Feeding the sporty teenager

The sun may have only made a few rare appearances this summer but you’d have to agree that it has been a great three months of sport. It encouraged communities to get behind their athletes and has inspired many young people to try out something new. ‘Back to school’ time is now upon us. For many it’s a welcome return to some routine and order at home, and food plays a big role in this.

For parents with sporty teenagers, organising food on the go around training sessions and matches means the food routine can go beyond just 3 meals a day. The sporty teenager is more active than most of their peers and so they need more food and can be constantly hungry. After school training sessions make it difficult to fit in time for dinner until later in the evening. Your teenager still needs to be fed and watered after school but choosing something quick, easy and healthy can be challenging. The temptation can be to get them to grab something on the way to training but they’re likely to fall into the trap of grabbing a fizzy drink and bag of crisps. Not the most nutritious. 
young basketballerFor the last couple of years I’ve been working with sport’s dietitians in the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute  and British Dietetic Association to provide practical advice to teenagers on fuelling their bodies for sport. The fruit of our labour is the ‘Fuel your body' guide. This free booklet provides the basics on healthy eating for teenagers, the basic food and drink items for their kit bag and ideas for light snacks and fluids before and after playing sport. It also gives sample daily menu plans for teenagers playing different types of sports.
Sports supplements are something we frequently get asked about and one area I was keen we addressed in the guide. For boys protein shakes are popular for ‘bulking up’ and for girls maybe some herbal preparations. Parents have a right to be concerned about their use by teenagers.
The bottom line is that sports supplements are not recommended for teenagers. The main reasons for this are:
  • they haven’t been safety tested on the growing teenage body and for ethical reason won’t be
  • the sports supplement industry isn’t tightly regulated so some may contain ingredients not listed on the packaging
Luckily in this day and age teenagers have lots of heroes when it comes to sport and it’s great that many of these sports stars are talking about the importance of healthy eating and keeping well rehydrated. The media does come down hard on those that appear to cheat the system. An important message for teenagers is that to perform to the best of their ability basic healthy eating and plenty of practice is key.  
Whether it’s a team or individual sport being active teaches kids lots of great lessons. With one in four teenagers carrying excess weight sport is a great way to keep them active. Hopefully the great summer of sport has encouraged a few more teenagers to get involved.
For more healthy eating tips for teenagers click on the following links
Posted: 30/08/2012 15:59:40 by Marian O’Reilly
Filed under: Exercise, Food, Sport, Students, Teenagers

About Me

Avatar Image
Marian O’Reilly
Hi, my name is Marian O’Reilly and I’m the Chief Specialist in Nutrition at safefood. My job is varied ranging from nutrition research, working on mass media campaigns to dealing with public queries on healthy eating. I live in Co. Cork with my husband and our one year son. I’m a lover of the outdoors and in my spare time will be found out walking.