Take 16-year-old Sarah, who is interested in burning fat and building lean muscle for improving her long-distance running times. She heard that if she swaps her morning cereal for two egg whites, she will be healthier and slimmer, and will feel fuller throughout the day. Sarah also heard that carbohydrates are bad, but proteins are good for her health. So she started to bring low-carbohydrate, high-protein energy bars with her to school instead of the sandwich she used to routinely eat for lunch. Because she doesn’t want to forget her vegetables, dinner is now usually broccoli and a piece of lean chicken breast. Her dad will offer her brown rice or a slice of hearty wheat bread, but she often turns him down.
Anthony, who is 15 years old, wants to build muscle to try out for the Junior Varsity football team at school. He hits the gym for two hours per day to get a head start on the season. He also orders a large container of protein powder advertised online to help him build muscle and recover from workouts. Anthony makes sure he has meat at every meal, especially red meat such as steak and hamburger, because if some protein helps him gain muscle, he reasons that a lot should really help him bulk up.
Sound familiar? Sarah and Anthony’s approaches are probably not unlike those of many teens around the country. But will their protein-heavy diets really help them achieve their goals?