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Eat To Grow: Train, Eat, Be Lazy

Being hyperactive can halt hypertrophy.

There’s one thing that keeps more skinny teenagers from gaining muscle than all other factors combined. It’s not parents who forbid weight training or lack of funds for gym memberships and supplements. It’s not even improper nutrition. The insidious culprit is excessive energy output, or being overactive.

Back before ADD and ADHD became catchphrases, kids who never seemed to stop moving were dubbed hyperactive, or hyper for short. I was one of those little dynamos who absolutely couldn’t sit still for more than a minute or two, so I know what it’s like to always want to run instead of walk and do everything as if there wasn’t a second to spare. That leads us to one of those chicken-and-the-egg riddles. Are thin kids that way because they expend so much energy, or are they so kinetic because of their light frames? The answer is, probably a little of both. Teenagers who fit that description typically have a much harder time gaining weight than their less-active peers. They’re the kids whose astonished parents love to tell friends how junior puts away roughly as much food as a family of four yet never gains an ounce. It’s quite frustrating for the young man, who often gets discouraged and resigns himself to a life of scrawniness, feeling that his dreams of a Herculean physique will never become reality. Little does he know that the answer to his dilemma lies in doing nothing at all.

Muscular growth is extremely metabolically demanding. It’s fairly difficult for most people, but for very active teenagers the problem is compounded by puberty. Often the bones are growing faster than the muscles. Many times you’ll see a 16- or 17-year-old boy who seems to be little more than long, gangly limbs with giant hands and feet dangling at the end. If a teenager like that plays sports, rides a bike regularly and also lifts weights, it’s fairly safe to say that he won’t be packing on 20 pounds of muscle a year. The fuel that the muscles need to grow and the rest to regenerate just aren’t there. If that’s where you happen to be at the moment, it’s time to slow down and relax.

Peary Rader, the original publisher of Iron Man, had the following advice for anyone with a fast metabolism wanting to gain muscular bodyweight: Never run when you can walk, never walk when you can stand, never stand when you can sit, and never sit when you can lie down. (I’m paraphrasing, of course.) As lazy as that may sound, it’s the perfect prescription for slowing down your metabolism and allowing your labors with the weights to bear fruit. Whenever you feel yourself moving for no reason, stop! Eliminate all unnecessary activity, eat quality food every two to three hours and sleep at least eight hours a day. Then watch the numbers on the scale finally creep upward. IM

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