Hoss's Project Jonah, Part 2

TAGS: teen diets, teen athletes, sports diets, Scott Cartwright, Project Jonah, Jonah Cartwright, protein

elitefts™ Sunday Edition

One of the largest challenges with training my son, Jonah, is his diet. It’s a daily battle between Jonah, his mother, and myself, and the battleground is set between my kitchen, his mom’s kitchen, and the school lunch room. Right now, it is all about how to get Jonah eating enough of the right foods every day. How does he gain the right weight over the next nine months while increasing his speed and strength? Jonah is an eater, but he struggles with time and the availability of food. Right now, Jonah is playing Premier Level Soccer and Junior Varsity Rugby, and he only has Sundays off from running and training. In turn, the typical high school freshman's diet is not one that will work for a kid with his schedule and level of activity. So right now it’s about managing time and utilizing resources to get the right foods in Jonah at the right times of the day.

A couple of updates on Jonah’s training before I continue. Since football ended in early November, Jonah has gained 21 pounds. As I mentioned earlier, he is playing two sports right now—soccer and rugby. The gains have come through hard work since he is expending so many calories while playing these other sports. Jonah’s bench has gone up to 200 pounds, and his squat is over 300 pounds now. I also think Jonah is faster, but we have yet to time him. He has been disciplined with his food and working hard in the weight room.

Recently, a parent was asking me how to get her son to gain weight. The kid is six feet tall and only 140 pounds. And this kid plays offensive line...yeah, I know. Time to eat up, kid. As I am telling the parent about foods he can eat, she keeps saying how her kid doesn’t like this or that. My thought was, "so freaking what?! Tell him to eat if he wants to continue to play football." Rather than tell her how I really felt, I decided to give her some tips on how to get the kid food he may eat. For example, she told me how he would not drink milk. So I told her to add some strawberry mix to it, and then over time slowly pull it away from his milk consumption. You can also buy protein pudding, or you can make some yourself. Making pudding is simple and dropping a few scoops of protein in the mix will add some value to the snack. What kid doesn’t like pudding, anyway? The point here is that these kids' diets will likely never be perfect, but finding ways to get protein into their bodies is extremely important. Almond butter is something some kids will like. Find ways to mix up their foods with snacks that include protein. Some of you may say that I am mixing sugar into everything, which can be dangerous. No, I am getting calories into teens that need them because of their active lifestyles. This stuff is recommended for athletes, not teens that will sit and play video games all night and day.

Food consumption for an athlete is like a job. Many young athletes do not have the time to focus on their diets. The diet job, if taken seriously, will fall back on parents most of the time. The parent who asked me how to get her kid to gain weight also told me that her son makes his own lunch. She explained how she doesn’t want to spoil him. However, the way I see it, food is a job. Personally, I am not willing to add more to Jonah’s plate (no pun intended). Jonah is extremely busy, and as long as he is carrying a 4.0+ GPA and training hard, I see no need for him to have a job. My job is to make the right food available to him at all times. So Jonah gets his lunch made. Is Jonah spoiled? Absolutely not, he does his part.

Recently, a kid from Jonah's high school asked me, “Mr. Cartwright, can I live with you?” My response was, “huh?” He then said, “I saw Jonah’s lunch, and I want the same.” His lunch isn’t full of crap food; it's just plenty of food to get him through the day. The kid asking the question is 6 foot 3 and 250 pounds, and he is expecting to play next season at 270 pounds. So I doubt he lacks lunch! But junk food is everywhere. Most teenagers are huge soda drinkers and/or candy eating machines. We cannot eliminate the candy and junk, so pick your battles. We have had Jonah stop drinking soda. That is a step in the right direction. It’s not a big deal to Jonah, though. He downs milk, water, and Gatorade daily. Yes, Gatorade has sugar, but it’s not soda. The point is to do what you can and to slow down the junk food. You will never stop it completely. I think you also need to evaluate your teen's body type and make decisions from there. Jonah is a taller, thin teen, and he also has the metabolism of squirrel. If your athlete is chubby and slow, these decisions on junk food may be more of a broad stroke. The meaning of this is that you may work with your athlete to ban much more junk food.

Breakfast, as we have all been taught, is the most important meal of the day. The problem with teenagers and breakfast is that these kids can sleep. Getting a teen up and fed can be more than a battle; it’s more like a world war. However, since it is the most important meal of the day, that waking war needs to be won. Get the kid up and get him fed. Do whatever needs to be done, but get that kid up and make them eat. When they skip breakfast or eat on the run, they will be in a catabolic state most of the day or until lunch. Therefore, Jonah takes down a large glass of milk first thing in the morning. Milk is a great source of protein. (In fact, Jonah drinks three to four large glasses per day). A typical breakfast for Jonah isn’t that complex, either: hot oatmeal, fruit, and milk. He may also have eggs once in a while. But the bottom line is that he leaves the house full and ready for the day.

High school lunch is usually more of a social event than a meal. The only way to get your teen to eat is to provide them with food they will eat and want to eat. Jonah has been preached to about eating lunch so that he has energy for training after school. He is a social kid, but he eats what is in his lunch. Make sure your teen understands that he or she needs to feed the machine. The other challenge is to find foods with plenty of protein. Not finding foods with plenty of protein is not an excuse. You just need to look. Protein-based foods are all over the place. For instance, there’s a place in Sacramento you can get Protein Pizza, bread, and cookies. Also, make sure they are drinking water or milk at lunch. Speaking of drinking, most schools allow water bottles. So if yours does, fill one up and have your teen drinking water all day. Keep them hydrated! On game days, Jonah walks around school with a huge jug of water.

The political battle with his mother is probably the most difficult of all. I am constantly asking him what he is eating and when he ate last. This idea of gaining weight has been, and will continue to be, a battle between his mother and I. Jonah is 5 foot 8 and 160 pounds, and his mother looks at me, standing 5 foot 9 and 300 pounds, and thinks this is the direction I am driving Jonah. When Jonah is at my house or at Hoss Gym, there’s good, solid clean protein-based food available. At his mother's house, there tends to be much less dead animal and in many cases, there is no dead animal. At one point I decided to get Jonah some protein powder which he can use to help keep his protein intake up. When I brought this up with his mother, she was very angry and replied, “I cannot believe you are giving him illegal supplements.” Make sure you have explained to the important people in your teen's life what the goals are for your teen. Also, take some time and find a few diet articles and other information about training and nutrition to share with these people. Educate them on the process and the goals. Make them understand that it’s about health, not over eating. This process may take time since people can get stuck in their old ways. They watch too many weight loss shows on TV and lack the common sense to do their own research.

Dinner should be just another meal, not a big deal. If your athlete is eating the way he or she should, then this meal is like all the others. High protein and full of calories. Although I outlined breakfast, lunch, and dinner, these are just three of the five meals I expect Jonah to have during the day. Jonah will have breakfast, lunch, an after school meal, dinner, and then a late night meal. Again, he knows what he needs to do with his food intake and is doing it. Make your teen proud to be building his or her body up. Jonah weighs himself three to four times a week, at the same time each day, to track his weight. Make them take ownership of their gains and loses. Taking ownership will give them confidence.

The point of this whole article is to get your teenage athletes eating. They can run and lift all they want, but if they are not eating often and right, their gains will not come. Find ways to get them consuming protein. You might think, "Hey! He never mentioned carbohydrates!" Well, the reason for that is that we live in such a carb-rich world that those carbs will be in every meal and come without even focusing on them. Educate your teens on their diets. Make them proud of the job they have to eat and train hard.

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