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How Much Protein Does My Teenage Boy Need?

author image Michelle Kerns
Michelle Kerns writes for a variety of print and online publications and specializes in literature and science topics. She has served as a book columnist since 2008 and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. Kerns studied English literature and neurology at UC Davis.
How Much Protein Does My Teenage Boy Need?
A teenage boy needs to consume lean protein from a variety of sources each day, though he should be careful not to eat more than recommended. Photo Credit omgimages/iStock/Getty Images

A healthy teenage boy should get between 10 and 35 percent of his daily calories from protein, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Without adequate protein, a teen cannot grow and develop properly and his body won't be able to build and repair cellular tissue. A teenage boy needs to consume lean protein from a variety of sources each day, though he should be careful not to eat more than recommended: A diet too high in protein may contribute to excess calories and cause weight gain.

Daily Protein Recommendations

A boy between 14 and 18 years old needs approximately 6 1/2 servings of protein-rich foods daily. The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines a serving of protein as one egg, one-quarter cup of cooked beans or soy products such as tofu, one tablespoon of nut butter, one-half ounce of nuts or seeds or one ounce of cooked poultry, meat, fish or shellfish. The protein from dairy products, such as milk, yogurt or cheese, also contributes to your teenage boy's protein intake, though the USDA counts dairy as a separate food group because of the calcium content.

Sample Daily Menu

Teenage boys should aim to spread their protein consumption throughout the day. A typical breakfast could be a poached egg with whole-wheat toast, low-fat yogurt topped with one-half ounce of toasted walnuts and fresh fruit. Teens that don't have a history of high blood cholesterol can have four whole eggs weekly.

Lunch might consist of 2 ounces of thinly sliced cooked turkey or chicken breast with lettuce, onions and tomatoes on a whole-grain roll and raw vegetable sticks. Teen boys should avoid processed deli meats, including hot dogs and sausages, whenever possible since they're high in sodium.

For dinner, a teenage boy could have 2 1/2 to 3 ounces of grilled fish like salmon, brown rice and steamed green vegetables. The American Heart Association recommends consuming two servings of fish per week to lower the risk of heart disease.

Vegetarians and Vegans

A teenage boy does not need to eat animal-based foods to get enough protein. The National Institutes of Health assures that you can get all of the amino acids your body needs to synthesize proteins by eating plenty of plant-based foods throughout the day.

Strict vegetarian or vegan teens should consume a variety of whole grains such as brown rice and whole-wheat bread, beans, peas, nuts and seeds. The amino acids in these foods complement one another, giving your teen complete protein. In addition, he can include soy milk, soy products, including tofu or tempeh, and the grain-like seed quinoa regularly in his diet: These foods are the only plant-based sources of complete protein.

Considerations for Athletes

The Colorado State University Extension says that carbohydrates and fats are more important sources of energy for an athlete than protein. Most athletes, including teenage boys involved in sports, do not need to eat more protein than non-athletes. If your son is an endurance athlete such as a marathon runner or long-distance bicyclist, he may need between 1.2 to 1.4 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight daily. If he is involved in strenuous strength training, he may need up to 1.6 to 1.7 grams per kilogram of his body weight. Ask your son's doctor or a sports nutritionist to help you determine how much protein he should be eating if he is a serious athlete.

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