By Charlyn Fargo
Have a teen-ager in the home and not sure how much they should be eating or hydrating? Are they playing sports?
For all children and teens, normal growth and development should be the top priority, according to Roberta Duyff, registered dietitian and author of “Complete Food & Nutrition Guide” by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
“Young athletes aren’t the same as adult athletes,” she states. “Because they’re growing and because their growth spurs aren’t always predictable, their body composition can’t be judged in the same way.”
For young athletes – children and teens – weight goals should be healthy ones. Making weight for wrestling is a common issue for teenage boys. For teenage girls in many sports, it’s the “female athlete triad”, a syndrome of low calorie intake, low bone density and the cessation of menstruation.
Just what should those weight and fluid goals be?
Different sports need different eating plans. A 200-pound football player uses more energy than a 90-pound gymnast. And a baseball player uses less energy than a soccer player who is almost constantly in motion. An endurance cross-country skier or a long-distance runner likely uses more energy overall than a tennis player or golfer, who uses spurts of energy for a shorter time.
Every sport demands adequate fluids to replace perspiration and breathing losses. For workouts of less than 30 minutes of continuous activity and recreational walking, water is best.
Make a point of drinking water at all times during the day – not just after a workout or competition. In general to stay hydrated, start by drinking 2 to 3 cups of water 2 to 3 hours before an activity. Then add 1 to 1 ½ cups 15 minutes before an activity. During an activity, shoot for a cup or cup and a half every 15 minutes during an activity. Follow up with 3 to 3 cups for each pound of body weight lost after an activity.
Sports drinks supply electrolytes, which can replace small amounts of sodium and other electrolytes lost through sweating. For most athletes, normal meals and snacks replace what’s lost. For exercise that lasts longer than 60 minutes or for exercise in high heat or humidity, drinks with electrolytes help to enhance fluid absorption, Duyff says.
All teens need enough calcium for bone growth and strength, protein for every body cell including muscles, carbohydrates and fats for energy, vitamins and minerals to carry through essential metabolic and brain functions, and enough water. Energy and nutrient needs increase to meet the growth demands of adolescence.
How your teenage child grows — when, how and how much — has more to do with genes than with food choices. Smart eating will help determine if your teen will grow to have strong bones and a fit body – and be successful in sports.
Gender, body size, growth rate and activity level specifically determine how many calories teens need. Those involved in strenuous physical activity such as soccer, basketball, football or other sports may need 3,500 calories (more or less) daily.
Teenage boys on average need 1,800 to 2,600 calories a day if they’re 11 to 13 years, and 2,200 to 3,200 calories a day if they’re 14 to 18 years of age.
Teenage girls need more, too: 1,800 to 2,200 calories a day if they’re ages 11 to 13, and 1,800 to 2,400 calories a day if they’re ages 14 to 18.
Appetites correspond to growth spurts. Encourage teens to listen to their internal hunger and fullness cues, rather than external cues such as what their friends are eating or what the latest diet fad dictates.