Out of the many sports a teenager can participate in, weightlifting remains one of the safest. In addition to building strength and muscle, weightlifting burns fat and strengthens your skeleton. Developing strength as a teenager allows you to prepare for other athletic pursuits later in life but still requires you to maintain a healthy and balanced diet. While many similar issues that apply to adults apply to teenagers as well, some specific issues often arise. Consult your health care provider before beginning any dietary program.
Protein is the basic nutrient that allows you to build muscle. As a growing teenager, you will be breaking down far more muscle tissue over the course of the day in comparison to an adult who has stopped growing. When you combine this with the increased demands on your system secondary to weightlifting, your protein needs increase dramatically. Unless you have special dietary considerations, milk, eggs and red meat are good choices for protein. Round out your diet with chicken and fish. While the exact amount you should consume varies with your training, you should get nearly twice the recommended daily allowance of protein.
You need carbohydrates for energy while training. As a teenager, you also need the energy to grow and recover from the daily stresses that growth puts on your body and its various systems. Most of your carbohydrates should come from fruits and vegetables, which will also supply you with fiber. Whole grains such as steel cut oats are a good choice, but avoid processed carbohydrates. Highly processed sugars cause your blood sugar levels to fluctuate, and are more likely to be stored as fat. The exception is immediately after a workout, when your body is primed to replace the sugar you just burned. Consuming a shake of simple sugars and proteins will help boost your recovery from intense weightlifting. Simple whey protein and glucose are available from most supplement stores and fit the bill quit nicely.
Fat intake is critical for both weightlifters and teenagers. Your fat intake helps determine your ability to produce many of the hormones that contribute to growth, including muscle growth. Try to get most of your fats from healthy sources, such as oily fish, olive oil and nuts. These foods are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which assist in muscle protein synthesis. Even red meat contains conjugated linoleic acid, a fatty acid that helps promote muscle growth and fat loss. This does not mean you should consume a fat-based diet, but do not attempt to eliminate fat and expect to perform well as a weightlifter.
The number-one thing you need to do as a teenage weightlifter is be consistent in your diet. Regardless of whether you are trying to lose fat or gain muscle, avoid radical changes and dietary extremes. You cannot afford to unduly limit your intake of any nutrient, so an extremely low-fat or low-carbohydrate diet is far from advisable. Eat balanced meals with protein, fat and carbohydrates as part of every meal. If you need to make dietary adjustments, adjust your calories by no more than 250 per day and determine the effect this has on your performance after a three-week period. You can adjust every three weeks, but continue to make the adjustments small.