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Nutrition and High School Athletes

July 13, 2017






Even though it is summer break, practices for high school athletes have been in full swing since June. Unfortunately, I see many athletes who do not consume enough food to fuel their bodies for the morning and afternoon practices that they participate in. It takes parents, coaches, athletes and nutrition professionals to find a healthy balance between the energy requirements to fuel practice demands and the energy requirements for the athlete to achieve their goal. 


In the same way that all sports do not practice in similarly, nutrition cannot be the same for these athletes. We would not dream of putting our football players through a cross country running practice or vice versa. Comparably, volleyball players require different training modalities than soccer players. Their nutrition requirements should be tailored to their specific activity needs as well.




Don’t be afraid to advocate for your child! Ask them if their coaches have told them what they should eat and then do some research or work with a nutrition professional to determine what your child needs. If their coaches haven’t told them anything regarding nutrition, get some help! 


High school athletes have unique needs as their bodies are growing, which makes their metabolisms generally higher to begin with. I’m sure you’ve noticed how your child is always hungry! Their metabolisms are burning at a high rate and then they’ve usually added not one, but two physically demanding practices a day, most days of the week on top of that! Of course they are hungry! The challenge is usually getting something nutritious in their growing athletic bodies! Set them up for success by getting them started eating the correct amount of calories for their body and their sport.


Many times nutrition is outside of your coach’s comfort zone. Any Google search related to nutrition will likely return conflicting information. Sports nutrition can be confusing and it may be helpful to work with a nutrition professional to identify your athlete’s needs regarding food intake as well as supplementation and hydration levels. 




In order for your athletes to perform their best, nutrition is a huge component not to be overlooked! Proper nutrition is important not only for the health of their growing bodies, but also for strength gains, energy, recovery and performance. If you want your athletes to perform well, their workout programming is important, but their nutrition is even more important. Ensure your athletes are consuming enough calories (both male and female) and staying hydrated.


Supplementation can often give an athlete a competitive edge over an opponent. This is a tricky area with the high school aged athlete as their bodies are still growing. Generally, a good diet comprised of whole foods will not require additional supplementation. Stay current on the trends and research in your sport’s area and try to avoid giving general supplementation recommendations especially with vitamins and minerals. 


For example “All runners should take iron supplements” is a fallacy. Only runners with anemia will see performance benefits from taking iron. Once their iron level is within normal range, there is no longer a performance benefit and the athlete is actually harming their body. 


Work with your athlete’s parents to help get them on a proper nutrition plan. Encourage your athletes to make healthy food choices and make sure they eat something before practice and after practice. Usually, during the school year, there are several hours between lunch and practice. Your athletes need to eat and stay hydrated all day long!




Your performance is dependent on how you train as well as how you eat.