Healthy Eating Recommendations for Teenage Athletes

Teenage Athletes – diet for optimum healthy, improved performance and growth!

Eating healthy to support growth and development at teen age is worth your attention as a parent or as an adolescent athlete. If you are a young athlete you need to pay special attention to your diet in order to provide adequate macro and micro-nutrient for optimal exercise performance, skeletal muscle and bone development. I have heard stories of teens, who train several hours every day, attend school and tackle their busy day with homework, other activities and meal planning is the last task on their list. However, it is worth paying special attention to it as you know the fuel that you use does make a huge difference in your performance both at school and practice, also adequate nutrients are essential for growth and development.  There are few basic points what you need to start thinking about.

  1. Calories. If you are training 1-2 hours, 3 or more time per week, you likely have accelerated metabolism and have increased caloric requirements relative to your sedentary classmates. Keep in mind that you also have increased caloric requirements per kg for growth and development. The higher the activity level the higher the caloric requirements.
  2. Carbohydrates. Carbs have gained bad reputation lately, however, eating carbs provides quick fuel and are great to eat 1-2 hours before exercise. Carbs are need for repleation of your glycogen stores ( special energy stores in your liver and muscle ) after exercise. In addition, the latest, meta-analysis (comprehensive research review) on cabs noted that restricting carbs in a long run may lead to shorter lifespan. 
  3. Protein. Teens who work out regularly have specialized protein needs not only for proper muscle rebuild post work out but also to support growth and development. Ensuring you are meeting all your protein needs while selecting high quality protein sources is vitally important. Meat is a perfect source of essential amino acids ( the ones that your need to obtain from dietary sources and your body can’t make ). Many teenage athletes are vegetarians and vegans, they as well can meet their protein needs and obtain all essential amino acids with proper plant based protein selection. But, they have a bit more homework to do as far as being careful with complementing deferent plan bases protein. Yes, there are plans that provide all essential amino acids which we can call meat substitutes such as tofu, tempe, lentil, beans and more.
  4. Fats. Fat are great, condense source of calories. Choosing the right fats makes a difference as far as the inflammatory response in your body; select more mono and polyunsaturated fats such as oils ( canola, olive, grapeseed, safflower, sunflower oil ) nuts and seeds ( walnuts, flex seeds, sunflower seeds ) and other plant- based food to decrease the inflammation in your body.
  5. Micronutrients. Athletes have higher needs for B vitamins as the B vitamins help in energy release. Higher needs for iron due to increase need for oxygenation if tissue with exercise.
  6. Antioxidants. You may be surprised to know that exercise causes more oxidation compared to inactivity. Although, your body has a way of balancing the increased production of oxidative cytokines it also recommended that you increase your antioxidants intake to optimize the performance of your endogenous antioxidants processes.
  7. Electrolytes. If you are working out strenuously you will lose electrolytes so make sure you drinks a beverage rich in sodium and potassium right after a high intensity exercise session.