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The Nourished Tribe on Raising Sporty Kids

March 1, 2018



Do you have super hungry sporty tweens or teens? Are they always raiding the fridge?


Boys and girls at this important developmental age need more protein, calcium, zinc, iron and folate to support their rapid growth and development. Research has shown that children who play a lot of sport may require up to 3500- 5,000 calories per day compared to the average intake of 11-18yr olds (Boys 2270-2755, Girls1845-2110) . 


Proper nutrition is vital for all and crucial for sporty teen athletes to perform optimally in sports. A well-balanced diet containing macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fat) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) is essential to provide enough energy for growth and activity. 


Carbohydrates are important for our sports mad athletes because they provide the glucose used for energy. Muscle glycogen is the most readily available energy source for working muscle and can be released more quickly than other energy sources. Good sources of carbohydrates include whole grains, vegetables, fruits, milk and yogurt.


Protein is important for muscle repair. In the short term protein is not the preferred energy source. However, as exercise duration increases, proteins help to maintain blood glucose levels. Good sources of protein include lean meat and poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, beans and nuts.


Adequate fluid intake (and not in the form of carbonated sports drinks!) is also crucial to support growth and athletic performance as they help regulate body temperature and replace sweat lost during exercise. 


How to optimise performance

  • Eat meals a minimum of 3 hours before an event to allow for good digestion.

  • Meals should consist of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. 

  • High fat and high fibre intake should be avoided as they take longer to digest and this may make your athlete feel a little sluggish.

  • For early starters, having a snack or liquid meal 1 h to 2 h before exercise, followed by a full breakfast after the event, will help guarantee enough energy for maximize performance. 

  • Pre-game snacks or liquid meals should be eaten 1 h to 2 h before an event to allow for digestion before start of exercise.

  • During an event, drink plenty of fluids. Fruit or granola bars are good snack options to help refuel and keep energy levels high.

  • Have a snack within 30 minutes after training that includes protein and carbohydrates. This will help maintain muscle mass and aid in muscle recovery and repair.6

Here are our The Nourished Tribe's top tips to get those additional calories into your sporty child’s diet:


1. Add a drink to a meal instead of water. Smoothies, full fat milk (coconut or almond if not tolerated) are good ways to add in extra energy.
2. Go nuts for nuts. Grind them up and add them into smoothies, pancakes, use nut butters.

3. Add healthy fats at any opportunity. You can add butter on steamed vegetables or olive oil dressings on salads. 
4. Add sauces to dinners using coconut milk, cream or yogurt.



  1. British Nutrition Foundation (2018). Nutrition through Life. Accessed online:https://www.nutrition.org.uk/nutritionscience/life/teenagers.

  2. Purcell LK, (2013). Canadian Paediatric Society, Paediatric Sports and Exercise Medicine Section. Sport nutrition for young athletes. Paediatrics & Child Health 18(4):200-202.

  3. Hoch AZ, Goossen K, Kretschmer T. Nutritional requirements of the child and teenage athlete. Phys Med Rehabil Clin N Am. 2008;19(2):373–98

  4. Unnithan VB, Goulopoulou S. Nutrition for the pediatric athlete. Curr Sports Med Rep, 3(4):206–11. 

  5. Litt A. (2004) Fuel for young athletes: Essential foods and fluids for future champions. Windsor: Human Kinetics.

  6. Otten J.J., Hellwig J.P., Meyers L.D. (2006) Dietary reference intakes: The essential guide to nutrient requirements. National Academies Press.

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