Puberty is one of the most important phases of our development. Yet very few people know it or do anything to take advantage of it
Looking back, I would have done a lot of things differently (or told my parents to give me different food).
In hostel, we were all given highly refined and nutrient-poor foods such as maize porridge, white bread, Russian sausages, mash, white rice, chicken, etc.
I was definitely highly underfed on calories and nutrients.
Diet and puberty
During puberty, lots of calories and nutrients are required for proper growth and development, such as protein, fats and cholesterol, and carbohydrates. But more importantly, micronutrients, such as calcium, zinc, B-vitamins, fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K2), etc. (R)
It’s routinely shown that boys going through puberty in poor countries where more starches, legumes, and beans are consumed, have blunted growth compared to other countries that have more animal foods to eat.
Even in developed countries, consuming more refined (and high PUFA) foods, such as cakes, cookies, pastries, and pies, and soft drinks, at the expense of animal products are shown to blunt healthy growth and development during puberty. On the other hand, consuming dairy and fruit juice leads to better growth and development during puberty (R).
Milk has the most research behind it by far when it comes to pubertal growth and development. Several components of cow’s milk are suggested to stimulate growth: a high protein quality, bioavailable minerals (calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, etc.) that are important for growth, and perhaps even lactose itself. Furthermore, a high dairy content reduces the amount of antinutrients from plant protein (R).
“Cow’s milk and dairy products intake increase linear growth in children and result in increased adult stature.” (R)
“milk consumption frequency and milk intake (measured as grams of milk, or protein or calcium from milk) were significant predictors of the height of 12-18 year olds” (R)
“Boys with high milk intake had lower BMI (-0.56, 95% CI: -1.00, -0.12 kg/m2) and risk of obesity (OR = 0.67, 95% CI: 0.46, 0.97) than those without milk intake.” (R)
What to be tall with a good V-taper? Milk will help you get there.
Eggs are a great source of protein, cholesterol and other fats and nutrients that are used for growth during puberty. Old school bodybuilders, popularized by Vince Gironda, consumed large amounts of eggs to promote growth. Usually around 6 daily and sometimes up to 36 fertile eggs on a daily basis.
The yolk specifically contains small amounts of steroids, and all the good fats. Every cell in your body requires cholesterol for optimal function, so providing enough via eggs should help with optimizing cellular function and growth.
Oysters are a powerhouse of nutrients that will help with growth, development, and testosterone production. Eating a can of oysters x2 weekly should give you all those hard to get minerals.
Minerals, such as selenium (R) and zinc (R, R), promote proper growth, and growth is hampered when these are low. Zinc, selenium, and iodine (also abundant in shellfish) are also essential for thyroid hormone production, conversion, and function, and thyroid hormones are extremely important for proper development.
If the thought of swallowing raw oysters is rather disgusting to you then you can always just get them canned and smoked. Just make sure to get them in olive oil and not in some PUFA oil such as sunflower, canola, etc.
Carbohydrates are also essential for testosterone optimization, keeping cortisol in check and optimizing thyroid hormone, T3, production.
Cortisol inhibits proper pubertal progress in a variety of ways (R). Excess cortisol inhibits bone growth, muscle growth, testosterone production, brain development, etc. Eating enough carbohydrates will not only help to keep cortisol in check, but also optimize the testosterone to cortisol ratio.
In terms of thyroid hormone requirements, childhood hypothyroidism causes growth failure (R). Giving T4 can help with catchup growth, but it all depends on when the treatment is initiated. The deficit in final height after treatment correlates with the duration of hypothyroidism.
Catch-up growth may be especially compromised if treatment is required at or around the onset of puberty. And then it may be appropriate to treat with lower T4 replacement doses and add therapy to delay puberty and epiphyseal fusion, such as aromatase inhibitors.
About 60% of T4 is converted to T3 in the liver, which is dependent on carbs and energy status. If someone is fasting, T4 to T3 conversion is significantly reduced even when liver glycogen is ample. Having enough carbs at all times and preventing any kind of fasting signal will help to optimize thyroid hormone conversion and testosterone production.
The reason I like fruit so much is because it doesn’t require any prepping to eat, it tastes good and it’s low in anti-nutrients compared to veggies.
A lot of guys shudder at the thought of organ meat, but not all organ meat tastes bad. With a good recipe (or just frying it correctly), it can taste amazing. My favorites are chicken liver and heart and they truly taste amazing.
Another organ meat that also tastes really good is beef heart followed by lamb kidney.
Consuming organ meat at least once a week will be a game-changer in terms of the nutrients you’ll get.
Chicken liver, 250g
Chicken heart, 250g
200g hamburger + 50g kidney
The reason why organ meat is so great is because it’s one of the richest sources of vitamins and minerals, as you can see above. So rich that you literally only have to eat it once a week. But, I still prefer to eat certain organ meat more than once a week. If it’s beef or lamb liver, then only once a week. If it’s chicken liver, then x3 weekly. If it’s heart or kidney, it can be consumed daily.
Nutrients from organ meat
As already established, vitamins and minerals are essential for proper growth, and organ meat is one of the richest sources of it.
“Six months of vitamin A supplementation induced growth acceleration similar to that seen in the oxandrolone- and testosterone-treated children… Boys in the nutritional programmes received 12 mg/day iron and 6000 IU/week of vitamin A.” (R)
“HAZ (height-for-age Z score) was positively associated with intakes of energy, protein, carbohydrate, fat, vitamins A, D, E, B6, and B12, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, calcium, and iron.” (R)
All of these nutrients necessary for growth are abundant in organ meat.
Maximizing puberty is as simple as having milk, fruit, eggs, oysters and organ meat in your diet.
You don’t necessarily have to change the way your family is eating at meals, but you can add certain valuable foods, such as 1-2L milk daily, 3 cans of oysters during the week, 1L fruit juice daily, and organ meat as frequently as possible.
None of these foods requires a fridge, so you can just have it in your room if you don’t have a fridge.
If I could do high school over and add foods when I was in the hostel, I’d have added to what I was already eating:
- 1-2L UHT milk
- 1 can oysters (in olive oil or brine) every other day
- 500ml-1L juice from concentrate
And then on weekends, I’d ask my parents if we could eat organ meat, such as chicken liver/heart.
Simple but effective.
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