When Do Males Stop Growing & Why? Age, Genetics, Stunters & More

Written by Joshua Leaf | Updated on November 2, 2021

As a teenager or parent, you might look at a rapidly changing body and wonder, “When do males stop growing?” Though height is mostly determined by genetics, many environmental and external factors can give boys the best chance of growing to their full potential.

Read on to learn at what age physical growth usually stops and how to maximize height gains until then.

At What Age Do Males Stop Growing?

Most males reach their adult height at 16, growing perhaps an inch or two afterward. Boys who start puberty late may continue to grow into adulthood. Doctors can determine whether a child has stopped growing by examining an x-ray of the wrist and the forearm. This test tells the “bone age” and indicates whether the growth plates are still open.

Average Male Height by Age

The chart below shows average male height by age as published by the CDC. The average adult male in the US is 5 feet 9 inches tall.

A percentile chart sourced from cdc.gov that correlates stature and age for boys up until 20.

Do Girls Stop Growing at a Different Age?

Girls and boys grow at different rates. Though girls typically start puberty earlier, between the ages of 8-14, they gain less height during their growth spurts than boys. When comparing averages, the typical male is about 5.5 inches taller than the average female. [6]

Girls also stop growing earlier than boys – around the ages of 13-15, they reach their adult height. Though they may be taller than their male peers at the onset of puberty, they’ll likely end up shorter at the end.

What Factors Contribute to Males’ Height or Growth?

The question of nature vs. nurture often comes up when talking about height. People try to predict boys’ adult height by adding the parents’ heights together, dividing the sum by two, and adding 2.5 inches. However, this calculation can be off by up to 4 inches.[1]

Male height or stature, in general, isn’t accurately predictable since there are many complexities such as:

Genetics

80% of height is dependent on genetics.[2] Scientists have identified over 700 genes that determine stature, affecting everything from growth hormone production to metabolism.[3] So, it’s obvious shorter parents tend to create shorter children.

Hormones

Hormones like human growth hormone (HGH), thyroid hormone, and sex hormones stimulate the growth of muscles and bones and sexual development. HGH is directly responsible for signaling the growth plates to create additional layers of bone. The thyroid promotes the production of growth factors such as epidermal and nerve growth factors and growth hormone release.

Puberty Timing

Most boys start puberty between 10-13, with the average boy beginning at 12. They’re very likely to experience growth spurts till 1-2 years after puberty.[1] Since puberty accelerates physical development, many believe that boys who start puberty earlier grow up to be taller adults.

However, this assumption is untrue since it’s been shown that boys who start late develop faster to catch up with their peers. No matter what age they experience puberty, the average height gained remains about the same. What matters is height before puberty since it’s difficult to make up for previous setbacks.

Sleep Duration and Quality

Getting 6-8 hours of deep sleep every night is essential as it increases the likelihood of growth hormone secretion. 70% of HGH release in men happens shortly after falling asleep, and doctors even check for HGH release overnight at times as this is the time it’s most abundant.[4]

Nutrition

Nutrition is perhaps the single most crucial factor that affects growth in otherwise healthy boys. A proper diet high in protein and calcium is imperative for making the bones denser and more robust. Therefore, parents should include foods like chicken, legumes, eggs, yogurt, milk, soybeans, and oranges in a balanced diet.

A Vitamin E or D deficiency can also cause stunted growth. Vitamin D also aids in absorbing calcium, which is necessary for bone health, so making sure children eat adequate foods like almonds, salmon, and tuna and spend some time in the sun is essential.

Besides this, foods rich in arginine can also boost HGH production. Even consuming 5-9 g of arginine a day can result in up to 100% more HGH release.[5] If parents think their children are too short for their age, feeding them high-arginine foods like turkey, peanuts, and pork loins might be a good idea.

Healthy Lifestyle

Getting enough exercise increases stamina, optimizes metabolism, and boosts the production of HGH in healthy boys. A healthy lifestyle also means lower body fat, which also promotes growth. Obesity in boys is also associated with delayed puberty, so maintaining a healthy lifestyle is an advantage no matter what.

Growth Stunters or Stoppers

Multiple factors can delay or stunt height. For example, drugs, medical conditions, and disorders can affect stature, so it’s important to catch any growth delays well in advance. This can be done by regularly measuring and tracking height.

Malnutrition

Inadequate or improper nutrition leads to slower bone growth. Calcium and protein deficiencies lead to weaker bones that last into adulthood, and kids are less likely to reach their full genetic height. Vitamin E and D deficiencies can also stunt growth, and a lack of vitamin D impairs calcium absorption.

Substances

Substance abuse by mothers during pregnancy can stunt boys’ growth in adolescence, and this abuse can result in premature birth and lower birth weight, setting the stage for the rest of the child’s life. Even seemingly harmless drugs like cannabis can cause developmental delays.

If a teenage boy abuses drugs, they can prolong adolescence, giving the appearance of delayed growth.

Underlying Genetic Condition or Hormone Issues

Since genetics play the most critical role in determining height, genetic disorders are the most significant height inhibitors. Disorders like Down syndrome, where a child is born with 47 chromosomes instead of the standard 46, and Marfan syndrome, an illness that affects the connective tissues, affect height as overall development is slower.

Growth hormone deficiency stops otherwise healthy children from growing at a regular rate. Hypothyroidism, reduces production of thyroid hormone and can also have the same effect.

If a boy is shorter than 95% of his peers or his growth curve suddenly flattens out, it can indicate growth delays. A doctor can determine whether the kid has a hormone deficiency – they treat HGH deficiency with daily injections for years, and children might have to take thyroid medication for multiple years.

Adults Can Increase Height with Limb Lengthening Surgery

No matter the starting height, if an adult male who’s stopped growing wants to become taller, they may consider height increasing surgery if all other non-surgical options have been explored. For example, people can get heel lifts, therapy, and many other things before opting for such a procedure.

However, the procedure can increase height by up to 16 cm and is almost 100% successful.[7] The process is expensive, time-consuming, and involved, so it’s not for everyone. Whatever you decide, consult a doctor before going ahead.

References

[1] Medical News Today. What age do boys stop growing? (2018, January 21). Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320676#when-do-boys-typically-fully-mature

[2] Quora Contributor. (2016, November 3). Is It Possible To Increase Your Height? Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/quora/2016/11/03/is-it-possible-to-increase-your-height/?sh=522588875139

[3] MedlinePlus. (2020, September 17). Is height determined by genetics? MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/understanding/traits/height/

[4] Van Cauter, E., & Plat, L. (1996). Physiology of growth hormone secretion during sleep. The Journal of pediatrics, 128(5 Pt 2), S32–S37. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8627466/

[5] Kanaley J. A. (2008). Growth hormone, arginine and exercise. Current opinion in clinical nutrition and metabolic care, 11(1), 50–54. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18090659/

[6] You and your Hormones. (2011, April 8). Growth and height. You and your Hormones. https://www.yourhormones.info/topical-issues/growth-and-height/

[7] Rozbruch, S. R. (2020, April 28). Limb Lengthening – An Overview. HSS. https://www.hss.edu/conditions_limb-lengthening-overview.asp

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