March 8, 2023
Sports nutrition for teenage girls is an often-misunderstood topic. Many parents and coaches believe that their young athletes are eating too much junk food, eating too much food in general or think a supplement will fix things. However, these misconceptions can lead to harmful practices that can negatively impact a teen’s performance on the field, court, or track.
In this blog post, we will explore some common misconceptions about teen sports nutrition and provide tips for parents and coaches to help their young athletes fuel their bodies for success.
Misconception #1: Teens Should Avoid Junk Food
It’s no secret that junk food is not the “healthiest” option. However, completely avoiding junk food is not a sustainable or realistic approach for most teens. Restricting certain foods can lead to disordered eating habits, and even worse, nutrient deficiencies that can negatively impact performance.
Instead of forbidding all junk food, encourage your teen athlete to practice moderation. Junk food can also be a great way to add in extra calories athletes need without feeling extremely full. 500 calories in a Costco muffin is a lot easier to eat than 500 calories in rice. This can be helpful on busy days when they’re struggling to consume enough food or can even be done selectively like eating a rice krispy treat before practice for a boost of energy.
Misconception #2: Teen Athletes Need to Eat Less
Teens are growing, and their bodies require more calories to fuel that growth. Young athletes need even more calories to support the energy demands of training and competition. Restricting their calorie intake can result in inadequate nutrient intake, fatigue, decreased performance and even life long issues like osteoporosis.
We know the majority of teenage girls are undereating by several hundred calories. Keep a selection of nutrient foods like fruits, veggies, proteins and healthy fats available for snacks in addition to meals. These foods provide the necessary nutrients to support growth, fuel physical activity, and aid in recovery.
Misconception #3: Supplements Are Necessary for Optimal Performance
Supplements are not a magic pill for performance enhancement. In fact, many supplements are not regulated and can be dangerous for young athletes or cause an athlete to fail a drug test. Encouraging your teen athlete to rely on supplements rather than a well-balanced diet can lead to nutrient deficiencies and negative side effects.
Instead of relying on supplements, encourage your teen athlete to focus on a well-balanced diet that provides all the necessary nutrients. If they are concerned about their nutrient intake, consult with a registered dietitian who specializes in sports nutrition to create a personalized plan that meets their specific needs. Keep in mind that teen girls do have a higher iron need and that may be a place to start with supplements.
Misconception #4: Hydration Is Only Important During Competition
Staying hydrated is crucial for optimal performance and overall health. Dehydration can lead to fatigue, decreased cognitive function, and even injury. Many young athletes only focus on hydration during competition, but proper hydration should be a daily practice.
Encourage your teen athlete to drink water throughout the day, not just during practice or competition. Water should be the primary source of hydration, but sports drinks can be beneficial during prolonged or intense physical activity.
Sports nutrition can be seen as a complex and often-misunderstood topic but it doesn’t have to be. Common misconceptions include the belief that teens should avoid junk food, eat less, rely on supplements, and only focus on hydration during competition. Understanding proper nutrition for teen athletes is crucial for their performance and overall health. As a parent or coach, it is essential to avoid common misconceptions and encourage healthy eating habits for your young athlete. If you have a female teen athlete, it’s essential to consider their unique nutritional needs.
If you’re looking for a comprehensive resource that focuses on female nutrition for teen athletes, I highly recommend the POWHER course. This course provides evidence-based information and practical tips for female athletes to optimize their performance through nutrition. Investing in your teen athlete’s nutrition education can make all the difference in their athletic success and overall well-being.