Former professional football player Heath Evans explains in detail how vastly we underestimate the athletic limits of children & their diets.

Heath Evans is a former pro football fullback and former analyst on the NFL Network. He is best known for his time on the Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, and New Orleans Saints. Now retired from both the field and TV, Evans is a personal trainer and coach. In this week’s episode of Generation Iron and Barbend’s The Mike O’Hearn Show, Heath Evans reveals the many misconceptions about training teens athletically and what science gets wrong about carbs.

In this day and age we live in a truly informative time. Health and fitness have reached newfound popularity among the mainstream public. And there is more information and studies that show what is and isn’t healthy. What does and does not work. But when discussing the details of nutrition, health, and fitness – majority of science is geared towards your average person. The guidelines that have taken root in popularity are often not as advisable for individuals that want to become elite athletes.

Mike O’Hearn and Heath Evans know this all too well. They grew up in an era where health and fitness information was completely different. In fact, they became the strength athlete successes they are today because, by today’s standards, they broke all of the rules. O’Hearn himself has touted that he was a mass monster as young as 17 years old. He didn’t do this by restricting carbs and being cautious with his weightlifting.

There is a place for limits and for forward thinking when it comes to long term health. This is something that Mike O’Hearn puts incredible effort into promoting with his massive platform and popularity. But this doesn’t mean we have to follow every single rule. In order to be the best in the world (while also maintaining health for longevity), you have to be willing to go places that others won’t.

That’s why in this week’s podcast episode, Mike O’Hearn gets into the real gritty details with Heath Evans about modern diet advice and, specifically, the way we train teens who are interested in pursuing athletic excellence. Let’s break it down here.

Eat more carbs and eat more calories – especially for aspiring teen athletes

Counting calories and cutting carbs are modern go-to tactics in the health and fitness world. But Mike O’Hearn is worried that this is leading to a new generation of aspiring athletes who won’t be able to reach their goals. Heath Evans feels the same way. While carbs can be something the average person cuts out of their diet – those who want to be the best athletically can utilize carbs for incredible results. They can also remain healthy while doing so.

The vital factor behind this comes in the form of what kind of carbs you eat. Like most things in life when it comes to diet – eating as lean and clean as possible is always healthiest. However, even the boundaries of this can be pushed for particularly active teens.

During puberty and the immediate post-pubescent period for teens, there is a vast potential for athletic growth. Heath Evans says it best during the interview conversation:

“When their hormone panels are through the roof… push them.”

– Heath Evans

This is both physically and also how many carbs and calories they can eat. Mike O’Hearn goes on to say that he doesn’t even know what a caloric surplus looks like for a teenager. If they are aggressively aspiring to become pro athletes – they will be utilizing so much of those calories during exercise and training prep. Due to this, the regular guidelines should not be heeded. If you restrict calories and carbs – you will only limit their growth.

This teenage age is a vital period of time. It can set the foundation that springboards an individual into greatness well into their 20s and 30s. Mike O’Hearn and Heath Evans worry that the new generation are being set up to fail athletically.


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Teenage athletic excellence can go beyond genetics

This also goes beyond genetics. While “blessed genetics” can make someone like Mike O’Hearn a strength monster at age 17, it is possible for people with “weak genetics” to still thrive. Heath Evans is seeing this with one of his clients. He stared training a young boy at just 14 years old. He ran slow run times, was flat footed, and didn’t seem to have the genetic potential for natural athletic ability.

Despite this, this young man had the drive to be an athlete, evidenced by his desire to train under Heath Evans. With Evan’s training routine and diet over the past three years, this young man has not yet hit a plateau. He keeps growing, keeps getting stronger, keeps improving with all of his metrics. He now has improved up to benching 315 pounds on an incline at just 17 years old. That might not be record breaking numbers – but it’s impressive for a young kid who just three years ago had no natural potential in strength sports at all.

Wrap Up

We are constantly re-evaluating how we teach health when it comes to diet and exercise. In a world now filled with processed foods and dirty meals – it’s vital to educate the youth about health eating. However, it’s also important to understand that a diet is only one part of a spectrum for health.

For those young men and women who want to become elite athletes, who know it in their early years, they won’t fall under the general guidance of nutrition and health. At least, not in the every single way. A young athlete is training far more than any average person is expected to. They are building mass amounts of muscle and strength. This utilizes so much more fuel.

That fuel can be carbs. It can be well over two or three thousand calories. The period of puberty is when a child is growing the most. It can be taken advantage of for those who are laser focused on becoming a pro athlete. Forget PEDs or steroids. “Food is medicine,” states Heath Evans. It can be used to leverage an amazing foundation for elite athletic success. But it might mean you have to break the rules for the common man a bit.

You can watch Heath Evans and Mike O’Hearn talk in full detail in our latest episode of The Mike O’Hearn Show above. Make sure to check back every Friday for new episodes only on the Generation Iron Fitness Network or wherever podcasts are downloaded.


Derek Dufour
Derek Dufour has been managing all digital operations on the Generation Iron Network for over six years. He currently manages a team of editors, writers, and designers to provide up-to-date content across the GI Network.