1,400 Days and 750,000+ (extra) calories: Math, growth, and varsity baseball (part 2)

This is probably a good time to reiterate that we claim no expertise as nutritionists or dieticians. These posts are based on a lay reading of readily available information, plus a spreadsheet. Math is, after all, the great equalizer.

Where did we come up with that number? Does a 13-year-old athlete weighing 130 pounds really need to eat 750,000+ extra calories to grow to a 17-year-old athlete weighing 175 pounds?

Basically, yeah.

Look at the chart below. Ike adds about 1 pound per month every month until the summer before his senior year. Each pound he adds increases his maintenance caloric needs by 20 calories per day, or 600 calories per 30-day month. By the time he adds 10 pounds, he needs to eat over 6,000 more calories per month just to maintain that weight.

The caloric surplus needed for GROWTH is calculated separately, and conservatively. He probably needs about 2,800 calories to gain a pound of muscle and about 3,500 calories to gain a pound of fat. So each pound added is calculated as requiring about 3,000 excess calories. Add it all up and Ike needs to add 764,520 calories to his current baseline diet over the next 1,400 days.

Bon appetit, Ike!

Weight Maintain Days Monthly surplus Age Date
130 2,600 31 0 13.76 Oct-18
131 2,620 61 600 13.84 Nov-18
132 2,640 92 1240 13.92 Dec-18
133 2,660 123 1860 14.01 Jan-19
134 2,680 151 2240 14.08 Feb-19
135 2,700 182 3100 14.17 Mar-19
136 2,720 212 3600 14.25 Apr-19
137 2,740 243 4340 14.34 May-19
138 2,760 273 4800 14.42 Jun-19
139 2,780 304 5580 14.50 Jul-19
140 2,800 335 6200 14.59 Aug-19
141 2,820 365 6600 14.67 Sep-19
142 2,840 396 7440 14.76 Oct-19
143 2,860 426 7800 14.84 Nov-19
144 2,880 457 8680 14.92 Dec-19
145 2,900 488 9300 15.01 Jan-20
146 2,920 516 8960 15.08 Feb-20
147 2,940 547 10540 15.17 Mar-20
148 2,960 577 10800 15.25 Apr-20
149 2,980 608 11780 15.34 May-20
150 3,000 638 12000 15.42 Jun-20
151 3,020 669 13020 15.50 Jul-20
152 3,040 700 13640 15.59 Aug-20
153 3,060 730 13800 15.67 Sep-20
154 3,080 761 14880 15.76 Oct-20
155 3,100 791 15000 15.84 Nov-20
156 3,120 822 16120 15.92 Dec-20
157 3,140 853 16740 16.01 Jan-21
158 3,160 881 15680 16.08 Feb-21
159 3,180 912 17980 16.17 Mar-21
160 3,200 942 18000 16.25 Apr-21
161 3,220 973 19220 16.34 May-21
162 3,240 1003 19200 16.42 Jun-21
163 3,260 1034 20460 16.50 Jul-21
164 3,280 1065 21080 16.59 Aug-21
165 3,300 1095 21000 16.67 Sep-21
166 3,320 1126 22320 16.76 Oct-21
167 3,340 1156 22200 16.84 Nov-21
168 3,360 1187 23560 16.92 Dec-21
169 3,380 1218 24180 17.01 Jan-22
170 3,400 1246 22400 17.08 Feb-22
171 3,420 1277 25420 17.17 Mar-22
172 3,440 1307 25200 17.25 Apr-22
173 3,460 1338 26660 17.34 May-22
174 3,480 1368 26400 17.42 Jun-22
175 3,500 1399 27900 17.50 Jul-22
Extra Maintenance
Weight Increase (pounds)
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1,400 Days, 750,000+ (extra) calories: Math, growth, and varsity baseball (part 1)

Let’s say your 8th grader, ‘Ike’, is a terrific baseball player. At 13 years old, Ike is the youngest player in his league but competes successfully against players who are already playing junior varsity baseball in high school.

Ike is having a lot of fun playing baseball, and it is his goal to keep it going through high school and play varsity baseball as a junior and senior.

Ike is 5’6″ tall and weighs 130 pounds, so his weight is in the 75th percentile for his age. Conservatively, he’s on pace to be 6′ tall by the time he’s a high school senior, and to maintain his 75th percentile weight, he will need to gain about 45 pounds (to around 175 pounds). It turns out that 175 pounds is a fairly typical weight for the current varsity seniors on his high school team.

Right now, Ike eats about 2600 calories per day to maintain his weight. This is fairly standard. Moderately active teenage athletes (training and playing 5-9 hours per week) need to consume about 20 calories per pound to maintain their current weight.

Ike wants to grow at a steady pace over the next 1,400 days or so (that gets him to the middle of the summer before his senior year). How many EXTRA calories does Ike need to eat over the next 1,400 days?

