The negative influence of mass culture that promotes an idealized body not only affects girls, but boys as well. In fact, according to a recent study in Greece, both adolescent boys and girls had similar levels of body dissatisfaction.1 According to an Australian study, almost 60 % of adolescent boys were trying to build their bodies and 74 % believed they should grow their muscles.2 This drive for increased muscle mass can lead to dangerous practices such as excessive exercise, unnecessary dietary supplements, or even illegal or banned performance enhancing drugs.
A research article published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 3 conducted a study to investigate the relationship between body dissatisfaction and attitudes towards performance enhancing drug use in sports to influence education and health promotion programs.
The researchers of the study issued a survey to 1148 male adolescent students (ages 11 to 21) to assess body image, supplement use, and attitudes towards doping in sports.
883 of the adolescent boys indicated their body as ‘about right,’ 111 indicated their body as ‘too thin,’ and 142 selected ‘too fat.’
Body image by use of products:
Researcher found that adolescent boys who reported using supplements, like vitamins and minerals, protein powders, or sports drinks were more likely to have higher levels of body dissatisfaction.
Attitudes towards doping in sports:
Those who used supplements were more likely to have more lenient attitudes towards the use of drugs in sports.
This is the first study to report a significant, positive correlation indication that adolescent boys who have higher levels of body dissatisfaction are more likely to be supportive of the use of performance enhancing drugs in sports.
RDNs can work with athletic trainers to help educate athletes on safe and effective ways to build muscle and increase sports performance without the use of doping. Inversely, athletic trainers can work with RDNs to help athletes effectively fuel and recover from their workouts with optimal nutrition.
Programs aiming to prevent body dissatisfaction and the use of performance enhancing drugs could be coupled as a preventative. Additionally, materials and handouts about the potentially dangerous effects of certain supplements and performance enhancing drugs can be implemented.
The Athletes Training and Learning to Avoid Steroids (ATLAS) program is successful in the prevention of anabolic steroid use among high school athletes and is an excellent resource.
Gavin Van De Walle is an ISSA Certified Fitness Trainer, a NANBF Natural Competitive bodybuilder, a nutrition columnist for “The Collegian,” and a dietetic student at South Dakota State University. Following graduation, Gavin will aim to achieve the distinguished Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD) credential.