Dear Coach: My BMX Racer Teenager Won’t Eat

This week a worried mom writes in about how to get her 12 year old son to eat more. He’s a BMX racer and is scared to put on weight. Coach Andrew thinks maybe he’s just in the wrong sport!

Dear Coach,

I have a 12 year old boy who is a BMX racer. He has the workouts down but his nutrition is seriouly lacking. We have done everything we know of to get him to eat more, but he thinks that if he eats he will gain weight (did I mention he is 5’2″ and 85 lbs) and this will make him heavier and not as agile on his bike. Actually I have noticed that he is getting slower because he is losing muscle due to hardcore workouts and not resting and replenishing. Any suggestions?


Worried Mom

Dear Worried Mom,

This may sound strange but I think your son is in the wrong sport. Well, the wrong sport if that is his mindset. Looking at the Olympic final from this year it was all over in 37 seconds. That event is 100% about power, speed, and producing as much force at the pedals as possible. While rider skill is obviously important the crucial hole shot is from being able to smash the pedals. And that only comes from strength.

The Olympic Champion from this year, Maris Strombergs, is 1.88m tall and weighs 90kg according to his Wikipedia page. That’s a big guy and he doesn’t seem to have any problem with agility on the bike.

Strength isn’t all about muscle size though, although I am cautious about offering low rep-central nervous system taxing strength training advice to a twelve year old.

I wonder how you say he is losing muscle? Has he been tested at all with calipers, hydrostatic weighing, or other methods? Is it just scale weight? Is it that his competitors have started puberty a bit before him and are getting bigger while he stays the same size? Are his workouts all measured as well, or is he just slower in race results? Youth sport is such a minefield as puberty hits some much earlier than others. This often leads to big discrepancies in performance until the late teens.

One of the things you may try is adding a recovery drink after all of his on-bike workouts. As a young boy I’m guessing he’d like milkshakes? Some flavored milk laced with a protein and carbohydrate blend, with some BCAAs tossed on top, should do the trick. (Don’t forgo the carbohydrates, as they will be used for fuel during training). At twelve puberty is right around the corner and he’ll probably start eating you out of house and home in no time.

If your son doesn’t want to follow the champions and add some size and strength there’s a fair chance he may be in the wrong sport. That’s not all bad. Great road race sprint champs such as Aussie Robbie McEwen, winner of multiple Tour de France green jerseys, came from a BMX background. The slight build your son has could indicate that while he can produce some speed he’ll never match the bigger guys for force production on a short race, but that he may turn out to be a great sprinter at the end of a road race.

Coach Andrew Read

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