Are Creatine and Liquid IV Safe for Teen Athletes?
July 18, 2023
Many young athletes are taking creatine and Liquid IV to boost performance and improve hydration, often at the suggestion of teammates or even coaches. Many parents wonder: are they safe?
University Hospitals pediatric sports medicine specialist Laura Goldberg, MD, shares what parents need to know.
Creatine is a nonessential amino acid made naturally in the body. While it doesn’t increase strength, it can support short bursts of high-intensity athletic performance. Most creatine supplements are available as a powder that can be added to water, juices or shakes.
“When used at appropriate doses, creatine seems to be safe in healthy athletes of all ages, and using a trusted brand might be appropriate for some high school athletes,” says Dr. Goldberg. “That being said, due to inadequate studies, we don’t know what long-term effects it may have on young athletes. For that reason, the American Academy of Pediatrics and American Society of Sports Medicine do not recommend creatine use under age 18.”
Creatine can also have side effects. It causes muscles to retain water and long-term use may cause muscle cramps, dehydration, diarrhea, nausea and seizures. Creatine may be especially dangerous for athletes undergoing purposeful dehydration or weight loss (such as wrestlers).
Dr. Goldberg cautions that creatine may also impair performance in endurance activities. And because creatine has the potential to impact the kidneys, it should not be used by athletes at risk for kidney dysfunction.
Liquid IV is a brand of electrolyte powder that you add to water. In the 1960s, research showed that glucose promotes sodium and water absorption. Since then, this combination has been a standard for rehydration and electrolyte drinks. Liquid IV claims to hydrate quicker than water by using a specific ratio of electrolytes, glucose and water.
“Electrolyte drinks in general are safe for young athletes, but it’s important to avoid any that contain caffeine,” cautions Dr. Goldberg. “Many people believe electrolyte drinks and powders are healthy, but they have a large amount of sugar which is unnecessary unless you’re exercising for more than 60 minutes.”
If you exercise and sweat a lot, you will need to replace the lost fluid. Water is an excellent source of hydration for everyday and shorter bouts of exercise. Use electrolyte drinks when exercising for longer periods of time or supplement your water intake with food that contains electrolytes and some source of glucose.
Final Comments: Are Supplements the Right Answer?
Supplements are regulated by two government agencies. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates product safety and labeling. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulates advertising. They don’t monitor efficacy, but they do monitor the accuracy of product claims.
“Nothing replaces hard work and effort. Before considering supplements, ask why. What’s the goal? Evaluate the basics. Is the athlete preparing properly with nutrition, rest and recovery, and adequate training? Maximize these first,” advises Dr. Goldberg.
“Supplements are not all bad, but it’s important to know what you’re putting in your body and if it’s safe and appropriate for your goals,” says Dr. Goldberg. “It’s best to review your supplements with a knowledgeable health care provider to make sure they’re safe for you. And to stay in compliance, check every ingredient against the banned substance list for the organization in which you compete, such as the OHSAA.”
The pediatric sports medicine experts at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s is dedicated to treating athletes of any age – from toddlers through adolescence and teenagers or young adults.
Tags: Laura Goldberg, MD