Over 750,000. That’s 750,000+ EXTRA calories, above and beyond what he would consume if he just ate his current 2,600 calories a day for the next 1,400 days.

So is this really a problem, don’t teenage boys just naturally eat a lot? Sure. Hormones drive teenage boys to eat a lot and grow a lot. The average 13-year-old male weighs 100 pounds. The average 17-year-old male weighs 140 pounds (CDC BMI calculator – http://bit.ly/2Ja6YyG).

However, the challenge for teenage athletes is much larger.

First, athletes train. Training requires extra energy. Sedentary people need to consume 12-13 calories per pound of body weight to maintain their current weight. Athletes who train 5-9 hours per week need more like 20 calories per pound of body weight. During periods of very high exertion, it’s more like 25 calories per pound. For maintenance. Not growth. Maintenance.  (Estimated Daily Energy (Calorie) Needs for Competitive Athletes, http://bit.ly/2J6FUQH.)

Second, Ike is not trying to go from 100 pounds to 140 pounds, he is trying to go from 130 pounds to a minimum of 175 pounds. That’s five more pounds and he starts from a much higher baseline, where he is already eating more than the average 13-year-old.

Third, weight loss carries a high risk. As a baseball pitcher, Ike works hard at strengthening the muscles in his lower arm, shoulders, and hips. If Ike does not eat enough and does not carry enough body fat, he is vulnerable to catabolism – the body’s irritating habit of burning muscle for fuel when other sources are not available. If gaining muscle to support vulnerable joints lowers injury risk, then losing some of this muscle is highly undesirable, even dangerous.

In part II, where we come up with that number of ‘750,000+ excess calories.’

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Nutrition for teenage athletes

Disclaimer: I am not a physician, metabolic researcher, or ‘nutritionist’ and make no claim to hold any certification in the field of human nutrition.

I am a concerned parent raising two teenage athletes – one a swimmer, the other a baseball player – and I find that nearly all the expert nutritional advice circulated for teenage athletes appears to be written for sedentary adults.

…I find that nearly all the expert nutritional advice circulated for teenage athletes appears to be written for sedentary adults.

My goal is to discuss some observations and present the findings of my own research into published medical findings. I take seriously what elite athletes say when they speak candidly about food and I want to convey what some elite coaches say about the nutritional needs of their athletes when the topic is performance, not nutrition.

This last part is important. When speaking about performance and athletic goals, experienced athletes and coaches say some astonishing things about what and how much they eat. This information does not regularly make its way into the advice offered by nutritional experts.

When speaking about performance and athletic goals, experienced athletes and coaches say some astonishing things about what and how much they eat. 

I beg your indulgence in my use of pronouns. My son plays baseball. My daughter swims. I use ‘he’ and ‘she’ respectively when I write these posts because I am thinking about my own kids. I am not implying anything about the relationship between specific gender identifications and specific sports, nor do I think I have anything significant to say about other people’s gender identifications or their choice of athletic or recreational pursuits. Whoever you are and whatever sport you choose to do (or not do), good for you and good luck.

One post will look at the number of extra calories a hypothetical male teenage baseball player will consume to grow from 130 pounds in 8th grade to 175 pounds when he walks onto the field as a varsity player in his senior year. Another post will look at the energy needs of a hypothetical female teenage competitive swimmer looking to gain strength and drop time. There may be other posts as well.

As always, thanks for reading.

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Jimmy Carter’s spurious evidence for the crisis of confidence

From wikipedia:

On July 15, 1979, Carter gave a nationally televised address in which he identified what he believed to be a “crisis of confidence” among the American people. This came to be known as his “malaise” speech, although Carter never used the word in the speech.

This ‘malaise speech’ is rather famous, and there is some controversy over its reception and effect. Some look back on the speech and see it as typical of some awful traits in Carter – weakness, and a scowling disdain for his fellow Americans. Others suggest the speech was well received and nicely captured a mindset, more broadly accepted now, that we are in a state of self-inflicted decline (environmental, cultural, political and economic), but we may find a degree of moral redemption by gracefully managing this irreversible downward slide.

I don’t care about any of that. I care about one paragraph from the speech:

The symptoms of this crisis of the American spirit are all around us. For the first time in the history of our country a majority of our people believe that the next five years will be worse than the past five years. Two-thirds of our people do not even vote. The productivity of American workers is actually dropping, and the willingness of Americans to save for the future has fallen below that of all other people in the Western world.

Sentence 2: For the first time in the history of our country a majority of our people believe that the next five years will be worse than the past five years. 

Gallup does regular polling on that question. In August 1979, 75% of Americans believed things would be BETTER over the next 5 years. At no point in the 1970s did that mark fall below 70%.

Sentence 3: Two-thirds of our people do not even vote. 

