• Taniya Sanyal

Relation between adolescent athlete and nutrition

Updated: Nov 21, 2021

Adolescence is one of the vital periods of life, it is the main time to prepare a healthy body. During adolescence, the physical and mental changes in the body impact the performance of an athlete. The huge change in the body also affects the nutritional needs of an adolescent athlete. The goal of sports nutrition is to ensure growth and development along with increased performance. To optimize performance young athletes should learn the process and proper timing to eat/drink before, during, and after training. Balancing the diet for adolescent athletes is essential to meet their needs of macronutrients and micronutrients. For athletes, there is no shortcut or substitute for proper nutrition for optimal performance in sport. Supplements and functional foods will never overcome the deficits of poor nutrition for an athlete. The needs of adolescent athletes are different from the needs of adults and professional athletes, A well-balanced diet containing an appropriate amount of macronutrients and micronutrients is essential for them to fetch energy for growth and development.

Energy requirement for the adolescent athlete

Basic nutrition is important for growth, achieving good health, and enhancing performance. Balancing energy intake with energy expenditure is crucial to prevent an energy deficit or excess. Energy deficits can cause short stature, delayed puberty, menstrual dysfunction, loss of muscle mass, and increased susceptibility for fatigue, injury, or illness. consumption of excess energy can lead to obesity. Before puberty, minimum energy requirements (caloric needs) are similar for boys and girls. Energy requirements for adolescents are variable and it depends on age, activity level, growth rate, and stage of physical maturity.

Role of macronutrients in Adolescent athlete

Macronutrients play a crucial role to provide energy for growth and performance enhancement in the adolescent athlete. Carbohydrates are the most important fuel source for athletes because they provide the glucose used for energy. Carbohydrates should comprise 45% to 65% of total caloric intake for 4- to 18-year-olds. For mild exercise and short duration, exercise proteins do not act as a primary source of energy. Protein helps in building muscle and helps in repairing and strengthening muscle tissue. Protein should comprise approximately 10% to 30% of total energy intake for 4- to 18-year-olds. Fat is necessary to absorb fat-soluble vitamins & improve metabolism. It is one of the essential macronutrients for adolescence as it helps in cell growth, temperature regulation, and balance hormone regulation.

Role of micronutrients in the adolescent athlete

Micronutrients are involved in many metabolic processes; therefore, they play an essential role in the growth and development of adolescent athletes. Physical activity increases energy turnover which in turn increases micronutrient requirements. During exercise, there is also an increase in micronutrient losses through different processes. Adolescent athletes should replenish this micronutrient loss otherwise this micronutrient deficiency can lead to several health problems & hamper their growth. Flowing nutrients are one of those essential micronutrients which play a crucial role in the adolescent athlete.

IRON: - Iron is one of the essential

Boys: 11mg/d (14-18 years)

Girls: 15mg/d (14-18 years) (higher increase due to menstrual losses)

CALCIUM & VITAMIN D:- During adolescence body grows faster than any other time in whole life, so the demand for nutrients is higher than usual. For an athlete, the demand for Vitamin D and calcium is higher than for normal people. Vitamin D is a secosteroid hormone essential for calcium absorption and bone mineralization which is positively associated with bone mineral density. Calcium is one of the essential nutrients which helps in bone formation. So adolescent athletes must maintain their vitamin D levels.

Teenagers have a mind of their own so it affects their eating as well. The dietary needs of an adolescent athlete are different from an ordinary teenager. As a sports nutritionist, I understand their concerns before giving them any nutritional advice.

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