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Muscle On The Brain


"A six-week cycle's gonna cost ya $170, lady -- you wanna knowhow to use 'em?"

This was the bit of flotsam I picked up in the interest of leaning what families with teen boys face during last week's National Family Week focus on family fitness and health.

Call it the afterglow of the Summer Olympics or an offshoot ofExtreme Makeover, or; heck, it could be the impact of Hollywoodstars and singers with sexy six-packs.

Whatever the reason, kids who were raised on the best of healthand fitness intentions are willing to do scary things to their bodies you taught them were temples.

While some are athletes and eager to improve their strength andskills, many are not, seeking only to look more adult. For bothgroups, faster is better.

So what do you do if the boy at your house is longing to be bigger and bader and is willing to tell you that even though some of his friends do steroids, he wants to try protein powders -- at $300. a month -- or "um, maybe, steroids because I know where to get them." If your teen will talk about any of this, consider yourself ahead of the game, said Scott Wooding, author of the best seller "Rage, Rebellion & Rudeness: Parenting Teenagers in the New Millennium."

"Kids have no patience. They're not good at looking ahead. Theydon't recognize the years of work a strong athletic body takes nor that steroids or supplements are generally not the reason for the bulk," said Wooding, a psychologist.

Do the research. Go on the Web, together. It doesn't take long -- past the first 500 hits for supplement suppliers -- to read news stories of the questionable purity, safety and effectiveness of protein powders and creatine serums and the potentially long-lasting and life-threatening effects of steroids.

And then pay close attention, Wooding says. "If your kid is bulking up too fast, it's not from weightlifting. Weights will give definitions, that "ripped" quality they like, but it doesn't add bulk at all quickly."

Kelly Anne Erdman, a registered dietitian at the University of Calgary's Sport Medicine Center, says the desire for a quick fix is a common problem for adolescents.

"They're generally 12 to 16, particularly swimmers and hockey players," she said. "And yes, they're mostly males."

The inability to achieve body mass is purely biological, Erdman said. "The bones are growing first, and the muscles have to catch up."

Between ages 12 and 16, a boy gains a whopping 22 to 27 kilograms(50 to 60 pounds) and that's just the average.

"It is a problem for them to make up calories lost to their regular daily needs for energy plus the calorie-burning needs of their sport -- plus they're still growing," said Erdman, who notes 500 to 1,000 extra calories a day is necessary for these boys.

"It takes time, and that's why they're tempted by supplement claims." While the problem with steroids is well documented -- mood swings, rages and suicidal thoughts and attempts, not to mention the cheating this represents -- the dietitian noted the problems with supplements stem from what is not know. "Unknown are the undeclared ingredients, not always listed and not always pure."

By contrast, the home solution is as simple as a bag of dry skim milk powder -- which includes whey, the protein from cow's milk. It's not only one of the best sources of protein, Erdman said, it has "bio-availability," that allows it to be processed readily by the body.

Erdman said counseling with a registered dietitian goes a long way with teens and young adults to help them assess current eating habits, personal goals for growth and sports and develop a nutrition plan.

But much can be done at home, too: "Encourage the teen to eat sixtimes a day. Eat frequently."

Make sure meals are naturally juiced with nutrient-dense fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy products and a variety of protein sources.

And let them know what's normal, Wooding said. "It's slow and steady and takes months and years to produce. That's why working out and physical exercise is recommended for older teens, both genders, to build their muscles."

For many teen boys, this will be just another phase, and that bucket of supplement powder will be emptied in favor of a big, bad stash of magazines. But that's another story.

Author: Susan Rutter -- Publisher, Nutritionist, and Instructor who assists patients and the public make healthy choices and changes in their lives. Web Site: Healthy YOUbbieshttp://www.geocities.com/healthyoubbies/home.html

Contact Email: sm.rutter@sympatico.ca

Complimentary Email Course: "Diet Is Only A Four Letter Word".


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