All teens (and the parents who feed them) should be pay attention to what they eat. But that’s especially important when that teenager is an athlete. In this guest post, Arica Wright talks about essential eating for teen athletes and those who love them.
Athletic teenagers don’t always make the best choices when it comes to choosing what to eat. Sometimes this is due to a lack of knowledge, convenience, availability of healthy food options or what tastes good. Teen athletes need extra calories for not only their sport, but also to fuel their growth. Without the correct nutrition, the athlete may not perform optimally, have enough energy to get through their practice or game and may end up causing growth or health problems.
Calorie and Nutritional Requirements
The average calorie requirement for a teen athlete is between 2200 and 2500 calories per day. A recommended diet is composed of 60-70 percent carbohydrates, 20-30 percent fat and 12-15 percent protein. Vitamins and minerals from fruits and vegetables are important too, but not the main source of energy. The main sources of calories are carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Unfortunately, it’s likely that teenagers are consuming the wrong types of fats and carbohydrates through fast food, packed snacks and soda to name a few. Teen athletes need snacks throughout the day to keep their energy up and get their recommended calories. Some recommended snacks include sports drinks, trail mix, granola bars, peanut butter crackers and juice boxes.
Carbohydrates Carbohydrates should be the foundation of an athlete’s diet. Carbohydrates provide glucose to the brain and muscles allowing the athlete to be alert, focused, and quick to respond. Whole wheat, grains, beans, fruit, milk, yogurt, and starchy vegetables such as potatoes and corn are adequate carbohydrate sources. Athletes should eat 2.7 to 4.5 grams of carbs per kg per day. When you eat your carbs also count. Endurance athletes should eat a meal high in carbs approximately 15 hours before the competition and another smaller meal with a carbohydrate three to four hours before.
Protein builds and repairs muscle, but extra protein does not build extra muscle. Protein should be included in every meal to help repair muscle. Endurance athletes should have approximately 0.5 – 0.7 grams of protein per pound daily and resistance athletes should have approximately 0.7 – 0.8 grams of protein per pound daily. Protein sources can come from lean meat, chicken, turkey, fish or alternatives such as beans, eggs, nuts, low-fat dairy or soy.
In teen athletes, calcium and iron build strong bones, lower risk for osteoporosis, maintain muscle tissue and keep a regular heart beat. Iron helps with the transportation of oxygen throughout the body. Lack of calcium and iron is particularly common in teenage girls because they are concerned about weight. By not eating enough calcium from dairy products, teenage girls are missing out on valuable omega-3 fatty acid. Calcium sources can come from quality dairy products, sardines, nuts, beans, and leafy greens. Iron requirements can be met by eating meats, beans and legumes, grains, and dark leafy greens Supplements should not substitute a proper diet, but can be helpful if the teen athlete is not getting the vitamins and minerals needed.
Water and sports drinks are important to helping rehydrate teen athletes after exercising to prevent symptoms of heat exhaustion or even death. Sports drinks contain added potassium and sodium to help replenish electrolytes after sweating. Teen athletes should drink 16 ounces of fluids two hours prior to the competition, four to eight ounces a few minutes prior to the competition, eight ounces every 20 minutes during the competition and at least 24 ounces afterward.
Arica Wright is a professional blogger who enjoys providing consumers with heath and fitness advice. She writes for Fitness 19 Gyms, a leading health club franchise.