In 1976, 55% of the voting-age population voted in the presidential election. Voter turnout in the midterm election was 39.1%. That is low turnout, but not especially for midterm elections. It beats 1926 (32.9%) and 1946 (38.8%). 1946. Are we to believe that Americans were suffering from a crisis of the American spirit in the prosperous years following World War II as our nation rose to the status of global superpower?

Sentence 4 (a): The productivity of American workers is actually dropping…

Labor productivity was going down during this period, but that wasn’t a new phenomenon (productivity cycles up and down over the decades), and Carter missed the point anyway. The problem was with wages, not productivity. For example, labor productivity declined sharply in the mid-1950s, but compensation relative to productivity rose significantly. So people weren’t working as hard and were getting paid better. That didn’t feel like a crisis.

The troubling decline in the late 1970s was actually in ‘Real Hourly Compensation’. Productivity and compensation do not march in lockstep (look at the 1950s), so if Carter was implying that American workers were suffering economically because they were less productive, then he was wrong. And in a mean sort of way.

Sentence 4 (b): …and the willingness of Americans to save for the future has fallen below that of all other people in the Western world.

Bracketing the odd choice of the word ‘willingness’ (what with the decline in real hourly compensation), the statement is just not true. In the late 1970s, Norway’s household savings rate was far below the U.S. household savings rate. Same with Sweden, and probably Iceland and Finland.

You can’t refute subjective arguments and moral reasoning. They are not meant to be testable. But the evidence presented to bolster that reasoning can be tested. And then we each have to decide what it means about the larger argument when the evidence presented is shown to be garbage.



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What’s wrong with this picture? Ronald Reagan and the Taliban


Here’s another version of the same:


Well, a number of things.

  1. This isn’t the Taliban.
  2. Reagan was never reported to have said those words about the Afghan resistance groups.
  3. This meeting (picture above) took place in 1983 (February 2nd, to be precise), not 1985.
  4. Someone misspelled “Ronald”.

Numbers 2-4 are embarrassing, but not super-important.

Number 1 is more of a big deal.

I hope that the folks who prepared this photo didn’t label these Afghans ‘Taliban’ just because they looked Afghan.

There are a few obvious clues that this isn’t the Taliban. First, there is a woman in the foreground, sitting with the men, with her hair visible, her face is not veiled, and she is speaking and the men are listening. So, not the Taliban.

Also, this photo is from 1983. The Taliban was formed in 1994.

Mullah Mohammed Omar started the Taliban along with 50 armed madrassa students from Kandahar. None of them were at the meeting pictured above. Several smaller right-wing militias joined with the Taliban. None of the eventual leaders of those other pro-Taliban militias were at this meeting.*

Strangely sexist: The tough part here is that the folks passing these photos around tend to label themselves as ‘Progressives’ (I am a liberal Democrat, but I am wary of calling myself ‘progressive’). Progressives are supposed to be extra concerned about women’s rights. Yet, Progressives are increasingly vulnerable to the charge that they are willing to ignore right-wing repression of women’s rights if that repression comes from groups that are critical of the West in general and American foreign policy in particular.

This is especially true for Progressives and Islamists. Islamists are pathologically oppressive of women. Progressives tend to downplay these elements of Islamism, and instead focus on the anti-Western views of Islamists which Progressives find attractive. It is as if, when it comes to Islamist oppression of women, Progressives just don’t see it.

So, it’s bad for Progressives to miss the obvious fact that this can’t be the Taliban because there is a woman participating in the discussion. That’s an incriminating mistake.

*There is no denying that the CIA helped start and fund training camps where many Taliban, including Mullah Omar, learned how to fight. The U.S. had a better record with the Afghan leaders who were directly backed. U.S. supported guys like Massoud and Abdul Haq emerged as the primary anti-Taliban leaders (and both were assassinated for it). Hekmatyar, who received a lot of American arms via Pakistani intelligence services during the 1980s, was a destructive force in Afghanistan but was anti-Taliban and had to flee when the Taliban took over.
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Language barriers and police homicides

It is true. African Americans are far more likely to be killed by the police than whites, Hispanics, Asians, or Native Americans.

Until now, the magnitude of that problem has been hard to gauge. In previous years, statistics on homicides (justified or not) by police have been incomplete or speculative.

This year, thanks to The Counted (a project of the Guardian newspaper) we know (or, soon will know) how many were killed by police in the United States. While the year isn’t over, and more than a hundred homicides have yet to be classified by race, we already know more than we did before.

As of today (November 3), 960 people have been killed by police in the US. Of those:

  • White: 442
  • Black: 232
  • Hispanic: 144
  • Asian: 17
  • Native American: 12

The rate, police murders per million population, is:

  • Black: 5.55
  • Hispanic: 2.66
  • White: 2.23
  • Asian: 1.16 (my calculations)
  • Native American: 4.13 (my calculations)

By these numbers, African Americans are 2.5 times more likely than whites to be killed by police.

