August 4, 2021
CHICAGO – As teen athletes start to return to fall sports and get excited watching the delayed 2020 Olympics underway in Tokyo, some of them might push themselves to the limit to get back into competition mode. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics encourages parents and caregivers to guide teens on how to safely resume sports and properly fuel their bodies to continue growing and maturing.
In August, the Academy and its Foundation celebrate the importance of healthful eating and active lifestyles for children and their families during the annual Kids Eat Right Month™.
"Proper nutrition aids in the development of healthy bones, increased endurance and muscle strength," says registered dietitian nutritionist Julie Stefanski, a Baltimore-based Academy spokesperson. "The nutrition and physical activity recommendations for teen athletes differ based on the physical demands of the sport as well as the age and sex of the athlete."
A registered dietitian nutritionist, especially one who is a specialist in sports nutrition, can provide individualized nutrition guidance for athletes, says Stefanski, who is a certified specialist in sports dietetics. RDNs are the food and nutrition experts.
Stefanski recommends that parents and caregivers brush up on nutrition and physical activity basics to help their teen resume their chosen sport:
Food Is Fuel
Daily meals should include high-quality calories from fruits, vegetables, whole-grains, low-fat or fat-free dairy, lean protein foods and heart-healthy fats, Stefanski says. Eating a variety of healthful foods daily, and nutrient-rich snacks, helps athletes’ bodies repair, recover and refuel.
Teen athletes should eat carbohydrate-rich foods for energy and protein-rich foods to help build muscle. They should stay hydrated throughout the day and drink more fluids before, during and after a workout.
"Getting acclimated to the heat takes time so it's important for coaches to prioritize water breaks, and emphasize the importance of fluid intake," Stefanski says.
Start Those Engines
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many teens have not participated in as much physical activity over the past year. Even if not all sports resume this fall, older children and adolescents should participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity daily, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (2nd ed.).
"Teens should listen to their bodies when resuming their exercise routines. Encourage them to take it slow to rebuild their endurance and strength and avoid injuries," Stefanski says.
"With proper guidance, teens can practice strength, or resistance training, with free weights, elastic bands or tubes, weight machines or their own body weight. Strength training not only improves body composition and cardiac fitness, but it also improves bone density.
For more information, see the Kids Eat Right Month Media Materials for the 2021 campaign graphic, infographics and more information. To find a registered dietitian nutritionist near you, use the Academy's online Find a Nutrition Expert service.
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Representing more than 112,000 credentialed nutrition and dietetics practitioners, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is the world's largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. The Academy is committed to improving the nation's health and advancing the profession of dietetics through research, education and advocacy. Visit the Academy at www.eatright.org.
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation is a 501(c)3 charity dedicated exclusively to supporting nutrition and dietetics professionals by empowering them to help consumers live healthier lifestyles. It makes an impact with Academy members and throughout the profession with its scholarships, awards, research grants, fellowships, public education programs and disaster relief efforts. Through philanthropy, the Foundation empowers current and future food and nutrition practitioners to optimize global health. Visit the Foundation at www.eatrightFoundation.org.