FROM ATKINS TO PALEO, DIET TRENDS HAVE LARGELY VILIFIED carbohydrates, but proteins (and exercise) remain a trusty, glorified sta- ple. According to the makers of many popular food products and supplements, not only can consuming proteins help you build muscle, it can also help
you lose weight and burn fat. Many teens seek out products, such as protein
bars, powders, and shakes, to slim down or bulk up.
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
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 pow-
online to help
him build muscle
and recover from
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
Too much of a good thing?
Of course, Sarah and Anthony are correct
in recognizing the importance of protein. Proteins are large biomolecules consisting of long
chains of amino acids, and like carbohydrates
and fat, are macronutrients. Macronutrients
are compounds that humans (and many other
animals) need in their diets to meet their
nutritional needs and provide the energy, or
calories, they need to survive.
But what Sarah and Anthony don’t know is
that they may be eating unhealthy amounts of
protein. While all that protein might provide
some of the benefits they have heard about,
scientists and doctors don’t know whether
eating extra protein—particularly in the form
of supplements such as protein powders and
bars—lives up to all the hype.
By loading up on protein at the expense
of other foods, Sarah and Anthony might be V I D E
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Getting the Right Balance
By Kelly April Tyrrell