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Nutrition for Youth Athletes

“Inadequate energy intake relative to energy expenditure compromises performance and negates the benefits of training.”(1)

Prioritize Diet

Training and practice are important for performance, but in the end, an athlete can’t be successful without an adequate supply of nutrients. Proper nutritional intake allows youth athletes to optimize their performance levels by increasing their energy and helping their bodies physically develop and grow. Adolescence is also a crucial time for bone growth since bone development occurs throughout childhood and stops by the early twenties.

Dietary Guidelines

Dietary guidelines to help a youth athlete obtain optimal nutrition include the following:
● Active female youth (ages 7-17 years) should consume anywhere from 1800-2400 calories depending on age2
● Active male youth (ages 7-17 years) should consume anywhere from 1800-3200 calories depending on age2
● Protein should be 12-15% of the diet1
● Carbohydrates should be 55-58% of the diet1
● Fats should be 25-30% of the diet1

Key Points

● If a youth athlete is constantly fatigued or experiencing frequent injury, it could be due to nutrient deficiency, and dietary changes could help.
● To maximize bone strength, youth need to consume many foods high in calcium. Stronger bones mean fewer injuries and more time to play and improve in athletics.

How to Take Action

● Make sure youth are getting balanced meals throughout the day. A couple of snacks won’t cut it, especially for athletes.
● Encourage youth to eat foods high in calcium, such as dairy products or leafy greens

For a comprehensive scientific summary on this topic, please refer to Branca. (1999)
References (Original Research)
1. Rodriguez et al. (2009), J Am Diet Assoc, 109(3), 509-27.
2. Trumbo et al. (2002), J Am Diet Assoc, 102(11), 1621-30.
3. Mesias et al. (2011). Crit Rev in Food Sci Nutr. 51(3). 195-209.