Endurance athletes require additional nutrients to stay healthy compared to non-athletes. This is especially important for teenage endurance runners, since most teenagers are still growing and endurance exercise can burn a significant amount of calories. Eating an appropriate diet can help ensure that teen endurance athletes stay healthy and may help maximize athletic performance.
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Teenage endurance runners require significantly more calories to maintain their body weight and grow and develop properly compared to sedentary teens. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, active teen girls ages 14 to 19 require about 2,400 calories per day, and active teenage boys ages 14 to 19 require about 2,800 to 3,200 calories per day to maintain healthy body weights. However, the University of Illinois Extension says that an athletic teenage boy may even require 5,000 calories per day, depending on his sport and workouts. Depending on the length of endurance running performed, teens may even need to exceed 5,000 calories per day to maintain a healthy body weight.
Carbohydrates should make up the majority of a teenage runner’s diet, since carbs are the main fuel source during exercise. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, teenagers should consume a diet consisting of 45 to 65 percent of their daily calories from carbohydrates. For a 2,400-calorie diet, this would mean 270 to 390 g of carbs per day, and for a 3,200-calorie diet, 360 to 520 g of carbohydrates per day is appropriate for teenagers. However, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, some athletes may require up to 70 percent of their daily calories from carbohydrates.
Protein is another important nutrient for teenage endurance runners because it can help fuel the body and is important for muscle maintenance and repair. For teenagers up to age 18, the U.S. Department of Agriculture encourages a diet of 10 to 30 percent of daily calories from protein, and for teens 19 years old, the USDA recommends a diet of 10 to 35 percent of daily calories from protein. The University of Illinois Extension reports that distance runners may burn some protein for energy and athletes do require more protein than non-athletes. However, protein needs for athletes are easily met through eating a healthy diet without the need for protein supplements or a high-protein diet.
Sample Meal Plan
The USDA sample healthy meal plans are good guides when planning your diet. A sample 3,000-calorie USDA meal plan may be appropriate for some teenage endurance runners and includes the following: 2.5 cups of fruits, 4 cups vegetables, 10 oz. of grains, 7 oz. of protein foods such as meat, poultry, eggs, soy products, seafood, nuts and seeds, 3 cups of dairy products, 44 g of oils and 459 extra calories from solid fats and added sugars each day.