Nutrition: Protein Needs for Young Athletes, by Julie Daniluk

Q: My 16-year-old son has taken up bodybuilding and he’s under the impression that he must consume massive amounts of animal protein to reach his goals. I only buy organic or naturally raised but with the prices so high, the budget is getting out of control. My intuitive sense is that he should be looking for other sources of protein – quinoa for example – but 16 year olds don’t like to listen to their moms! I’d like to know the best way to go about resolving this issue.


Young athletic men need at least 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight per day. A young female athlete requires a little bit less. If your son weighs 160 lbs then he will need at least 160 grams of protein per day to build muscle. Note this amount is on the conservative side for the amount of growth he is going through right now. I know this seems high but it will reduce as he gets older.

Is your son trying to follow the Paleo Diet, which focuses on organic animal protein and lots of vegetation? It excludes dairy, refined sugars, grains, beans & legumes. This diet, when properly executed (i.e.: balancing the right amount of vegetation to the meat intake), can be very effective for athletes.

If your son does not have any allergies or intolerances to grains, beans, legumes or dairy, he can vary his diet with these types of proteins. If he is dealing with any type of inflammation, bowel or skin issues, you may consider seeing a naturopath to determine if he has an allergy or intolerance to grains, beans, legumes or dairy.

Your son can also include proteins such as hemp, chia and non-glutinous grains such as quinoa but I have a feeling your meat bill will still be high. Consider it a phase if you can. My sister has four athletic sons and her current food bill is $1800 per month on a limited budget. She cuts back on other things in order to feed her boys high quality food that gets results.

One of the most important things your son can do for his body is to include ten servings of vegetables per day. This does not include corn or white potatoes. Five of these servings should be green leafy vegetables such as kale and spinach. Athletes can become fixated on the macronutrients protein and carbohydrates without realizing the importance of all the micronutrients vegetables can give them. It is important to balance macro and micronutrients to push their performance to the next level. It is also important to reduce the acidity of animal protein with lots of alkalizing vegetation.

Julie Daniluk, RHN, hosts Healthy Gourmet, a reality cooking show that highlights the ongoing battle between taste and nutrition by using unique groups such as bikers, dragon boat racers and ballroom dancers to challenge their taste buds with nutritious foods. Julie is excited that her show was chosen to be part of OWN (the Oprah Winfrey Network). Similar to Oprah’s book club, programs on OWN explore stories of strength and transformation. Television viewers also recognize Julie from her β€œbusted” segments on The Right Fit (W Network) and The Marilyn Dennis Show (CTV) where she examines the foods people need to stay healthy, acting as a nutrition encyclopedia. Her fun and engaging style comes in handy when she creates a recipe a week that is packed with health tips for Her new bookΒ Meals That Heal InflammationΒ is available in stores now.