Fueling Your Youth Athlete

Fueling Your Youth Athlete
Oct. 192022

Image by Freepik

Fueling Your Youth Athlete


Athletes have nutrition needs that exceed the daily metabolic requirements of most. Adolescents and teens also have unique diet considerations. Combine the two and what do you have? A young person who needs a higher-calorie diet and the right combination of nutrients to support athletic performance.


it’ very important for youth athletes to consume adequate protein. Protein supports growth and reduces the risk of injury from repetitive exercise and working the same muscles every day. The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of protein is 46 grams for teen girls and 52 grams for teen boys. However, teen athletes can consume up to 1.5 grams of protein/kg body weight every day. This is about 85 grams per day for a 125-pound teen athlete. Help teens reduce soreness by ensuring that some of this protein comes after exercise as their bodies are recovering.


Generally, about 50% of a teen athlete’s diet can come from carbohydrates. Depending on the level of physical activity they engage in day to day, their needs may increase. Children’s Hospital Colorado offers helpful advice to understand how an athlete’s carbohydrate needs should adjust to match their training. Young athletes generally benefit from nutrient-dense carbohydrate choices like whole grain, legumes, and starchy vegetables. Simple digesting carbohydrates, such as Guiding Stars earning 100% fruit juice, are also good for just before or after exertion.


About a third of a young athlete’s calories can come from fats. As with all adolescents and teens, we encourage youth athletes to heavy up on monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These include nuts, seeds, avocados, fish, seafood, hummus, vegetable-based oils, and other sources. And it’s easy to combine dietary fats with carbohydrate choices to create simple fueling pairings. Try crackers and peanut butter, corn chips and guacamole, carrots and hummus, or Guiding Stars rated granola bars.


Most kids don’t drink enough throughout the day. Add in the hydration loss that comes with physical activity, and our youth athletes are at high risk of dehydration. Depending on their sport and other conditions, young athletes can lose nearly two liters of fluid per hour of exercise. In addition to general hydration requirements, they need significant replenishment to stay healthy. Use this guide to help youth athletes monitor their hydration status and encourage them to hydrate throughout the day, not just during or after exercise.

Choose nutrient-dense foods

Youth athletes require approximately 3000 calories (sometimes more!) – to support athletic performance and ensure sustained physical growth. Most adolescents and teens have an erratic meal and snack schedule, with limited opportunities to eat throughout the day. Some have difficulty eating an early breakfast or can’t complete lunch in the limited time allotted. This becomes even more challenging when the school-age athlete faces a very long afternoon and late dinner. As a result, youth athletes need a balanced blend of nourishing foods that work together to create adequate intake. Consider simple nut or seed butter sandwiches, trail mix, high-protein muffins, and similar snacks to help fuel them. Let Guiding Stars join the team and support their needs with these nourishing recipes:

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