Is Muscle Milk Safe for My Daughter?

My friend’s daughter is eleven years old and does gymnastics.  Her dad recently started bodybuilding and now has her drinking Muscle Milk before practice to grow more lean muscle mass.  What are your thoughts about this?

The girl’s father probably thinks that since this product is helping him reach his own strength training goals  it will also be good for his daughter.

The Vitamins, Minerals and Supplements  industry (VMS) made about $40 billion just for nutritional supplements in 2017, according to Forbes.com.  A new subset of people using supplements are teens and preteens looking to help their athletic prowess.  With kid-friendly flavors like cookies-n-cream and easy access to these products in grocery stores, big box shopping chains, and the internet, the market growth could really explode over the next few years.

Here’s the thing:  Protein shakes were designed for adults, not kids.  Since these products are not meant for them, there aren’t a lot of studies done on the effects supplements have on growing children.  Even if there were studies done, supplements are largely unregulated, and therefore do not have to report any negative side effects.  They only recently had to start printing ingredients on their labels, which means some unexpected things may end up in that yummy shake.

Specifically, Muscle Milk was in the news in 2010 after Consumer Reports Magazine reported  high levels of cadmium and lead, and trace levels of mercury and arsenic in some of the Muscle Milk products.  (CytoSport, the manufacturer of Muscle Milk, pointed out on their Facebook page in response that there are also traces of metals in foods such as fish, fruit and vegetables.)

The Columbus Dispatch ran an article noting the rise in protein shake use among kids and teens and questioned the safety of this trend, to which CytoSport responded in a written statement, “Muscle Milk products … are generally not marketed to young children.”  (Source:  The Columbus Dispatch – Supplements target teens, pose dangers, and are virtually unregulated.)

OK, so since the manufacturer of Muscle Milk confirms that protein shakes are not supposed to be used by kids, what should kids eat if they want to increase muscle mass?

Perhaps you could suggest to her father that she try whole foods instead, something he should be familiar with as a bodybuilder.

A nutritious, well-balanced diet that includes lean proteins like fish, chicken, eggs, soybeans and tofu, healthy carbs like vegetables, fruits and whole grains, and fats like avocado, olive oil, nuts, seeds and fatty fish, such as salmon will help her get the energy she needs to do all those flips.  Plus, whole foods are a lot less expensive than protein powder.

The girl’s coach may have some recommendations for a pediatrician, dietitian, or nutritionist who could provided a customized meal plan based on her age, height, weight, exercise level and fitness goals.  Another point to remember is that she will naturally put on muscle anyway just by doing vigorous exercise, such as gymnastics.

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