate rapid growth, they're pretty unsightly as anyone can tell you - especially when they're fresh and purple.
Simply, stretch marks are the result of rapid epidermal expansion - fast skin stretching that occurs so rapidly that your skin tears. While you can't really prevent stretch marks, and while you can't eliminate their appearance totally once you have them, there are some things you can do that can help to minimize their appearance.
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Applying vitamin E to stretch marks is by far the most popular method of stretch mark treatment. While the goal with this method is not stretch mark elimination, it is instead a reduction in the color of stretch marks and the hope of stimulating whatever healing is possible so that the stretch marks are no longer fresh, colourful and painful.
Because skin requires hydration to be healthy and to maintain youthful elasticity, drinking plenty of water every day consistently is one of the most important things you can do to help minimize the appearance of stretch marks, or to heal them once they've occurred. By drinking plenty of water, you'll be helping your dermis stay hydrated and as healthy as possible.
Finally, tanning is one of the techniques most widely used by the professional bodybuilders to reduce the appearance of stretch marks.
In fact, of all the methods, tanning is by far the most effective method for reducing or eliminating the visible appearance of stretch marks.
While there is little that you can do to totally prevent the appearance or spread of stretch marks, these three techniques are by far the best and safest available. Used together, they are incredibly effective at helping to hide the stretch marks that can blemish the appearance of your physique.
[ Q ] I am 15 years old. My bodybuilding instructor has told me that if I do flat bench presses and then another chest exercise, then return to doing flat bench presses that I won't grow muscle, instead only hardening the existing muscle without increasing its size. I'm confused - please help.
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[ A ] I'm glad that you wrote in with your question, because I'm sure that other young people are in the same situation - being given information that's confusing.
Muscle growth is the end result of a long dynamic process that starts with lifting a weight. And while lifting a weight may end up in muscle growth, it doesn't always. Whether muscle growth occurs depends on many factors, including the way you lift weights, the specific muscle fibers that are stimulated from that lifting, and the subsequent nutrition and supplement recovery strategies that you employ after your workout is over.
Fiber-type training - i.e. training in a specific way so as to stimulate specific muscle fiber types - is by far the best way to train for muscle growth.
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Different exercises work different types of muscle fibers, with bench press and other compound movements working the fast-twitch white muscle fibers that quickly increase in size but also rapidly fatigue. Isolation exercises primarily work slow-twitch red muscle fiber types that don't increase much in size but that also fatigue less rapidly than white fiber types.
Taking into account the fact that white muscle fibers quickly fatigue and take a long time to recover, and that as some muscle fiber types fail others take over to assume some of their work - meaning that once you fatigued your white muscle fibers, the red fiber types would pick up some of the slack on compound movements, or simply increase in density on isolation exercises without stimulating real growth - it is possible that your bodybuilding instructor was advising you from this perspective.
In either case, however, your bodybuilding instructor needs to considerably simplify his training approach - you're 15. And, instead of using advanced concepts that serve only to confuse you, he should focus on educating you so that you can understand the dynamics of muscle growth and can, one day, dismiss him from your employ and be able to get great results based on your knowledge base and expertise. If he isn't educating you in addition to training you well, I suggest getting a new trainer that will do the job right.
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