I started lifting weights at thirteen years of age. I remember the Christmas when I got my first weight set. They were vinyl with sand in them, about 110 pounds for the set.
All I did back then, every day, was bicep curls and military presses. EVERYDAY. No legs. Crazy right? I seriously thought that having big arms and chest was the way to attracting more girls, look tough and play better football. That was retarded thinking at it’s best.
This approach was an attempt to get huge. That was the term used back then and still used I hear.
“ I’m gonna get huge!”
The reality is that most teenage boys want to get muscular and they want to learn how to sustain muscle growth. There’s no shortcut for that knowledge. And many take desperate measures to get there including the intake of anabolic steroids.
Teenage boys can’t build muscle until the age of 14. Their testosterone is way too low, not that different from girls at that age. Training before this stage should focus on body weight exercises like push-ups, pull-ups and sit-ups and less on weight training.
Some kids want to desperately weight lift before 14 years of age. I did. That’s OK. The focus should be on light weight training and to master the form and technique of the movement.
Let me repeat, if you influence your teenage son, and I hope you do, make sure they master form and technique before they increase the weight on their lift. This is crucial to avoid injuries and get the most from their training.
And don’t worry; your teenage son will not stunt his growth by lifting weights. That’s a myth.
How can teenage boys get big safely
The first thing is that you and your child need to understand his body type.
There are three basic human body types:
- the endomorph, characterized by a preponderance of body fat, especially around the waist, even with normal eating habits and physical activity.
- the mesomorph, marked by a well-developed musculature, often with little effort. This body type is the one we love to hate as guys in this category naturally have broad shoulders and chest.
- the ectomorph distinguished being long and lanky with very little fat or muscle. It’s all
By the way, if you know American football, wide receivers are typically ectomorphs, linemen are endomorphs and middle linebackers and running backs are mesomorphs. This can provide an image of what each body type looks like.
Ectomorphs are hard gainers and need to eat A LOT. I am talking about at least six to eight meals a day, including protein shakes, regular meals, and snacks. Some experts think they should get up at 2 o’clock in the morning and have a snack. Crazy. But true.
Nutrition for teenagers to get big
Eating right is the most important part of gaining muscle. You can lift until the cows come home, but eating properly fuels the muscles to grow after training.
Eat good food and leave out the crap. When I was a teenager, I ate everything in site, good and bad, and that was foolish. I always felt sluggish though I was getting bigger. So was my waistline. It wasn’t good.
Protein, or more importantly, the metabolites of protein, amino acids are most essential for muscle growth.
How much protein should a teenage boy eat?
Roughly a teenage boy should eat about one gram (1g) of protein per pound of body weight.
Note: I mistakenly said 20g a day on the Thrive Child Summit. What I meant was that protein coming from egg and whey could only be absorbed at about 20 g at one time to get 1.8g of leucine, an important amino acid for muscle growth. Eating meat would take over 100g to get 1.8 g of leucine. (Reidy & Rasmussen, 2016)
The timing of protein intake can be within 2 hours after weight lifting. Most people think one should have a protein shake immediately after a workout to get as much amino acids and leucine in the muscle. That is not true. After a workout, you have about a 2-hour window where muscle feeds on protein for growth. (Joy et al. 2013)
How about those protein powders in the nutrition stores? Are they worth it?
First of all, kudos to those sport nutrition companies with the big tubs of protein powder for their marketing skills. You feel like your growing just by looking at those labels with enticing names like Carnivor max big steer and Nitro tech whey gold.I feel my muscle growing out of my shirt just by thinking about it now.. 🙂
Again it’s all about the amount of leucine you get from a protein source.
Whey is a good one. Pea protein is also good as 25 g of yield 1.8g of leucine and it’s a good option for vegans or people on a plant-based diet.
A note on Creatine to help teenage boys
Creatine is in many sports supplements and protein powders. It’s also one of the most studied nutrients for athletic performance.
Here’s what you need to know…
Creatine is relatively safe to take and does not cause kidney or liver damage. (Kreider et al. 2003)
A review found creatine to have no effects on the liver or kidney function in over months of supplementation in both young and old population. Still, teenage kids with liver and kidney problems should stay away from creatine just to be safe. (Kim et al. 2011)
Creatine does not stimulate muscle but it can help you get an extra rep or two, say , on a bench press, or help sprint faster, not longer. In other words, creatine help improves anaerobic movements but does not benefit aerobically. (Bemben & Lamont, 2005)
The safe amount to take is 5g a day. Some athletes take a loading dose of 5g / 4x / day during a loading dose period for one to two weeks and 5g / day maintenance after that.
The Takeaway on How Teenage Boys Should Eat to get Muscles
Teenage boys should eat a lot of fruits and vegetables along with lean meats and fish for muscle growth. Six meals a day may be required. No junk food.
Protein powder’s are safe. Teenage boys trying to get big consume smoothies with protein powders anyway, so might as well direct them in the right direction. It’s better than the alternative (‘roids). Whey protein is good; this is my favorite whey protein powder as it is one of the cleanest in the market with vanilla extract as a sweetener. It is also made from grass-fed cows.
Pea protein for vegans or vegetarians is also good as it delivers 25g of leucine per serving.
Creatine is safe to consume at about 5 g / day. The loading dose of 5g/ 4x / day for one to two weeks is also safe and moderately effective. Kids with kidney problems should NOT ever do a loading dose of creatine at 5g/ 4x / day.
Ectomorphs have to eat more and work hard to gain size and muscle. But it can be done.
Endomorphs should eat about 4 meals a day as they get big easily , mostly fat if this group of animals are not careful
Mesomorph can eat 4 to 6 meals a day as this group muscles up quickly.
Lastly, the focus of this post is 100% on nutrition to gain muscle. Every situation is different. For example, some people have dairy and whey allergies, so whey protein is not an option for that person. And this is a blog post not an article in a scientific journal so there might be one or two things missing I’m sure, but not much.
Also, there are no training tips here as this is only on nutrition to get big. Teenage boys can’t grow if they don’t eat right. I am working on an e-book that will come out soon on training kids to get big without steroids. Stay tuned.
One last thing with regards to training… don’t forget leg days! 🙂
Reidy, P. and Rasmussen, B. (2016). Role of Ingested Amino Acids and Protein in the Promotion of Resistance Exercise-Induced Muscle Protein Anabolism. Journal of Nutrition, 146(2), pp.155-183.
Joy, J., Lowery, R., Wilson, J., Purpura, M., De Souza, E., Wilson, S., Kalman, D., Dudeck, J. and Jager, R. (2013). The effects of 8 weeks of whey or rice protein supplementation on body composition and exercise performance. Nutrition Journal, 12(1), p.86.
Kreider, Richard B.; Melton, Charles; Rasmussen, Christopher J.; Greenwood, Michael; Lancaster, Stacy; Cantler, Edward C.; Milnor, Pervis; Almada, Anthony L. (2003). “Long-term creatine supplementation does not significantly affect clinical markers of health in athletes.” Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry. 244 (1–2): 95–104.
Kim, Hyo Jeong; Kim, Chang Keun; Carpentier, A.; Poortmans, Jacques R. (1 May 2011). “Studies on the safety of creatine supplementation”. Amino Acids. 40 (5): 1409–1418.
Bemben MG, Lamont HS; Lamont (2005). “Creatine supplementation and exercise performance: recent findings”. Sports Medicine. 35 (2): 107–25.