Teen Athletes and Nutrition

Parent Q&A

Nutritionist for teen athlete Mar 24, 2019 (0 responses below)
Worried about teen boy's diet plan to bulk up Jan 9, 2019 (3 responses below)
  • Nutritionist for teen athlete

    (0 replies)

    My 17-yr old son has recently become very devoted to working out and feels great. But he's struggling to find good advice about nutrition for active teens who are interested in building muscle mass. Much of the advice he's found seems extreme (e.g., very high protein, super rigid eating routines, never eat certain foods). He'd like to meet with someone knowledgeable in the area of adolescent nutrition for athletes. We've got good insurance (it would be great if a consultation of this sort were covered) but, if not, we'd be willing to pay out of pocket if he walked away with good, balanced information. Anyone know someone who might fit the bill?

  • Hello, my almost 18 year old son got into working out, and I'm happy about that, but am concerned that he's obsessing about it and may undermine his health, especially now that he's starting some kind of diet.  Does anyone know of a coach who could work with him on building muscle while eating right?

    So far, he said he's been "bulking up", so he's been eating even when he's not really hungry.  He's lean and muscular, so it doesn't seem like he's overeating though.  But, now he asked to get a food scale, and is planning to use it to figure out how much he eats and how much he needs to eat, with the goal to lose the fat.  I can't quite understand what he's going to do, but he says he's going to cut down on calories and lose weight, while still consuming the same amount of protein, with the goal of building muscle.

    He and his friend exercise together and are going to do the diet together, but I don't think either one of them has good common sense about it.  I am hoping for advice from a profession whom a teen would listen to, since he's definitely not listening to me.

    Please visit aroundthedinnertable.org. Your son could have an eating/body image disorder. Boys do get these, and they display precisely the symptoms you are describing. You say he is lean and muscular, and wants to become more lean and more muscular. You need to get him to a physician who is knowledgeable about eating disorders (many are not) and he should especially have his orthostatic blood pressure checked. Don't ignore this. It is a dangerous path.

    I am a mom in my 50's who has been working out and watching what I eat for 30 years; I feel great and have lots of energy, however at the beginning I definitely went a little overboard (and recovered!). My recommendation is that he sign up for a personal training session at the gym, adding nutrition counseling to the session. Also, both of you should read https://www.menshealth.com/, this is a repudiable magazine that can help you and he separate fact from fad.

    I agree with the above post that your son may have an eating disorder or may be seriously at risk for one. It definitely happens to young men, and this is one of the scenarios. I am unfortunately far too familiar with this world now. Young men and women can have what's called body dysmorphia, where they think that they are overweight when they're not and then continue to diet. It's a societal problem but much more extreme for some individuals. Unfortunately, eating disorders often start with a diet-- that can be one of the triggering events that precipitates a serious of physical changes. If your son does work with a nutrition person at the gym, please don't assume that this is enough to protect him. You probably need to have him evaluated by an eating-disorder savvy physician and then monitor him. I'm sorry to sound so serious but once this starts happening, it can takes years to get out of and have serious health effects. I know he's only doing what a long of young men are doing with regard to gyms right now, but many people are not aware of the risks. Diagnosed eating disorders are somewhat rare, but many people have disordered eating. Thanks for reaching out for advice!

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Son wants to take supplements

I'm trying to come up with convincing arguments (in addition to because I say you can't) for my teenage son who wants to take nutritional supplements that are being marketed by our local vitamin store as being effective in enhancing muscle strength and development. The supplement is creatine monohydrate, and as far as I can tell by some brief web searches (bypassing all the marketing websites), the primary effect of creatine is to enhance water retention in the muscles, which makes them look bigger. Has anyone gone through this with their son/daughter? Does anyone have a recommendation for a source of more objective evaluation of this product than can be found in bodybuilding magazines? Thanks! Tamra

Well, I don't know anything about supplements and haven't gone through this yet with kids (my son is only 6 mos. and happy with his muscles!), but from the anatomical viewpoint, you can explain the following to your son:

we never get new muscle cells- the same ones are either strong and healthy or atrophied, depending on their use (ie, each individual cell, which is the length of the entire muscle, grows or shrinks as it is needed based on use or disuse)

the amount of muscle one has (ie how bulky it looks) is primarily dependent on two factors: 1) the level of testosterone in the blood (hence the increase as boys mature and the difficulty women have in bulking up) and 2) the size of the muscle belly, which is determined by genetics- some people simply have long, slender muscles instead of bulges in the center

there is no easy way to increase muscle, like taking pills- the best way is to use the muscles regularly, but no more often that every 48 hrs (time to increase mass is necessary after one increases the workload- doing weights every day will not be as effective as every other day). I would suggest getting him involved in strength training using Nautilus equipment, free weights or whatever, probably at one of the local gyms (such as the YMCA- free orientation to the equipment is available) or at his school if available. I suspect that his tendency will be to try to overdo it to get immediate results, but it's a bit like dieting- rushing it is unhealthy and doesn't give lasting results.

Good luck!

Dr. Marian Diamond's Lab
Integrative Biology


Re: Supplements

Michelle Vivas, UCB Athlete Nutritionist (Tang Center), did a presentation on bad supplements at our Sports Medicine meeting. If creatine isn't good for Cal athletes it isn't good for a teenager. Consult with your doctor.

-Aleta Martinez, Administrative Support for Sports Medicine.