Are there really shortcuts to healthy living? Has a “magic pill” for permanent weight-loss or adding lean muscle ever really existed? Whatever you think or do to get back in shape is likely to influence your children’s philosophy of fitness. Of course there are no shortcuts to healthy living, and if the “magic pill” did exist, would it offer better living? It is time we appeal to our inner wisdom and acknowledge that unless we get off our behinds and be honest about our nutrition, nothing changes permanently for the better. But more importantly, is what we believe and practice and how we counsel our children setting them up for seasonal fitness with its ebbs and flows or a lifetime of fitness and health?
This seems to be the time of year when people are looking to get “beach ready,” and each season there is a new bevy of people seeking these results, namely teenagers. Companies spend millions of marketing dollars aimed at our children coercing them to their products and ideas. Estimates show the supplement industry is worth over $61 billion annually! Kids of all ages are influenced by these marketing dollars and claims, but teenagers especially because they are at the age when they begin making their own purchasing decisions.
We are all too familiar with teenage girls’ philosophy to weight loss: appetite suppressants, bulimia, starvation, energy drinks, fad diets, and so on. Boys, however, are typically trying to add muscle mass. Recently a client contacted me concerning her teenage son who was asking about taking the supplement creatine. Creatine, naturally produced in the body from amino acids, helps to supply energy to all cells in the body, primarily muscle. The risks and benefits of this supplement vary depending on which research you review.
The real question is, “How will this teenager benefit the most for life? Believing there is an easy supplementary fix or learning about nutrition, the importance of water consumption, and safe weight training? The easy temporary fix or the long-term lifestyle? Again, appealing to your inner wisdom, while the results may take longer, the lifetime benefit of learning to eat well has tremendous value.
Concerned Mom: “Hey, what are your thoughts about creatine… not for me but for my son who is a gym fanatic all of a sudden?”
Me: “Creatine, the teenage boy's magic potion. It increases cell water retention thus providing increased size and availability of nutrients to the muscle for rebuilding from the breakdown during a workout. Side effects can include increased toll on the kidneys due to less water available to that area - it instead goes to the muscle – therefore, an increase in water consumption is necessary to continue to flush the kidneys properly. Research has shown most benefits are lost when not taking creatine leaving some small residual benefits. Yes, it works. Creatine is also available from red meats. Nothing really beats great nutrition - FIRST. Eat great food, eat enough and the body will be fueled.”
Concerned Mom: “And I heard there is weight gain with creatine…?”
Me: “He's growing and with the workouts, the body demands creatine for sustenance and desired growth. Creatine is a supplement and in my mind, supplement implies doing the best you can prior to needing a supplement. It’s NOT a magic pill.”
Concerned Mom: “Anyway, so you don't think it would harm him to take it?”
Me: “I recommend he drink about a gallon of water daily with it and food: fats, proteins, carbs, water (macro nutrients) and vitamins and minerals (micro nutrients). Macro supplies the calories and micro supplies the ability to process the macro.”
Concerned Mom: “You are going over my head at this point.”
I have had this same conversation many times over the past 20+ years I have been training. My recommendation is to take care of the foundation. I have concluded that almost every single diet/ nutritional book I have read and our national guidelines suggest 5-7 daily servings of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats and whole grains, in that order. Jack LaLanne, who died three years ago at age 96, was quoted as saying, “If man made it, don’t eat it.” Tough to argue with his results.
I have found learning and practicing proper eating and exercise principles leads to better retention and success long term. Often it is the hard work and discipline that get in the way of achieving anything. People tend towards doing it the easy way. Be willing to overcome an unwillingness to be uncomfortable. Be willing to work hard with discipline and tenacity, understanding that accomplishing a goal you set for yourself will not only add spice to your life, but a foundation of success to build upon.
Build your foundation of proper nutrition and exercise and if you wish to discuss further, please contact me.
About the Author:
Paul Hunter lives On the Coast with his wife, three children
infusing his playful style with science to yield astonishing results at
Grayton Beach Fitness. Grayton Beach Fitness has recently been
voted, “Best Place to Workout on 30-A.” You may reach him at