I am not a big fan of supplements for average high school athletes. I am in a minority. I’ve been jeered, deemed old-fashioned, and dismissed for many of my beliefs in regard to supplements. 95% of all athletes don’t need them. Many of the supplements you see advertised, as well of a huge chunk of the supporting data, are designed and tested for the upper level athlete. These are the top 5% college and pro athletes who work and train at such a high level, their diet cannot completely help them recover.
I wrote an article for Gridiron Strategies football coaching magazine ten years ago about the Performance Triangle philosophy we used in our rural high school football program. Since many of our athletes also participated in other sports throughout the year, my hope was that they would take these principles with them throughout the year.
The Performance Triangle consisted of the three prong approach of nutrition, hydration, and rest. After years of coaching high school male athletes, I came to realize the majority of these kids have poor nutrition, poor hydration, and don’t get a proper amount of rest. Which brings the million dollar question…if you don’t eat right, if you don’t drink enough water, and if you don’t get enough sleep, why are you (or probably your parents) spending hundreds of dollars on supplements?
Protein supplements, muscle milks, shakes, drinks, powders are a mega-dollar industry. Do you know the human body only absorbs about 15% of the protein ingested? The other 85% is eliminated by the kidneys in the urine. So, for every $100 you spend on protein supplements, one’s body eliminates 85 of those dollars down the toilet. Now, does that sound like a wise investment?
Former Kansas State University Strength and Conditioning Coach Rod Cole, one of the best in the business, used to tell his players to eat two peanut butter sandwiches with a glass of milk every morning and night to cover the athlete’s extra nutritional needs. The first place an athlete, their coaches, and their parents should look is at the athlete’s nutrition, hydration, and rest before even investigating supplements.
The folks who push these supplements on kids without education, prescribed need, and exploring basic nutritional options are, in my opinion, pushers. They sell a bottle, not belief. It is the greatest sin a youth coach or youth mentor can commit.
The pill begins to control the player. The mentality which comes with this perceived need is deadly to the success of an athlete. It is the protein shake, not the hours of hard work that become the reason for gains. Shortcuts make long journeys. In the case of supplements, these journeys wind through the lands of self-doubt and dependency, neither place fitting for the ideals and dreams of young athletes.
Looking for the edge over your opponent? I suggest looking in a mirror. What you will see there is your greatest asset. You will find in that reflection the number one, most effective tool you have in your arsenal…YOU.
Believe in yourself, not the chemical. You will soon discover the difference when you are asked to perform and the game is on the line. There will be no doubt in your mind, or your teammate’s minds, about whether or not you have what it takes to get the job done. Belief trumps bottles every single time.
Be the best you that you can be. Dedicate yourself to the person in the mirror. Give that person in the mirror the very best of your mind, body, and heart. Do the work. The shortcuts are filled with pitfalls and traps, as murky and dangerous as quicksand.
There is no magic bullet.
Hard work is the magic.
Believe in yourself.
Be the best you that you can be.