There are many teenagers who start their bodybuilding goals before their first stubble. Meanwhile, everyone around him seems to turn against him. They claim that lifting weights will stunt your growth, that you shouldn't be taking "adult" supplements like creatine, and that you're not in the dieting stage but eating to keep growing.
We can address the issue of bodybuilding in young people and adolescents in many ways, but in this article we are going to focus on the main concerns of parents and children. It is safe? What basic guidelines should you follow?
A Widespread Myth
At the end of long bones, such as the humerus and femur, is an area called the growth plate. During adolescence the bone will grow from here, and this is how a young man will reach his maximum height. With continued damage, the growth plate can shut down, affecting height, and many believe that weight-bearing exercise destroys this area.
However, many trainers work with weights at different ages, even if the youngster has not yet reached his full height. In fact, it is indicated in many cases and is not dangerous. What these trainers do is adhere to a couple of guidelines (1):
- Encourage children and adolescents to participate in different sports disciplines regardless of their age.
- Give preference to exercises with body weight and calisthenics in children and adolescents under 15 years of age. It is highly unlikely that the muscle will respond to the extra stimulus from the weights before this age.
- If carried out, the exercise with weights must take care of the technique well above the load to avoid injuries. Ideally it should be monitored in the younger population.
Are Supplements Safe?
Another widespread myth has to do with supplements. Comments of "stop taking steroids" abound when, in fact, the young man is consuming creatine and some Whey Protein. But there are many safe supplements that we can use at this age, including:
- protein supplements
- Nitric oxide
What is important at this age is to take care that they are really necessary for the activity to be carried out and that their consumption is not due to adapting to a group or due to social pressure. In some cases, excessive consumption behavior at this age can predict doping and other unfavorable practices that we can avoid from a young age (2).
Additionally, before using these supplements it is worth asking ourselves: is there a good basic diet?
Is the Diet recommended for Children and Adolescents?
A good diet is not synonymous with going hungry or having food deficiencies. On the contrary, when the diet is formulated by a professional it will help to satisfy all the nutritional needs and achieve the objectives of each individual.
When we stop associating the word diet with stopping eating, a range of possibilities opens up for children and adolescents. These need a good supply of nutrients for their growth and none of them should be restricted. However, addressing problems like obesity would not be possible without a healthy intake. In fact, it's the first thing we should think about, even before considering the use of supplements (3).
Therefore, it is not wrong to diet to lose weight in children and adolescents as long as it is a program designed by a professional.
These first considerations of diet, exercise, and supplements answer many of the common questions between parents and children. The next step will be to find a good instructor to design an exercise program according to the age, previous experience and goals of each one.
Myers, AM, Beam, NW, & Fakhoury, JD (2017). Resistance training for children and adolescents. Translational pediatrics , 6 (3), 137.
Backhouse, SH, Whitaker, L., & Petroczi, A. (2013). Gateway to doping? Supplement use in the context of preferred competitive situations, doping attitude, beliefs, and norms. Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports , 23 (2), 244-252.
Hargreaves, D., Mates, E., Menon, P., Alderman, H., Devakumar, D., Fawzi, W., ... & Patton, GC (2022). Strategies and interventions for healthy adolescent growth, nutrition, and development. The Lancet , 399 (10320), 198-210.