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I am a 16 year old boy. I work out for 15 minutes daily (intense cardio and about 50 pushups), and I am mildly active. I have read online that I should be eating between 2000 and 3000 calories a day, from different sources. That's a huge range. I don't know which end, or the middle is correct.

By the way, I weigh 180 lbs and I am 5' 7". I don't know if that makes a difference. My goal isn't massive weight loss (though I would like to be a little skinnier). Ideally, I'd like to grow taller, but I realize that genetics is also involved. How much should I eat and how much should I workout?

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2 Answers 2

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First and foremost, anything you read online or in a book can at best be simple guidelines. It takes time to build your bull-crap meter, particularly for things you don't know a lot about. It helps to take a look at people who are successful at what you want to do with your life, and see what they did. Just be warned that if their site sounds like an infomercial, it's healthy to have a high level of skepticism.

Secondly, I think you may be suffering a bit from a lack of focused goals. That's normal, I started there as a full grown adult. So I would recommend the following:

  • Take stock of where you are: What do you like? What don't you like? What are you willing to change? How much do you really eat? What do you really eat? Are you happy with your exercise?
  • Set measurable and realistic goals: This can be anything from wanting to run a race to being strong enough for XYZ. Start with goals a little out in front and don't worry about life goals just yet.
  • Stay away from extremes: If you want to loose weight, it might be tempting to cut your food in half. If you want to gain weight, it might be tempting to eat 6 cheeseburgers at a time. If you take steps from where you are (point 1) towards your goal (point 2), you'll have time to determine if those steps are in the right direction. Jumping off a cliff, so to speak, can cause lots of problems.

In all seriousness, if you really want to get rid of the extra weight, and not look skinny there are things you'll need to change. 15 minutes of cardio and pushups help a little bit. But if all you ever do is 15 minutes of cardio and the same number of pushups, your body will stop changing and you'll be wondering why. Same thing with only tanning for 15 minutes a day. You'll reach a point after a couple weeks where you don't get any darker.

Progressive Overload This basic principle applies to whether you pursue racing (running, cycling, swimming), team sports, extreme sports, or strength sports (Olympic lifting, Power Lifting, Bodybuilding). Remember the last point? Each step you take will increase the amount of work you can do, and how efficiently you can train toward each of these goals. I recommend giving each one that interests you a shot. Give it a good 6 months each to see what you like the best. 6 months is long enough to get you past the complete novice stage and start building momentum towards a goal.

If you keep eating the same amount of food, but are much more active, the fat will come off (not necessarily the pounds). What's more than likely is that your appetite will increase, and you'll have to find out how much more of what foods you can eat and still maintain your short term goals.

I used to play soccer, then basketball. Later I got involved in martial arts, then power lifting. While I like each of those pursuits, power lifting is the one that I feel I want to keep pursuing. Your journey is likely going to be different than mine. The point is pick a direction, and stick with it long enough to start learning how to get better.

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There is no simple answer to this question. Everyone is different; different tissue burns different amounts of calories.

Ask yourself: Why do you want to know this anyway? Are you really willing to track the calories you want to eat each day for a long time?

Don't use Calories as your primary control mechanism. Body recomposition and weight control are long term processes. It is very hard to track Calories exactly for more than a few weeks (you have to put everything on a scale, if you don't cook yourself it gets even harder). Calories - those you burn and those you eat - are always only estimates with big error ranges, especially if you only have online sources available.

What should you do?

  • Track your weight
    Weigh yourself daily, every morning after going to the bathroom, before breakfast. This is a much more reliable source in tracking your weight than any other way - surprisingly.

  • Look at your food
    Read the labels of the stuff you eat; check the ingredients and the nutritional information, learn about what you eat. Check fats, types of fat, carbohydrates and sugar content, protein and calories.

  • Change your food
    I wont delve too deep into this, but:

    1. fast food and oven-ready meals contain a lot of empty calories (empty calories is a vague term, as fat and carbohydrates are not inherently bad, but in these kind of foods there is often too much of both).
    2. instead of drinking soft drinks or juice, switch to water and eat fruits. Juice is often made of concentrated fruit and sugar and sometimes even combined with aromas.

You can track the Calories you eat. I do this too, but you have to determine the amount of Calories you burn yourself by experimenting… and you need time for this.
You need at least two weeks of data before you can see a trend in your weight, better are a few months.

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