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Teen Athletes: Basics of Nutrition Needs

Content by: Erin (Nugent) Bern, RD

How does food fuel a growing and active body? Learn about BMR and nutrient needs for the active teen.

Teen Athletes: Basics of Nutrition Needs


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Food is fuel! In order for your body to perform the necessary tasks throughout the day and night, you need to properly fuel your body. When you ask your body to perform extra tasks, such as an athletic event, you will need extra fuel. Each person is different and with unique needs. Some people naturally require more fuel than others. Active teens need to fuel-up according to their activity level. A health professional may offer great ideas for meeting your body’s specific needs.

The Growing Body. In addition to the demands put on a body from athletic events, growing bodies need extra nutrition to keep up with growth and development. Proper nutrition is critical for active teens. In order to consume proper nutrition, it is necessary to eat a balance of carbohydrates and protein. Both nutrients are necessary for optimal growth and performance.

Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). Your body has what is called Basal Metabolic Rate or BMR. This is the energy needed to carry out basic bodily functions like breathing, keeping your heart pumping, and brain functioning. Think of this as the “baseline” for energy needs. Your body’s BMR can change with age, biological gender, and activity level. Any activity your body performs above BMR requires extra fuel. This includes everything from walking across the parking lot to running at a track meet. The more active you are, the more energy you will need. At the same time, the more often you exercise, the more efficient your body becomes at using that fuel!

Under-fueling and Over-fueling. If you are under-fueling your body, it may not perform at optimal levels. If you are over-fueling your body, it may have to work overtime to convert the fuel into energy. This is why it is important to remember that everyone is different. You may not need to consume the same amount of food as your teammates. Always listen to your body, and pay attention to hunger and fullness cues.

Curious about calculating your BMR? Try out the calculator button for BMR.

More to try here on calorie requirements!

NOTE: your BMR is the number of calories necessary to sustain life. The average teen will need a lot more calories to keep up with an active lifestyle.

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