I get plenty of questions in various comments throughout the website, but I also get comments and questions via the Project Swole Contact Form.
Generally I address those questions through e-mail, but often I do not have the time to reply to each and every question personally.
The category, Your Health Questions is a more proactive approach to answering your questions so that everyone can benefit from the Q & A.
“I wanted to know about how much protein my 14 year old should be having.
He is playing football and weightlifting at school. (Freshman). He is 5’8 and 112 lbs.
He wants to add some weight and muscle but we heard that you should not give your teen protein because they will start to grow outward instead of height-wise.
What do you recommend?”
Whoever told you that “you should not give your teen protein because they will start to grow outward instead of height-wise,” is on crack.
Teenage Male Athlete
Obviously if your teen eats too much protein and thus too many calories overall, he or she will get fat. On the other hand, protein is vital to muscle growth and development and in my opinion, active teens should be taught to eat a diet with moderate protein, low saturated/trans fats, and low sugars/starchy carbs.
It is absurd to think that an increase in protein will affect your kid’s height development. He will ultimately be as tall as his DNA allows, although messing with substances like anabolic steroids could fuse his growth plates, thus putting an end to vertical growth. Protein will have no such effect.
The teenage years are important in shaping your teen’s body type and health habits in the years to come. At age 14, he is a prime candidate to begin weight training and to increase his protein consumption in conjunction.
Now, I am not saying he should be drinking 4 protein shakes a day. Rather, I suggest you increase his protein consumption through regular food by increasing the frequency of lean meats, nuts, and legumes in his diet.
Which Foods Should Teenage Athletes Eat
I recommend low fat, but not necessarily fat free, dairy products (milk, yogurt, cottage cheese), poultry (chicken, turkey), eggs, seafood (tuna, haddock, salmon), beans (baked, kidney, red, black), and nuts (peanuts, walnuts, almonds), as well as all the fruits and vegetables he can tolerate.
Limit his intake of anything made from pigs and cows, including steak, ground beef, bacon, sausage, and hot dogs; ham and pork chops are OK. I’m not saying to avoid these foods, just limit them relative to the better foods.
He should drink more water than he knows what to do with. A gallon a day is not out of the question.
But now he will want to know the answer to the original question, “how much protein should I eat“?
How Much Protein Teenage Athletes Should Eat
Teenage Female Athlete
At 112 lbs and 5’8, your son probably could stand to gain significant muscle mass over the next 4 years. I would set a short term target weight of 130 lbs, thereby setting his protein intake at 130 grams a day.
Yes, that’s 1 gram of protein per pound of short-term target bodyweight.
That would be 3 meals with 25-30 grams of protein per meal and 3 snacks with 12-18 grams of protein per meal. If he responds well to it, that number could be increased to 150 grams a day or more within a couple months.
If he is a hard gainer, make sure he is ingesting enough calories to grow. A physical teen of his stature wishing to pack on as much muscle mass as possible, could be looking at upwards of 3500-4000 calories a day, or more during preseason football 2-a-day practice sessions.
Both protein consumption and calorie consumption should increase as his bodyweight and muscle mass increases. Just be sure not to increase calories too hastily, as you don’t want your teen getting fat.
He could gain as much as 4 pounds in one month, but if he’s starting to see an average gain of 2-3 pounds a week, have him check his bodyfat levels since that much weight gain could be indicative of calories consumed being greater than calories burned.
How Teenage Athletes Should Exercise
Please make sure your teen learns how to train properly. If his weight room education is taking place at school, with a knowledgeable coach or trainer, he should be OK. But if he and his buddies are getting together to do curls and bench presses, he’s going to need help.
There is no reason your teen can’t invest some time into learning impeccable form with the best of the compound exercises. Squats, deadlifts, bench press, overhead press, dips, pull ups, chin ups, rows, and lunges should be staples of a teenage weight lifting routine, but only if he learns perfect form.
Check my posts on the 5 best exercises for each muscle group. They are listed in the right sidebar on this blog. You can put together a tight workout by utilizing those exercises for periods of prioritization or for full body routines.
Since he is playing football, he will probably want to learn how to properly perform the Olympic lifts. Power cleans and hang cleans are awesome for aspiring young football players; they will make his body dense and strong but quick! Remember though, that he needs to learn perfect form.
By practicing proper sprint technique his body will be training for lower body speed and power. Chin up, swing those arms, kick the knees up high with each stride.
By following the recommendations above, your teen will grow up to be strong, fast, and powerful, but will not sacrifice his height.
Please encourage him to avoid steroids and other anabolic drugs until he is at least 18 years old, no matter what any of his friends and teammates might do. I generally don’t recommend these substances at all, but using them in the teenage years is a recipe for injury and physiological disaster.