What should my teen athlete eat and drink?

During the summer, many young athletes are participating in sports activities or conditioning for the upcoming school season. For these athletes, there should be a balance between nutrition for growth and development and nutrition for performance.
The most useful form of fuel for energy is from carbs and is in the simple sugar form of glucose. If not used, glucose will be stored as glycogen in the muscles and liver. Once glycogen stores are depleted, an athlete’s performance or intensity may decline. Overall, it is recommended to consume about 30-60 grams of carbs per hour during strenuous endurance exercise that lasts one hour or more. This can aid in maintaining adequate blood glucose, delaying fatigue by 30- 60 minutes.


Despite its appeal to consume large amounts for bigger muscles, protein is used primarily for endurance exercise (running) and much less for resistance exercise (weightlifting). Only moderate amounts of protein are needed to help build and repair muscles and in fact, too much can have negative consequences such as dehydration and weight gain.
Staying hydrated is especially important as the temperatures top the 100-degree mark. Just 1% dehydration decreases performance and can be serious enough to lead to severe illness or even death. Signs of dehydration include the following:
§  Dark urine
§  Muscle cramps
§  Nausea/vomiting
§  Chills
§  Clammy skin
§  Flushed face
§  Dizziness
§  Headaches
To stay properly hydrated, consume following amounts of fluid:
§  12-22 oz. water/sports drink 1-2 hours before event
§  10-20 oz. water/sports drink 10-15 minutes before event
§  4-6 oz. water/sports drink every 15 minutes during event
§  16-24 oz. (2-3 cups) fluids per pound of weight loss after event
For most activities, water is all that is needed. Sports drinks are only helpful in replacing electrolytes and carbohydrate losses in events that last longer than 60 minutes.
– Andrea Shotton, MS, RD, LD