A Guide to Eating for Teen Athletes

A Guide to Eating for Teen Athletes

Teen athletes have distinct nutritional needs compared to their peers who do not engage in regular sports activities. Typically, athletes exert themselves more in sports, meaning they require extra calories to fuel both their athletic performance and growth.

So, what happens if these athletes are undernourished? Their bodies tend to underperform. In some cases, they might even lose muscle mass. Athletes failing to consume adequate calories daily will struggle to meet their performance requirements.

Athletes and Dieting

Teen athletes need extra fuel. Therefore, dieting is usually not a good choice. Those involved in weight-focused sports — such as wrestling, swimming, dancing, or gymnastics — might need to keep an eye on their weight. However, certain measures should be consistently taken to ensure they meet their nutritional requirements.

If a coach, PE teacher, or teammate suggests a teen athlete should diet, it’s crucial to consult with a doctor or a dietician specializing in teen athletes. If the health professional agrees that the diet is safe, the athlete can consult with them to craft a healthy eating plan.

Diverse Food Intake

To boost long-term performance, it’s essential to consume a variety of healthy, balanced meals and snacks to get the required nutrients.

Essential Vitamins and Minerals

Apart from acquiring the right amount of calories, teen athletes need a plethora of nutrients from the food they eat to maintain peak performance. This includes essential vitamins and minerals. Calcium and iron stand out as two crucial minerals for athletes:

  • Calcium is foundational for building strong bones that athletes rely on. It can be found in dairy products such as low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese.
  • Iron’s main function is to transport oxygen to muscles. To ensure adequate iron intake, one should consume lean meats, fish, green leafy vegetables, and iron-fortified cereals.

Power of Protein

Athletes might need more protein compared to their less active counterparts. Good sources of protein include fish, lean meats, eggs, milk, nuts, soy, and peanut butter.

Carbohydrate Needs

Carbohydrates are an excellent source of energy. Reducing carbohydrate intake or following a low-carb diet is not advisable for athletes. Limiting carbs can make teen athletes feel fatigued, affecting their performance adversely.

Good sources of carbs include fruits, vegetables, and grains. Opt for whole grains (like brown rice, oatmeal, whole wheat bread) over refined alternatives like white rice or white bread. Whole grains provide the required energy, fiber, and other nutrients crucial for health.

Sweet carbs, like candies or sodas, lack the additional nutrients the body needs. Consuming sugary snacks or drinks just before a workout or competition can give a quick energy spike, but it might also lead to an energy crash before the activity ends.

To address the need for carbohydrates, calories, protein, and vitamins, products like “Energen Champion” can be an excellent solution.


Water is as vital as food. When sweating and exercising, athletes are prone to overheating, headaches, and fatigue, especially in hot or humid conditions. Even mild dehydration can affect an athlete’s physical and mental performance.

There’s no fixed guideline on how much water one should drink. The required fluid intake varies based on age, weight, physical activity level, and environmental temperature.

Athletes should hydrate before, during, and after exercising. Waiting until you’re thirsty is not advisable, as thirst is a sign that the body has been lacking fluids for a while.

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