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I'm a 16-year-old guy. I heard that eating less carbs will help you lose weight. I play basketball and baseball so I stay active, but I'd still like to lose weight.
- Ben*

The first thing to ask yourself is: "Do I have too much fat?" A lot of teen athletes, especially guys, may weigh more than average for their age because they have extra muscle — not too much fat — on their bodies.

Only people who have excess body fat should consider cutting calories and trying to lose weight. If people with normal amounts of body fat go on a low-cal diet, they lose muscle tissue, which just makes them weaker, slower, and saps them of energy. Not exactly what you want if you're driving to the hoop or trying to smack one out of the park. So check with your doctor first about whether losing weight is right for you.

If you find out that you really do have too much body fat, the best way to get rid of it is through a combination of exercise and eating fewer calories. Despite all the media fuss about low-carb diets, research into their effectiveness (especially among teens) is still limited.

There isn't much evidence that cutting down on a particular food group, like carbs, is a better way to lose weight than just eating fewer calories altogether. In fact, no diet that drastically restricts calories or cuts out particular foods has been proven to keep weight off over the long term. One helpful change can be to cut out sodas and juices, which contain large amounts of sugar and empty calories.

So if you do need to lose excess body fat, regular exercise along with eating fewer calories (especially from sugary drinks and junk food) while maintaining a balanced diet is the way to go.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: July 2012

*Names have been changed to protect user privacy.

 
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Related Resources:
American Council on Exercise (ACE)
ACE promotes active, healthy lifestyles by setting certification and education standards for fitness instructors and through ongoing public education about the importance of exercise.
ChooseMyPlate.gov
ChooseMyPlate.gov provides practical information on how to follow the U.S. government's Dietary Guidelines for Americans. It includes resources and tools to help families lead healthier lives.
National Center for Nutrition and Dietetics
Offering nutrition information, resources, and access to registered dietitians.