Sports Nutrition for Teen Athletes

It’s important that teenage athletes ensure they’re eating a well-rounded and balanced diet. After all, nutrition is not only key for athletic performance, but proper nutrition promotes optimal growth – specifically in the peak years of adolescence. The nutrients in food provide the needed carbohydrates for working muscles; protein for growth, development and repair of muscles; and fats for energy, insulation and protection of organs.

Food That Fuels

Choosing nutrient-rich foods will help ensure the proper amounts of vitamins and minerals are available for growth and development as well as aid in improved performance in their sport. Try to include at least one protein-rich food plus a source of carbohydrate or fat at each snack. This will help ensure your teen is getting enough of the proper food to build strong muscles and bones, and fuel to provide adequate energy to optimize their performance.

Easy Healthy Snack Ideas

Healthy Habits

  • Encourage your teen athlete to eat a balanced breakfast every morning so they are primed and ready for their sport.
  • Work to ensure that their snack choices are nutritious.
  • Drink plenty of water and fluids. Proper hydration is also key to performance. For training that is less than 60 minutes, have your teen stick with water as their hydration of choice during training. If training lasts longer than 60 minutes, try refueling with something that is nutrient-rich and contains both protein and electrolytes, such as a cold bottle of chocolate milk after training.
  • Teens and supplements do not mix. Instead stick with real foods, such as protein-rich meals and snacks after exercise, to support muscle growth and repair.


Your teen is not only growing but engaging in activities that can cause fatigue and injury. Proper nutrition and foods can help prevent fatigue and injury as well as improve skills, increase concentration and help them achieve their goals within their sport. Encouraging healthy eating habits with your teen can also be a motivator to improve your own health. A win for all!

Things to Remember

The top three things to remember when fueling your teen athlete:

  1. Ensure your teen eats enough food for their growth and increased energy needs (due to their increased activity).
  2. Make sure your teen drinks enough water and other fluids to replace sweat and stay hydrated.
  3. Support their training plan with a recovery plan that includes nutrient-rich foods, beverages and snacks.

Looking for more meal ideas? Interested in seeing additional research? Have a specific question? Connect with a local registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) who specializes in teens or a certified specialist in sports dietetics (CSSD) near you.

Learn more about sports nutrition


By Marley Oldham Carnes, M.S., RDN, LD, CSCS, CPT

Marley is a Registered Dietitian, NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, and ACSM Certified Personal Trainer. She has also worked as a fitness and sports director with the Navy and her father-in-law is a retired dairy farmer. In her free time, Marley enjoys hiking, cycling, running and volunteering with the Texas Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Learn more about Marley.

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