If we go beyond raw population numbers, and look at arrest numbers, the story changes. By looking at arrest numbers we might be able to gauge the risk faced by a member of a racial or ethnic group per encounter with the police. We have comprehensive FBI arrest data from 2013. We have good data for police homicides for 2015. Not perfect, but a start.

In 2013, according to the FBI, there were 5.80 million arrests of white suspects. According to the Guardian, we are on pace for 596 white people killed by police in 2015. That leads to a rate of 103 whites killed by police for every 1 million white people arrested.

Here is how it looks for other racial or ethnic groups. By race or ethnicity, the (likely) number of police homicides (by race/ethnicity) per 1 million arrests (again, by race/ethnicity):

  • Whites: 103
  • African Americans: 103
  • Hispanics: 122
  • Asians: 186
  • Native Americans: 107

For all races combined, 108 people are killed by cops per 1 million arrests.

Compared to the overall rate, Whites, African Americans, and Native Americans are less likely than average to be killed by the police in the process of being arrested.

By this same comparison, Hispanics are more likely than average to be killed by police in the process of being arrested.

And for Asians, the rate of homicides by police for every 1 million arrests is 70% above average, and more than 80% above the rate for whites or African Americans.

What is going on here?

I think it is safe to say the following:

  • Hispanics and Asians are more likely than the other groups to have limited English skills.
  • While some (but only some) cops speak Spanish, very few police speak an array of Asian languages.

Total speculation, but here it goes: In high-tension situations involving police, where clear communications with officers is most important, some Hispanics and Asians with limited English skills may find themselves at a disadvantage. This may, on occasion, have deadly consequences.

This is not a statement about how the world ‘ought’ to be.  It is a guess about how to explain some unexpected data. 

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How did margarine surpass butter?

1. Margarine surpassed butter as the preferred American table spread in the late 1950s.

2. There are several popular theories explaining this shift. None of them are supported by the data. Specifically, they are either too early (‘war rationing’) or too late (‘taxes and market distortion,’ ‘counter-culture,’ and ‘health claims’).

3. Americans chose margarine because it was cheap.

It is often said that Americans switched to margarine during World War II, as butter was scarce and rationed (starting in 1943).

Butter WW2

AUGUST 13, 2014. The Butter Wars: When Margarine Was Pink. National Geographic




Others suggest that unfair taxes on margarine distorted the market and artificially depressed demand for the product. When those taxes were lifted in 1950, margarine sales took off.

Taubes. Science. 2001

Taubes. Science. 2001

Another theory is that Americans abandoned butter in the 1960s. A growing counter-culture led a large segment of the public away from things ‘traditional American’, including the traditional American diet of red meat and heavy cream.

Others would point out that this change was supported by a growing chorus of (mistaken) advice, from health experts, telling Americans to avoid dietary cholesterol, or maybe fat, or maybe animal fat, or maybe saturated fat.

This formulation no doubt explains a number of shifts in the American diet. But it doesn’t work for butter.

In fact, none of these theories work. Look for yourself:

101 years of butter and margarine




Americans margarine consumption spiked after WWII. Margarine sales spiked before the repeal of margarine taxes. And margarine surpassed butter long before the rise of the counter-culture or broad public concerns about animal fats and heart disease.

Why did margarine sore in the late 1940s and 1950s? Cost, mostly. Look at postwar retail food prices in the United States:Retail Prices of foods

Dairy prices were even worse, nearly doubling between 1946 and 1948. Meanwhile, margarine was cheap and plentiful.

margarine text

Retail Prices of Food, 1948. Bureau of Labor Statistics

The lifting of margarine-specific taxes had a limited effect. Before the repeal of the taxes, margarine was still half the cost of butter. With repeal, in 1950, margarine prices relative to butter stayed low, but the repeal of the taxes didn’t significantly change the market.

Quality and appearance improved as well. The early 1950s saw the roll-back of American anti-margarine laws that prevented manufacturers from dying the product yellow. Manufactures also improved their recipes, making the product creamier.

24010005 6

Lloyd. Review of Marketing and Agricultural Economics. Australia. 1955

In the UK and Australia, laws that capped margarine production also fell away. By the mid-1950s, in all three nations, the product was cheap, attractive, and heavily advertised. And more popular than butter.

Time Magazine. Cover story on fat and heart health. January 1961

Time Magazine. Cover story on dietary fat and heart health. January 1961

Remember, we also don’t see broadly accepted health claims about margarine over butter in any of the contemporary materials from WWII, the late 1940s, or the mid-1950s. These (ultimately illusory) health concerns wouldn’t become conventional wisdom until the 1960s, several years after margarine was already America’s preferred table spread.

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