Page last updated at 14:56 GMT, Saturday, 23 August 2008 15:56 UK

Boys striving for 'body beautiful'

By Siobhan Courtney
BBC News


Sixteen-year-old Reece Sales on the 'buzz he gets from the gym

Teenager Reece Sales works out six times a week to achieve his perfect body.

And the 16-year-old from Dunstable in Bedfordshire is far from unique.

According to Men's Fitness magazine, Reece is one of a growing number of teenage boys in the UK wanting to beef and bulk up.

A recent survey by the publication showed 87% of respondents wanted to get more muscular.

Peter Muir, editor of the magazine, told BBC News: "We're now getting up to 60 letters a month from teenagers wanting to know how to get bigger. That's double the amount compared to 2007."

Worrying trend

Mr Muir adds: "Beckham had the body that teenagers wanted - athletic and slim.

"But then, Daniel Craig emerged from the sea in Casino Royale in his pants and all that changed. Craig is a lot more muscular, beefier and that is now the 'ideal look'."

But it is a trend which is worrying experts.

Protein shakes and supplements are a popular choice for boys wanting to boost their performance in the gym, and improve the definition and strength of their muscles.

I don't want to be obese. I work out, so when it's hot, I can take my top off with pride
Reece Sales

Sports dietician Dr Sarah Schenker warns they should be taken with care.

"Over-consumption can lead to long-term health problems.

"The danger is that many teenagers either take too much of the shakes instead of a nutritious diet.

"They will not provide you with the essential vitamins and minerals you get from fresh fruit, vegetables and starchy carbs."

Dr Michael Sinclair, of the British Psychological Society, says we need to make sure our teenagers are not becoming too developed too quickly.

"Everyone is growing up far too quickly. Some 15 to 16-year-old boys are working out like men - is this good for them?

Pumping iron

"I don't think it is. It seems like they are losing some of their innocence - boys should be boys running around the park with a football, not straining themselves pumping iron in the local gym.

"I think they need to enjoy their youth and not succumb to this huge pressure to have perfect abs, bulging biceps and a ripped torso. They have enough to worry about with puberty, education."

But Reece says more and more teenagers are beginning to care about what they look like.

"I don't want to be obese. I work out, so when it's hot I can take my top off with pride. I like the admiring looks I get - it makes me feel good."

His friend and fellow gym-bunny 16-year-old Adam Kite, also from Dunstable, agrees.

"There is pressure on boys to look good now. In the past everyone cared about what girls looked like, how fat or thin they were, but us boys also care.

"We want to look buff, so that's why we come down the gym."

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