Pediatricians warn about rapid weight changes in youth athletes

Posted at 5:53 PM, Aug 21, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-22 09:55:59-04

There are many stereotypical images of how an athlete should look depending on what sport they’re in. 

The concern is those who take part in unhealthy weight-loss methods or weight-gain methods in an attempt to fit that image. Using a gymnast or runner as an example, some youth will think they need to be slim and lean. They may cut calories by fasting, drinking less or exercising excessively. 

Or in the case of footballers and wrestlers, they may eat more to gain weight, and choose unhealthy high-calorie foods that can lead to health issues down the road.

Kids who don’t eat right can end up with less stamina, reduced muscle strength, and have more trouble with reaction time, alertness and accuracy. 

For females, they can mess up their mensuration cycle and end up with low bone density which could lead to broken bones. Female athletes also need to be careful of developing eating disorders like bulimia or anorexia, which may seem like a great way to slim down but can cause severe health issues.

Question: What are your prescriptions?

Partha’s RX:
1. Talk to your teen athlete about unhealthy weight loss and weight gain methods.   Make sure they know it can affect their performance and comes with health risks.

2. Explain to your teen how a well-balanced and nutritious diet is very important. You want them to develop life-long healthy eating habits.

3. If your athlete is trying to gain weight, try combining strength training with an increase in healthy calories.  This will encourage muscle growth as opposed to storing extra body fat.

4. Any weight gain or weight loss should be gradual.  And it’s best to discuss a plan of action with your family doctor.  

Question: Weren’t we told in the past strength training wasn’t good for kids?
We used to think strength training could damage growth plate but it’s now considered safe with some precautions.  Kids will need to be taught the proper way to handle weight, not do maximal lifts and be supervised by a knowledgeable adult.