Sports nutrition for young athletes

We are all aware of the importance that young people should eat a healthy, balanced diet for optimal growth and development. But, if your child or teen is an athlete, there are some additional concerns about their diet. Proper sports nutrition for young athletes is an important part of boosting athletic performance.

Proper amounts of macronutrients, micronutrients and fluids are essential for proper growth and optimized athletic performance. Young athletes have to know how to eat and drink right, before, during and after activity. That is, what, when and how to eat and drink.

Young athletes have different needs than adults. By knowing some of these differences, you can know better how to implement nutrition strategies that support youth sports development.

Also read: Benefits that sport and exercise bring to children

What is sports nutrition?

Sports nutrition is the study and practice of nutrition and diet which reputes to enhance anyone’s athletic performance. Nutrition is a necessary part of many sports training teams, being popular in strength sports and fortitude sports.

It focuses its study on the type, as well as the quality of fluid and food taken by an athlete. It deals with the consumption of nutrition such as vitamins, minerals, supplements, and organic substances that comprise carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

Scope of the project of sports nutrition for young athletes

The scope of this project is too significant as nutrition plays a chief role in athlete life. The whole career of an athlete depends upon its practice and nutrition which he intakes.

A proper planned nutrition diet is chiefly important for an athlete to perform decently. Nutrition gives energy to the athlete to perform best in the ground. So, the knowledge of nutrition is significant for an athlete to intake food suitably.

Without suitable and proper nutrition an athlete could become weak and could not compete well in a competition. So, the scope of this project plays a major role in the young athlete.

What an athlete should eat in a day

Dumbbell meat and vegetables

An athlete should eat at least five servings per day, and include varieties of fruit and vegetables. The size of one serving of each meal should be the size of a baseball. Including a balance of complex carbs, lean protein, healthy fat, fruits, and vegetables.

Fruits and vegetables should fill the energy and nutrients, compulsory for training and recovery. Pre-workout breakfasts are vital for an athlete because when a person wakes up, its blood sugar is already low, so something carb-laden should be eaten before a workout.

The athlete should be consuming 0.5-1 ounce of water per pounds of body weight every day. The athlete should be taking in about 30-60g of carbs per hour to refill his glycogen store and should always consume fluid. Immediately after finishing a high-intensity activity, an athlete should consume a mix of protein and carbs.

Nutritional need for teenage athlete

Sports nutrition for young athletes should include five or six balanced meals and snacks each day and the athlete should be eating every three hours. Each meal should include a balance of complex carbohydrates, vegetables, lean protein, fruits, healthy fat and vitamins.

Following are the healthy choices for the young athlete:

  • Whole grains and other complex carbohydrates
  • Fruit (2-4 servings per day)
  • Vegetables (3-5 servings per day)
  • Lean proteins (chicken, fish, beans, tofu, egg, yogurt, and milk)
  • Healthy fats (nuts, olive oil, avocado, nut butter and seeds)

Special requirements for teenage athletes

For teenage athletes, fats should comprise 25-35% of total energy intake. Saturated fats should comprise no more than 10% of total energy intake. Active teen girls need 2,200 to 3,0000, while active teenage boys need 3,000 to 4,000 calories a day.

Quality calories should be taken from fruit, vegetables, whole-grain loaves of bread and cereals, low-fat dairy, lean protein, and heart-healthy fats. These foods provide the vitamins and minerals athletes need.

Carbs are the most vital fuel for an athlete. Carbs are stored as fuel inside muscles and athletes need full carbs stores before activity.

Nutritional needs for female athletes

Sporty young woman eating salad and drinking fruit juice in the kitchen

Female strength athletes should also contain high-quality proteins in their diet because they provide essential amino acids, vitamin B-12 and vitamin D, thiamine (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B-2), calcium, phosphorus, iron and zinc.

Key points

  • Energy intake needs to match energy expenditure to maintain a high level of training, building, and repair of body tissues, cover the energy coast of daily living, prevent illness, and maintain reproductive function.
  • Energy intakes less than 1,800 kcal/day make it difficult to get the dietary nutrients required for energy metabolism, maintenance of bones and blood, and general health.
  • Eating enough carbs to match the energy demands of the athlete will assure adequate glycogen replacement.
  • Suitable protein is necessary for maintaining and repairing muscles and bone and good health. Protein requirements can range from 1.2 to 2.0 g/kg body weight.

Nutrition requirements for adolescents

The energy intake of an adolescent should provide adequate support for growth and development needs, which maintains the desired energy expenditure for exercise and performance goals.

Adolescents should be encouraged to adjust carbs intake to match daily energy demands. Protein needs are between 1.3 to 1.8g per kg per day. Fat intake should be 20-25% of total energy, with no more than 10% of total energy coming from saturated and trans fats. Calcium and vitamin D are vital nutrients for good bone health and are vital in adolescents for growth.

Protein and vitamin needs for young athletes

Vitamin and minerals are vital for a variety of activities in the body such as turning food into energy and keeping bones healthy. They also affect how well the body performs.

A variety of vitamins are needed in metabolism. These vitamins help to breakdown food from bigger nutrients, such as carbs and fatty acids, into smaller units that the body can use to turn into fuel.

Following are the significant vitamins for the young athlete

  • Thiamin
  • Niacin
  • Vitamin B-6
  • Vitamin B-12
  • Iron
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin D
  • Calcium

What is a healthy diet for an athlete?

For a healthy diet, an athlete should have a diet that gets about 70% of its calories from carbs to achieve maximum carbs storage. Carbs are contained in bread, cereals, pasta, fruit, and vegetables.

A balanced amount of carbs, fats, and vitamins is necessary for the healthy diet of an athlete. For a healthy diet, carbs provide almost half the amount of total energy. Carbs should make up the majority of your athlete diet, around 55-70% of total caloric intake. The amount of protein needed is around 10-15% of dietary caloric intake. Consumption of fat should not fall less than 15% of total dietary intake.


Carbohydrates, vitamins, fats, and minerals are necessary for a healthy diet of a young athlete. It provides proper sports nutrition for young athletes to perform well in the competition and to recover from the illness. It’s also important for the muscles of an athlete. A proper healthy diet that contains 50% carbs,10% proteins, and 15%fats is essential for a healthy diet of an athlete.

Also read: Who really needs to use proteins, creatine and glutamine?


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