Eating for Sports Performance


Adolescence is the perfect time for parents and teachers to instill healthy physical habits. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adolescents get at least one hour of physical exercise each day.

For teenage athletes, that is easy to do. The next obstacle is, however, how should teenage athletes eat? With all the unhealthy (but delicious) options out there, how can parents and coaches make sure these teenagers eat a diet that promotes sports performance?

To find out what foods are best, check out the guide below. 

Teenage Athletes Dietary Needs

Teens need extra nutritional support to foster their sports performance and their growth. This can mean eating as much as 2,000 to 5,000 calories per day. 

It’s essential for their health to determine how many calories they need and make sure they meet them. Eating too little can cause weight loss and even make teenage athletes susceptible to injury.

However, how they consume those thousands of calories is equally important. They need to eat foods with the right balance of macronutrients and micronutrients. 

Eating Carbohydrates

Consuming healthy carbs is a huge source of energy for all humans, but especially for athletes. Carbs are broken down in the body and made into glucose. This glucose is stored in the liver and muscles to be used for energy as necessary.

There is a difference between good and bad carbs. For example, sugar can provide the body with carbs. These kinds of carbs, however, are unsustainable and lead to a sugar crash. 

Instead, focus on complex carbohydrates like fruit, vegetables, and whole grains. These should constitute a majority of a teen athlete’s diet. 

Eating Protein

Eating protein is essential to muscle maintenance and expansion. As bodies exercise, the muscles sustain tiny tears. The amino acids in protein fix these tears and help the muscle grow. 

It can be a difficult balance to determine just how much protein a teenage athlete needs. Studies show it can be anywhere from 0.5 to 0.8 grams per pound of body weight.

Eating Fat

Many teens deal with body issues and may fear eating fatty food. Fats, however, are also essential to a teenage athlete’s diet. Fats provide a backup store of energy for when athletes burn through their carb stores. 

Again, not all fats are healthy. The best fats for athletes should come from natural sources, like avocados or nuts. 

Minerals and Vitamins

Minerals and vitamins are vital to human health. They can also improve athlete performance. Iron and calcium are especially important. 

Iron carries oxygen to the muscles and calcium maintains strong bones. Iron and calcium can both be found in leafy greens. Beans and lentils also contain these nutrients.  

More Optimal Sports Advice

Teenage athletes have special dietary needs. They’re very active, but have bodies that are still growing. They need to eat the right diet to maintain their weight, provide their body with enough energy and nutrients, and to help prevent injuries. 

For more specific guidance with teen athlete training, don’t hesitate to contact our experts