8-year-olds having protein shakes, 10-year-olds lifting weights. Is this normal?
Daniel Herman, the founder of fitness nutrition company Bio-Synergy, believes it’s perfectly fine for 12-year-olds like David Beckham’s son Cruz Beckham to work out at the gym. We spoke to a few experts to find out the truth.fitness Updated: Nov 06, 2017 12:28 IST
If you’ve been a regular to the gym, and have been pushing your family to follow your lead, here’s a question: What age, you think, is best for children to start exercising? Like lifting weights and consuming protein shakes? Before you aver that even David Beckham’s 12-year-old son Cruz goes to the gym, we say it’s not about exceptional kids. Superior genes cannot be a yardstick for regular people.
You’d probably find an ally in Daniel Herman, the founder of a US-based fitness nutrition company Bio-Synergy. He set tongues wagging in the fitness world recently when he said that it’s perfectly fine for 12-year-olds like Cruz to lift weights. Many were shocked even more when he claimed that he gives his 8-year-old daughter supplements.
In an interview to The Sun, Herman said, “Depending on the age of the child, weight lifting may not be appropriate due to risk of injury, that said if properly supervised and structured it can certainly be beneficial. You can see in the video that Cruz is being chaperoned by his older brother and a trainer who are both actually helping him lift that heavy weight.”
He added, “My daughter is 8 and swims competitively. She has to train a minimum of two hours for six days per week in order to maintain her squad position. As a result, there are lots of early morning and late nights, so I am happy for her to have a home-made smoothie with additional protein and a diluted version of an isotonic drink to keep her hydrated.”
We spoke to a few experts about their views on this issue, and whether they felt this practice was ok.
“Protein supplements might be prescribed by doctors for children with nutritional deficiencies, poor appetites, for those who are pure vegetarians or for those who are involved in sports. But children should be prescribed protein only by doctors or qualified nutritionists and definitely not by gym trainers. Also such consumption is to be closely monitored by the paediatrician depending on the child’s age and body weight for best results,” said Deckline Leitao, a Bengalurur-based exercise science specialist.
“Children should always be taught to eat wholesome natural foods so that they build healthy eating habits for a lifetime. Protein shakes and supplements can only be a supplement to good food and never a substitute. If an 8-year-old starts relying on getting their protein requirements through powders instead of milk, eggs, etc then when will they ever learn to understand the value of food.”
“The above can be compared to 8-year-olds doing make up and wearing designer clothes. It might not harm their bodies per se but there is an appropriate age for everything. Also controversial statements and concepts are often used in the fitness industry to obtain mileage,” Leitao added.
“Weight training for 12 year olds is effective as long as it’s monitored by a qualified professional. The general guidelines are not to lift a weight that you can’t do at least 10 reps with by themselves. Also they should control the weight by learning the correct technique and not push their bodies to complete exhaustion in the weights room. Children should learn to strengthen all the major muscle groups in the body and not neglect their leg strength or become only ‘muscle addicts’ while neglecting other aspects of fitness such as flexibility and cardiovascular endurance,” he said.
Sonali Swami, winner of MuscleMania India 2014 (under the ‘Model and Fitness’ category), has a different view point. “Many people automatically think that all supplements are bad and none should be consumed by children, especially protein shakes. When the fact is, nothing could be further from the truth. There is absolutely no scientific backing for such silly and ignorant claims. Protein shakes are nothing but a by-product of cheese making. It’s simply a dry food form. While you don’t want to have your children drinking five shakes day, but there certainly aren’t any issues with them having a shake a day. You can use a scoop of protein powder and a serving of fruit and make it into a smoothie after they have finished playing their sport for the day or just as a healthy snack. The shake can be made in water or milk and that’s individual choice. And as far as the age goes, there really is no minimum age. Kids as young as 4 or 5 years old can drink protein shakes,” says Sonali.
Sonali also addressed the issue of children lifting weights. “Once again there is no scientific backing to the claim that children should not be lifting weights. Certainly there are some important things to keep in mind, but there is no reason children can’t or should not undertake weight training. Children can do all sorts of weight training. It just needs to be done under proper supervision so that they learn the right techniques. There is no truth when people say; weight training can affect your height. If you look at some of the sports involving strength, there are participants as young as 10 or 12 years old. In western countries they start weight training from as young as 4 or 5 years old.”
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