Being fit during those wonder years (answers to teenager’s fitness questions)

Recently I’ve been getting a lot of questions on Quora from anonymous teenagers and almost all of them sound very confused but extremely enthusiastic about getting fit. Some of them have a misguided notion of what “fit” is, but that is another story. On an average 8 out of 10 questions that I see, ask pretty much the same thing albeit in that many different words. So I thought I’d put together a blog post that will deal with all of these questions, to the best of my knowledge and experience.

Here are a few examples of what I get:

Which protein type/supplement/brand is advisable for a healthy & lean-muscular physique? How do I consume it?

What if I don’t wear a supporter at the gym?

If I leave the gym after 2 months, would it make me fat?

Does weightlifting stunt your height growth if you are young?

There are several more such questions posted day in and day out by self conscious teenagers (perhaps that explains why most of these questions are posted anonymously). There is a lot of buzz around weight loss, protein powders, workout plans and yeah it is very easy to get overwhelmed in this ocean of information.Thankfully Quora is a place where most people have built their reputation by providing answers supported by experience and/or reliable sources. And the community is very active in telling someone if they are mistaken about something, without antagonizing the person (completely opposite of Facebook, where the insulting the person online seems to become the primary objective and the actual discussion drowns somewhere in the din).

OK. So I have tried to categorize information into broad categories and answered each to the best of my knowledge and experience. I will supply links to sources where applicable and also quote my answers (that have already been published on Quora).

WILL WEIGHTLIFTING STUNT MY HEIGHT?

If I had a rupee for every time I heard this question, I’d have paid off my home loan by now (LOL)!

The answer is A BIG RESOUNDING NO!!

A person’s height is a factor of his DNA (our genes decide how tall we grow, for the most part) coupled with a healthy nutritious diet and exercise. The latter two may enhance the growth spurt but DNA still plays the deciding role. I just love to cite the example of the great Arnold Schwarzenegger, who started lifting weights at age 15, but still grew to be big. He is fondly referred to as the Austrian Oak.

I feel this question probably stems from the (flawed) logic that lifting weight above one’s head somehow compresses the bones and may prevent them from growing. Thankfully that is not how biology works. So all you teenagers who are thinking of jumping into a weight training routine, but have not so far because of this one fear – JUST GO FOR IT.

WHAT ARE SUPPLEMENTS/WHAT IS WHEY PROTEIN/ARE SUPPLEMENTS STEROIDS?

WHEY & Casein are a byproduct of Milk. I had written a post on my blog in the past that showed the life cycle that makes WHEY from milk. Check it out here.

When undertaking an exercise program, nutrition is of paramount importance. If you start a very vigorous workout program and don’t back it up with a nutrition plan, then you will not be able to sustain it for long. Basically you’re setting yourself up for failure. A good nutrition plan is one that covers your macros (Proteins, Fats, Carbs) and must come from real food sources (as far as possible). Proteins, in turn break down into amino acids, that helps repair and rebuild muscles.

Supplements – Supplements come into picture when one is not able to meet the nutritional requirements entirely from real food. They basically fill the nutritional gaps left by real food. For instance, the accepted norm is to consume approximately 1.5 – 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. So if a person weighs 80 kilos then (s)he would want to consume anywhere between 120-160 grams of proteins as part of his/her diet, to be able to sustain an exercise program. Sometimes it is difficult to eat protein rich food (Due to various factors such as availability, variety, tastes & preferences etc). In such a scenario, it makes sense to include a WHEY protein supplement (That usually provides about 24-30 grams of protein per serving/scoop).

They key thing to remember is that supplements are NOT MEANT to be replacements of real food. They must not be the primary sources of nutrition.

With that out of the way, I would also like to make another point – SUPPLEMENTS AND STEROIDS ARE NOT THE SAME THING.

Steroids (or anabolic steroids) on the other hands are performance enhancers, that mimic the hormone testosterone.

Read more about them here: Anabolic steroid

WHAT SHOULD I EAT/NOT EAT TO LOSE WEIGHT QUICKLY?

I would actually like to split this question into two parts:

  1. How to lose weight quickly?
  2. What should I eat/not eat to lose weight?

1.How to lose weight quickly? – I don’t understand what is the tearing hurry. Who ever gains weight does not get it overnight. It piles up over a period of time. Likewise, when it is time to lose weight, that must also happen gradually over a period of time. Rapid weight loss is not only ineffective (most of the weight comes back), it is also extremely unhealthy and risky. If you must lose weight, make sure you do so under medical supervision and be very very patient with yourself. DO NOT RUSH.

2. What should I eat/not eat to lose weight? – Weight loss is a result of calorific deficit. One does not have to eat special foods OR eliminate entire food groups from one’s diet to achieve that. In the past I had written an interesting article, sharing my own weight loss experience. It is called Parenting, Pushups & Portion Control. Although it is targeted at folks who are already parents and are struggling with their diet and fitness goals, yet, the wisdom is applicable to teenagers also. The key is to control how much you eat and when and everything else will fall into place.

So if you are a teenager and have been thinking about getting fit, go right ahead. The following points would keep you pointed in the right direction:

  1. Any movement is good exercise. Don’t sweat over what gym to go or what clothes to wear to the gym. Just get out of the house and run a mile.
  2. If you decide to do weight training, your focus must first be towards correct form and only later on how much weights you lift.
  3. Exercise to stay healthy and fit. Don’t make weight loss your primary goal. Sometimes when you lose fat, and gain muscle, your weight may remain unchanged (muscles also have weight after all, don’t they?)
  4. Eat good nutritious food. Don’t fall for fad diets. Diets fail. And when you get off the diet, you’ll pretty much be tossed back to square one.
  5. Some amount of exercise and a good diet will help you focus better in your academic endeavors.
  6. Make exercise and eating well, a permanent part of your lifestyle so that over a period of time you don’t have to think about it. It will eventually become second nature.
  7. Last but not the least – Rome was not built in a day. It took it’s own time. Be patient with yourself.

So if you have recently started exercising or are planning to start, I hope these pointers are of value to you. Do share your thoughts and questions that you may have, in the comments section.

Good luck!

 

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