They might not hurt you (it depends on what we're talking about) but they aren't a substitute for water for hydration and regular, nutritious meals. So, mostly unnecessary unless you have special needs that can't be otherwise met. Before anyone decides on any dietary supplements, they should consult a doctor. Also consider that you don't need an unreasonable amount of protein daily. Most Americans are getting enough and then some. I think the "OMG need more protein!!!!" concerns are a little overblown. I personally feel gymnasts should be able to eat a balanced diet (based on their appetite, assuming it is in the normal range). Yes, you need protein, but it's not that hard to get through your regular diet and shouldn't be an extreme amount. Overdoing protein isn't appropriate either.
Have a healthy meal with some protein, carbs, and fat. I really don't think the entire practice (anaerobic activity) is so strenuous as to be requiring all this special stuff. There will be some more strenous activity throughout but honestly it's not like we're Iditarod sled dogs. I know because I have terrible endurance but could pretty easily train 5-6 hours. Try and get me to run for more than five minutes straight, on the other hand...Now I know a lot who were/are not eating balanced nutritious meals and I'm all for eating frequent healthy nutritious meals made of real food.
Ill probably be corrected... but as I understand it, the point of protein shakes is to bulk up muscle.
Bulk muscle is somewhat counter productive to gymnastics, as it tends to weigh a ton! Go ask a body builder to hold a cross some time. It's hard!!
I do agree, however, that if you plan to make a dietary change of ANY kind that significantly alters any piece of your normal diet, you should really consult a doctor. None of us here are, as far as I know, nutritionists or doctors, nor do we have access to your medical history - to which excess protein may be a detriment to your health.
Instead of expensive protein drinks, just give them some milk if they have the ability to break down lactose. Choco milk is alright, but has about 2.5 times as much sugar as nonfat to whole milk. So I wouldn't drink massive amounts of choco milk, but regular milk is fine. Choco milk is also good for replenishment as it has a fair amount of carbs besides protein and fat.
Honestly, the USRDA of protein is atrociously low for most athletes of any kind, especially gymnasts. It's ok for the normal everyday person who is weak( national average of 1 pullup ). Ideally, gymnasts should be intaking no less than 0.7g to above 1g of protein per pound. It is a real pain in the butt to get many girls near this, especially as they get older.
To gain mass, especially muscular mass requires being in a positive intake of calories per day and lots of protein besides hormonal stress during intense exercise ( BW or weightlifting ). No, bike riding and running don't really count if they are in the endurance scope.
Btw, no soy protein. For either young boys or girls.
If they can't do dairy, try eggs. If they can't do casein, do meat. If they don't do meat or fish, umm eat ridiculous amounts of veggie protein that Ross Enamait reccomends http://www.rosstraining.com
While IMO, most young male gymnasts probably eat enough, especially protein, most female gymnasts do not; though the little ones have better eating habits than the older ones.
I wouldn't bother with many doctors but look into a sports oriented nutrionist. Especially one experienced with power (anaerobic ) athletes.
Why? If the concern is "estrogen like" plant substances, then unless all the milk you are recommending is the expensive organic kind, then you're getting pretty significant levels of animal hormones in milk and meat.
"Among the routes of human exposure to estrogens, we are mostly concerned about cow's milk, which contains considerable amounts of female sex hormones," Ganmaa told her audience. Dairy, she added, accounts for 60 percent to 80 percent of estrogens consumed.
I don't think soy is magic, but milk and meat aren't hormone free either nowadays, so it seems a little odd to say soy is the most dangerous thing we're eating (and unless people eat no processed foods ever, they're already eating it), but hormone laden milk should be fine. I doubt we know what the long term effects of this hormone exposure may be.
I've never had a problem getting enough protein. Some of my friends who run - I'm talking actual marathon running, not around the block - have had this problem. I don't think gymnasts need protein drinks unless they have other problems or aren't eating properly (although that's a problem). But the bottom line is that you should consult a doctor or nutritionist before using a dietary supplement like that.
All in all, I think it would be very hard pressed to get kids to drink a typical protein drink. I bought a few Muscle Milks the other day to carry around just in case I couldn't any food if I got somewhere and was hungry. I was hard pressed to even want to drink it. There was a time and day I used to think they tasted good after a 3 hour workout before I went on shift to coaching and didn't have time to grab anything. Now, I much prefer some juice and whey powder ( preferably OJ and vanilla whey is almost wanna be Orange Julius! )
Ideally, I think we would all be eating grass fed meats and non processed foods. Times being what they are, it's always a compromise of this or that when it comes to dieting, sleeping, wearing clothes, driving cars, etc.
There are other milks like almond milk which do not affect the reproductive system. Soy has been found to cause infertility when used by young boys extensively (ie not the occasional cup - my son loves it but I do only buy it 2 or 3 times a year).
I think that if a gymnast is ending practice too late for a heavy meal, then a shake type of thing can be very useful. We have often mixed these ourselves rather than using a shop bought adult designed protein muscle builder - a bit of a smoothie eg a base of almond milk, some soft fruit like mango and a spoon of whey powder to thicken it up a bit - yum! A slice of wholemeal toast goes nicely with it.