Protein for teenagers:
Protein is important for teenagers to help with proper growth and development. Most teens consume twice the recommended amount of protein, so protein supplements are usually not required unless a teen decides to follow a restrictive diet (very low calorie, vegan).

Athletic teens do need more protein but still this can be attained with a regular diet and most teens consume this amount on a regular basis without even trying. Teens who participate in endurance sports (longer distance running) or weight lifting (football players) have the highest needs for both protein and calories.

Endurance athletes need 1.2-1.4 grams protein for each kg of body weight (ADA 2009). Take body weight and divide by 2.2 to get kg. For instance, a 150 pound teen is 68 kg (150/2.2 = 68) so they need 82 -95 grams protein each day.

This might seem like a large amount but protein is found in many foods:

  • 1oz of chicken, fish or lean meat has 7 grams protein; a 5 oz serving of chicken breast therefore provides 35 grams of protein
  • 8oz of milk (cows or soymilk) has 8 grams of protein
  • 6oz of Greek yogurt has 18 grams of protein
  • ½ cup of cottage cheese has 14 grams of protein
  • 1 egg has 7 grams of protein
  • 1 cup of cooked beans or lentils has 15 -18 grams of protein
  • 1 cup of quinoa (a whole grain) has 9 grams of protein

Protein is also found in hot and some cold cereals, whole grains, tofu, cheese, nuts and seeds. It is a good idea for athletic teens to have protein at every meal. 20 grams of protein after a hard work out can help muscles rebuild (get larger and stronger) but this will only occur if the muscle has been stressed during exercise or weight lifting. Eating more protein than the body needs can lead to dehydration and can be extra work for the kidneys. Eating more calories than the body needs can lead to weight gain (muscle and fat). It is best to not exceed 1.7 grams protein per kg body weight (116 grams for the 150 pound athlete). As you can see from the examples above it may not be difficult to consume this amount from food, so supplements are more likely to lead to excessive intake beyond an athlete’s needs. Amino acid supplements will not increase muscle mass, decrease body fat, or improve endurance and are therefore not recommended (Dorfman 2008; ADA, 2009)