This common practice for high school athletes could be harmful to organs, local doctors say

Doctors at Dayton Children’s Hospital say they have seen a “disturbing trend” among student athletes: emergency room visits due to over-consumption of protein powder.

Many athletes take supplements such as protein shakes and powders to assist their workouts. Protein helps build and repair muscles, but once children get their daily requirement for protein, taking more of it has no benefit, Dayton Children’s Hospital medical director of sports medicine Lora Scott said. Excessive protein is usually expelled in urine, but if the child doesn’t drink enough water, the protein can build up in the kidneys.

“Most of the time you’re wasting your money by taking it,” Scott said. “It’s not helping. It’s kind of pointless.”

As high school sports fall seasons approach, the Dayton Children’s emergency room has seen a spike in visits due to dehydration and heat-related illness, hospital spokeswoman Stacy Porter said.

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Scott said emergency visits from organ damage due to excessive protein aren’t as common as emergencies due to heatstroke or dehydration, but they do happen. Most teen athletes don’t consume enough protein to do permanent damage.

Most children can adequately meet their protein needs by eating a balanced diet. Teenage athletes need 0.5 to 0.7 grams of protein daily per pound of body weight. It’s unlikely anyone will consume dangerous amounts of protein by eating natural foods.

“You would have to eat a lot of chicken,” Scott said.

When young athletes do consume enough supplements to cause damage, the recovery period can range from 24 hours to several months. Treatment involves stopping protein supplements and monitoring organ function, Scott said.

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If young athletes do choose to use protein supplements, they should drink lots of water and be mindful of how much they’re consuming. Some powders can contain up to 80 grams of protein per serving, according to a Dayton Children’s Hospital news release.

“People think, ‘Oh, if a little bit’s good, then a lot’s better,’ and that’s not the case,” Scott said.

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