Safe vs. dangerous weight loss
Deliberate weight loss is an issue not just to wrestlers (up to 250,000 young American men a year), but also to gymnasts, figure skaters and dancers. Undernourishment, dehydration, anorexia and bulimia are just a few of the unnecessary, and sometimes life-threatening, occupational hazards.
In the short-term, unhealthy weight loss can interfere with your child's normal growth and development.
Long-term damage can include
Here are tips for healthy weight loss:
- Gradually increase energy expenditure and lower calorie intake, which will decrease body fat while maintaining or increasing muscle mass.
- A high school boy should lose no more than two pounds a week.
- A high school girl should lose no more than three pounds a week.
Crash diets hinder the normal growth process and lower muscle mass.
The healthy way to gain weight
Bulking up is frequently done by high school or junior high school football players. They may think gorging on cola, French fries and protein supplements will make them more effective on the field of play.
But without nutritional counseling, the practice of bulking up is not only useless, it's dangerous. Weight that is gained without proper training is usually fat, which results in obesity and its associated problems.
Here are tips for healthy weight gain:
- Eat consistently. Every day, eat three hearty meals plus one to two additional snacks. Do not skip any meals.
- You may want to add a small, additional meal to the daily diet.
- Eat larger portions than normal. Instead of having one sandwich for lunch, have two. Have a taller glass of milk, a bigger bowl of cereal, or a larger piece of fruit.
- Select higher calorie foods. Read food labels to determine which foods have more calories than an equally enjoyable counterpart. For example, 8 ounces of cranapple juice has more calories (170) than 8 ounces of orange juice (110); a cup of split pea soup has more calories (130) than a cup of vegetable soup (80).
- Do resistance exercises. Push-ups, free weights, and Nautilus-type machines stimulate muscle development, so you bulk up, not fatten up. Athletes concerned that exercise will result in weight loss rather than gain should remember that vigorous exercise tends to stimulate appetite, so they will eat more and likely gain even more weight.
- Extra exercise, not extra protein, is the key to increased muscular development. Expensive protein drinks are effective only because they contain additional calories, which can be obtained much less expensively simply by substituting high-calorie conventional supermarket foods for others of low caloric value.
- If you start gaining body fat at the expense of lean muscle, the program should be modified.
Become an active, informed parent
These warnings should not detract from the justifiable desire of serious adolescent athletes to improve their sports performance by losing or gaining weight.
Unfortunately, some coaches condone or encourage nutritional abuse.
- Coaches need to be properly educated as to the serious consequences of making weight and bulking up.
- Parents need to be vigilant in this area as well.
- Keep in mind that any special diet for a young athlete should be prescribed by a health professional and closely monitored by parents, the family physician, coaches and, where relevant, school health officers.