There are few changes in a human’s life as memorable and monumental as the change brought in by the 2nd growth spurt a.k.a adolescence. It is the paramount change, a dramatic metamorphosis that a child experiences between the ages 8-15 years. During this phase, the child feels different as everything else seems smaller as they grow in stature – taller and taller everyday!
But did you know this growth is only possible with a healthy intake of protein? Quite understandably, children in the ages 8-15 years need twice the protein than ages 4-6 years. Also, the opportunity of growth is limited after the 2nd growth spurt. It is thus essential that your child gets the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of nutrients to prevent any nutritional deficiency during this important phase of life. Health drinks can be a great source of RDA of nutrients, including protein but did you know leading health drinks lack ample protein?
Proteins are the building blocks of our body and are all the more important during the 2nd growth spurt but where does this enormous demand begin? Let’s take a look at the story right from the beginning.
The Second Growth Spurt:
There are two growth spurts in a human being’s life. One when the baby is 11 months old and on the verge of completing the first year of his life (1). This is the time when the baby gains rapid weight. The second growth spurt occurs when the child is attaining puberty, which is around the age of 12 for boys, and the age of 10 for girls (2). This is the time when the body works overtime to meet the demands of puberty, which can be a height gain of 4.1 inches and 3.5 inches for boys and girls respectively (3) in one year. That overwhelming growth is not possible without the ample intake of vital nutrients such as calcium, iron and protein.
The Demand For More Protein:
Protein is among the highest recommended nutrients for adolescents. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of protein is 34g per day for adolescents in the 9-13 years age group (4). This requirement increases to 46g per day for girls and 52g per day for boys in the age 14 to 18 years. That’s a lot of protein! But where does all that go?
IGF-1 and protein – An important relationship:
During puberty, the pituitary gland floods the body with a growth hormone that plays a fundamental role in kick-starting the pubertal growth. This hormone is released by the cells called somatotrophs in the pituitary and hence the name of the growth hormone somatotropin.
Interestingly, somatotropin is a protein with each molecule made from 190 amino acids (5). This somatropin invariably raises the levels of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) (6). IGF-1 is a hormone produced by the liver and primarily forms complex biochemical pathways with amino acid chains a.k.a proteins. This induces muscle cells to increase their uptake of amino acids causing a rapid increase in cellular protein synthesis. As a result the muscle growth increases, and is externally visible as growth.
In short, somatotropin accelerates the production of IGF-1, which in turn is responsible for an increase in muscle growth, bone mineralisation and increase in overall body proportion (7). It, thus, validates the importance of protein in the diet of adolescents and highlights that it is more than a mere building block but a crucial factor in determining normal adolescent growth. The crucial reason for this is that 2nd growth spurt is a limited period event and provides one last chance of growth to the child. You can read more stories about this narrow window of growth opportunity and other last chance stories at lastchancetogrow.com.
Protein In The Diet Of Adolescents:
It is not surprising that a deficiency of proteins can lead to a delayed and stunted growth in adolescents. It is imperative for a child to have all the vital nutrients with a key focus on protein. Dietary intake of protein is the primary source of amino acids for the body.
Foods such as meat, legumes and dairy products are the main source of proteins and must be a part of a healthy balanced diet. But his intake of protein can vary according to several socio-economic and geographical factors. For example, most American adolescents receive their daily recommended dietary allowance of protein from meat. In the case of Indians, the source gets skewed towards grains where 60% protein intake comes from cereals (8). The good news is that most rich sources of proteins are all around you.
Health Drinks – A Source Of Protein:
Most mothers trust health drinks to provide the RDA of nutrients, including protein, to their adolescent child going through the 2nd growth spurt. These health drinks can be a great source of protein but most miss the mark when it comes to the recommended values.
For example, most leading health drink brands contain not more than 10g of protein per 100g of serving. Even two glasses of this drink per day do not provide the RDA of protein. It is for this reason most children fall short of RDA of not just protein, but even other nutrients like calcium and iron during their 2nd growth spurt.
Children need more and health drinks are a great source of nutrients for your child. But your child needs a health drink that has more than 15g of protein per 100g. Regular intake of such health drinks help in proper growth along with the maintenance of ideal weight and a strong immune system. These health drinks should be a part of a normal healthy diet that includes other sources of protein.
Remember, the 2nd growth spurt is the last chance for you to make sure that your child has proper bodily growth. Once he is beyond this age, his growth gets almost stagnant. So, grab the opportunity, give him the best protein mix available in the market, and make sure he is having a balanced diet of essential nutrients.