For growing adolescents, a big meal after a tough game or race is necessary to replenish the body. And since they burn a lot of calories, they also need a fair amount of fat and protein.
An active teenage boy requires about 3,000 calories a day.
An active teenage girl requires about 2,400 calories a day.
Active younger children requires anywhere from 600 to 1,000 calories a day or less.
Problems May Arise
Part of the tradition in American sports is also to celebrate with food. Problems can arise, though, when young athletes are taking in more calories than they are burning. Studies show that more than one in four youth sport participants are overweight, and half of youths who are obese say they participate in a sport.
What's are some good alternatives?
Instead of the standard ice cream and pizza, some alternatives are snacks after games or workouts, or even fruits.
Alicia Kendig, a sports dietitian for the United States Olympic Committee who works with swimmers, figure skaters and other athletes, called fruits “nature’s perfectly sized snack” and said the most important thing was to eat natural, unprocessed foods and unsaturated fats that come from foods like avocados and almonds.
“Sports nutrition is now a competitive advantage,” she said. “If you’re eating correctly and you’re ingesting the correct nutrients, there are clear performance benefits.” Whole foods take longer to digest and keep the body full longer, she added.
Teenage girls should eat at least one and a half cups of fruit and two and a half cups of vegetables each day, she said, and boys should eat two cups of fruit and three cups of vegetables daily. A cup is equal to about one medium apple, a dozen baby carrots or a large tomato.
An athletic 15-year-old boy needs about two and a half cups of fruit and four cups of vegetables a day. An athletic girl of the same age needs two cups of fruits and three cups of vegetables daily.
“Fruits and vegetables are important for everyone, but especially for athletes.”
Dr. Sonia Kim
An epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For parents, the time and investment in setting a good example is worthwhile, so their young children mature into healthy, fit adults.