Nutrition For The Adolescent Athletes (12-18 years)

athlete reaction training nutrition nutrition for the adolescent athletes Feb 07, 2022
Nutrition For The Adolescent Athletes

While the Australian dietary guidelines provide helpful advice for adolescents who participate in general physical activity, the adolescent athlete is unique.

Special consideration emerges for those with a high level of participation in sport. To ensure that the adolescent athlete fulfils their potential, eating patterns should consider the needs for sporting success with the nutritional considerations for healthy growth and development.

This blog is based on the current recommended guidelines. It is important to note that every child is different in their needs and goals, and therefore, specialised dietary advice from a Sports Dietitian is recommended.

Carbohydrate: As carbohydrates are the primary fuel source, adolescents should be encouraged to adjust their intakes to match daily energy demands. The following factors will influence intake:

  • Gender
  • Size
  • Training frequency, duration and intensity

Like a car, the bigger the car and the further it drives, the more petrol it needs. Carbohydrate needs can change over time. 

Protein: Protein requirements should be approximately 1.3-1.8g of protein per kg of body weight per day. Unlike carbohydrates, protein intake needs to be consistent each day, no matter whether there is a training session or not. It is more effective when consumed in even hits, 5-6 times over the day. For example, at least 16-20g of protein at each meal and snack, depending on the athlete's size.

Fat: Fat intake should be according to the Australian Dietary Guidelines of 20-35% of total energy intake coming from unsaturated fats. These foods include fish, nuts, avocado and olive oil. Saturated fats such as deep-fried foods, takeaway, chocolate, chips & more, should be consumed occasionally.

Additional nutrients of importance for the adolescent athlete.

Iron: It is essential to help transfer oxygen around the body, particularly muscles. Daily requirements are

11mg per day for boys.

15mg per day for girls – higher amounts required due to menstrual losses.

Iron-rich foods include red meat, pork, chicken, eggs. Plant-based sources include legumes/chickpeas/baked beans, tofu/tempeh, quinoa, green leafy veg.

However, it is essential to note that the body does not as readily absorb plant-based iron, and it is best consumed with a source of Vitamin C to assist with absorption.

Calcium: This is important for good bone health, and strong and healthy bones are less likely to fracture. Daily recommendations are 1,300mg per day for boys and girls, which equals about four servings of dairy-based foods (milk, cheese, yoghurt) per day. A plant-based source is a tofu or calcium-fortified soy milk/yoghurt.

Unfortunately, not many adolescents reach these daily requirements. For calcium to be absorbed in the body, the body requires adequate Vitamin D. The best source of Vitamin D is sunlight.

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