Answer: It depends on how you define “supplement”, but meal timing, composition and use of healthy “food style” training formulas (e.g. shake mixes, sports bars, etc.) are appropriate and important to any athlete’s success.
Therefore, the answer is that your child athlete can and should “supplement” traditional food intake with specially formulated healthy shake mixes or foods that can speed recovery and support muscular development when used properly in conjunction with exercise. By specially formulated we mean the perfect amounts, ratios and blends of carbohydrates, fats and proteins in a quick digesting form. We call these “pre- and post-event feedings” as they are actually foods that supplement the diet and have been scientifically proven to enhance exercise-induced outcomes including performance. Please see our 3500 calorie menu for athletes or read about FirstString, our shake mix specifically designed to meet NCAA guidelines.
Additionally, although not a performance-enhancing supplement, persons of all ages should include a daily multivitamin and mineral formula. All other supplements should be off limits to anyone under 18 years of age unless recommended by a qualified health professional.
Related to other purported performance enhancing supplements: because there is very little data on the use of performance enhancing supplements for youth athletes, and for ethical reasons (as with pregnant females) there probably never will be, the dotFIT team and most other professionals recommend that athletes wait until they have completed puberty or reach the age of 18 before investigating the use of these substances.
Pre- and post- feedings: You build more muscle and strength when incorporating pre- and post-training feedings. Virtually all studies have demonstrated that “immediate” pre- and post-training carbohydrate and protein feedings stimulate muscle growth and reduce muscle damage to a far greater extent than normal feeding patterns, even when overall daily calories, carbohydrates and protein intake are equal. And it was recently discovered that this growth activity (size contribution) that takes place inside this “~60-minute post-training window” is not made up for at some other point in the day. Meaning this unique muscle growth period is activated by the feedings.
During these windows, muscle cell nutrient uptake is at its highest points of the day so we must deliver a perfect, fast-acting formula before the “windows” close if we want to maximize exercise-induced strength, performance and/or size gains.
In summary, feeding your muscles before and immediately after training (and the sooner the better) with a rapidly absorbed formula (not traditional foods) will allow you to build more muscle than if you don’t engage in the practice, no matter how well you eat the rest of the day.